| Filed in Hiking & Backpacking, National Parks, Olympic National Park, Washington | Disclaimer: I use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. | Leave a Comment
Olympic National Park is one of my favorite places to visit in Washington. With dramatic mountain views, lush rainforests, waterfalls, and moody coastlines, it has everything you could possibly want in a Washington road trip. Here are the 10 best things to do in Olympic National Park.
- What to Expect when Visiting the Olympic Peninsula
- Get your Olympic National Park Road Trip Started!
- Olympic National Park Itinerary: 10 Best Things to do in Olympic National Park
- 1 Hurricane Ridge
- 2 Mount Storm King : Iconic Hike in Olympic National Park
- 3 Marymere Falls
- 4 Lake Crescent
- 5 on our list of Best Things to do in Olympic National Park: Cape Flattery
- 5 Alternative or Itinerary Add On: Sol Duc Falls
- 6 Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rainforest
- 7 Hoh River Trail
- 8 Enchanted Valley
- 9 The Coast
What to Expect when Visiting the Olympic Peninsula
Olympic National Park is one of those parks that are very spread out. It requires strategy and planning to make it to all of these iconic spots. I would budget 3-5 days to properly see all the lovely sights, but it is possible to do in just 2 days if you plan well.
Get your Olympic National Park Road Trip Started!
If you are flying into Seattle, you will need a vehicle to get to these locations! Tip: 4×4 is not necessary when exploring the Olympic Peninsula.
I recommend starting out your road trip at Port Angeles, about a 2.5 hour drive from the Seattle airport.
Olympic National Park Itinerary: 10 Best Things to do in Olympic National Park
1 Hurricane Ridge
This is one of the easiest ways to experience the Olympic Mountains. Drive the 18 miles from Port Angeles up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center to be rewarded with sweeping views of the mountains. Hiking trails are also available starting from here, but no hiking is required to take in the beautiful views from the visitor center.
Hiking Recommendation: Hurricane Hill 3.1 miles, 797 ft elevation gain
2 Mount Storm King : Iconic Hike in Olympic National Park
I remember hiking this early in the season, and my legs were NOT prepared. We were also racing against the clock to catch sunset at the top. Definitely worth the hustle because as we reached the top, we saw an incredible cloud inversion as the sun dipped below the mountains.
Parts of this hike involve using ropes to climb steep sections of trail. If you have a serious fear of heights, this one might not be for you. But for the adventurer, this should definitely be on your list of things to do in Olympic National Park.
Stats: 5.3 miles, 2076 ft elevation gain
3 Marymere Falls
On the same trail as Mount Storm King, but avoiding the elevation, is Marymere Falls. This trail is incredibly lush and has some of the classic Pacific Northwest mosses and greens in old growth forests. This was one of my mom’s first experiences in Olympic National Park when she visited and she was taken by how giant the trees are and how thick the moss coverage is. You are of course rewarded with a view of a stunning waterfall at the end of this hike.
Stats: 1.7 miles, 298 ft elevation gain
4 Lake Crescent
Drive-up, Water Activities
I love taking people to this lake if they are visiting Washington. I have seen some of my favorite sunsets, and PNW fog there. There are multiple hikes in the area, but I mostly enjoy driving to the Lake Crescent Lodge that is quite charming. Outside of the lodge is a public dock where you can sit and watch the sunset or if you have a kayak/paddle board you can cruise around the lake that way.
Recommendation: Rent a canoe, kayak, or paddle board from the Lake Crescent Lodge starting at $20
5 on our list of Best Things to do in Olympic National Park: Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery is the northwesternmost (say that 10 times) point of the contiguous United States. The Makah People at the Makah Reservation are the keepers of this land. This easy hike offers views of the Pacific Ocean, potential grey whales and sea lions, and rugged rocks. The drive to get to Cape Flattery is long and windy (1.5 hours from Port Angeles one way).
TIP: If you are short on time, I would recommend saving this one for a different time, as you can still see great coastal views at some other spots on this itinerary.
Stats: 1.2 miles, 219 ft elevation gain
5 Alternative or Itinerary Add On: Sol Duc Falls
At 1.6 miles round trip, this is a great add on to your Olympic National Park Itinerary. There is even a hot spring resort here that you can book and stay at!
Stats: 1.6 miles round trip, 200 feet elevation gain.
6 Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rainforest
Hall of Mosses trail is extremely accessible and easy. This is an iconic trail in Olympic National Park, and one I wouldn’t want to miss. It is a truly enchanting trail that packs SO much nature into a mile hike. I went with my mom and sister and we saw elk, tree arches covered in moss, and every shade of green you can imagine.
Stats: 1.1 miles, 82 ft elevation gain, loop hike
Recommendation: It is the rainforest, so bring your waterproof hiking boots and raincoat!
7 Hoh River Trail
Hiking, Backpacking, Easy-Difficult, Out & Back, April-October
Hoh River Trail was my first ever backpacking trip in Washington! I had minimal gear and was still learning what works for me and what doesn’t. You can make this trail what you want as it is 32.8 miles total. We took on a little too much, but there are great camping spots spread throughout this trail within 5 miles.
Operated by the National Park service, a National park pass is required to park and backcountry permit needed from the Hoh Ranger Station to backpack. Permits are available on a 6 month rolling basis and can be found HERE.
Stats: 32.8 miles (but turn around/camp whenever you want), 5,114 ft elevation
Recommendation: if backpacking, drop your packs at a campsite and day hike to get views of mount Olympus. And again – bring waterproof gear
8 Enchanted Valley
Hiking, Backpacking, Difficult, Out & Back, March-September
Enchanted Valley is exactly how it sounds – REAL ENCHANTED. I’m talking waterfalls in the mountains surrounding you on both sides, PNW fog hovering in all the right places, groves of trees, rivers, an abandoned Chalet with a curious history. This is not an easy hike. 15 miles in with some real elevation gain.
If you do not have backpacking experience, I do not recommend this trip unless you are going with someone who does have experience. I also want to note that this is not a secret place. It can be incredibly crowded and permits are needed. They may begin limiting permits due to erosion and other damage that human traffic is causing. If you do get the opportunity to visit this beautiful place, I trust that you’ll want to respect it and practice leave no trace etiquette.
Check for the most current permit information at the Lake Quinault Ranger Station
Stats: 30.6 miles, 4,642 ft elevation gain
9 The Coast
Hiking, Backpacking, Best between March-October
This can be enjoyed as a day hike or backpacking trip! Beach backpacking is some of my favorite. I sleep the best with the sound of the ocean. I have done Rialto Beach as both a day hike and backpacking trip. It is known for it’s tall rock structures and a rock structure called ‘Hole in the Wall’.
Recommendation: find camping on the other side of hole in the wall. It is more secluded than the first side. To do this, look at the tide-chart to see when you can safely pass around the rock structure. Another alternative is to climb a steep trail inland that goes up and over, but is challenging with a backpack.
Stats: 13.4 miles, 2,611 ft elevation gain, out & back. *Note it is only a few miles to get to camping spots and for views like this. Also – bear canisters are required for your food and scented items (mostly due to raccoons and other rodents)
I have day hiked here and overnighted here and both are incredibly enjoyable. My overnight here was a bit rainy, so it helped to have some art supplies and games. To wake up and stick your head out to see the sun hitting the rock structures was worth all the rain. So many reasons why this place is on my list of 10 best things to do in Olympic National Park – I recommend you see for yourself.
Recommendation: find camping up in the bluffs rather than on the beach as you’ll be shielded from the wind. There are many spots available, but if the weather is nice – expect lots of company.
Stats: 1.9 miles, 282 ft elevation gain, out & back. Bear canister needed for food and scented items.
Ruby Beach is another well known beach along the Washington Coast. Camping and lodging is available nearby.
10 Tree of Life
Drive South of Forks (if you’re a Twilight Fan, be sure to stop in Forks) to the Kalaloch Campground day use area, and take the short trail down to the beach. It was raining really hard when we were there, but as soon as we saw the tree, we stopped dead in our tracks. It’s truly incredible how it is suspended up over two cliff edges.
BONUS: If you continue further south 10 minutes on the 101 highway, you can check out Ruby Beach too!
Summary: Best Things to do in Olympic National Park
I hope you enjoyed this list of the 10 Best Things to do in Olympic National Park, and as always – let me know if you have any questions or if you have any places you think should be on this list! There are so many things to do in the area and incredible places to stay.
- Hurricane Ridge
- Mount Storm King
- Marymere Falls
- Lake Crescent
- Cape Flattery
- Sol Duc Falls
- Hoh Rainforest
- Enchanted Valley
- The Coast: Rialto Beach, Second Beach, Ruby Beach
- Tree of LIfe
Check out my blog post on my trip to the North Cascades National Park in Washington!
Or plan your Oregon Road Trip with my Ultimate Guide!
Share and Save for Later!
Thank you for the insights! I have a friend coming to visit from Baltimore with little hiking/backpacking experience. I’m going to use your recommendations!
Yay! I’m glad it is useful! Thanks! I hope they have a lovely time. I definitely miss Washington
Nicely done Melissa! Short, consice, and packed with the needed info.
Thanks for checking it out 🙂
WOW this looks absolutely incredible! You are literally above the clouds in that first pic! Looks like it could be quite a challenge which I am up to. Just need to get proper footwear first haha!
Oh my goodness the hikes here look especially incredible. Too bad about the Hurricane Ridge view ha but the Hall of Mosses looks and sounds so pretty!
One of my most profound backpacking trips was on the Olympic coast when I passed a certain point and realized that the incoming tides would keep everyone else from camping where I ended up. It was pure solitude. I like learning about other hikes in Olympic NP.
Oh my gosh that would be a good feeling!!! That sounds incredible
The hikes in Washington look absolutely gorgeous! I’m new to the hiking scene, but can’t wait until I can experience everything in Washington.
HI Melissa, great post. James here from Australia- I have spoken a couple of times on Between The Mountains podcast too.
We hope to visit Washington, Alaska and Alberta for our mountain fix post Covid- love your work. Hope you can bring your OT skills here (I am a physiotherapist)- there is such a shortage of OT’s here
[…] Olympic National Park Guide […]
[…] Olympic National Park […]
[…] Check for the most current permit information at the Lake Quinault Ranger Station. For more Destinations in Olympic National Park Check out my blog post: 10 Must See Locations in Olympic National Park […]
[…] Olympic National Park Guide Hall of Mosses […]