Olympic National Park is a diverse park composed of three primary regions: old-growth temperate rain forests, craggy and snow-capped subalpine Olympic Mountain Range and 70 miles of rocky and sand-speckled coastline. Over 95% of this million-acre park is designated wilderness. Venture into ancient rain forests (Hoh, Queets, Quinault), all teeming with moss, lichens, bogs and dense ferns. Hike through mountain ridges sidled by green valleys. Hurricane Ridge tops out at nearly 8,000 feet. After you get your fill of forest and mountain, check out the coastline adorned with cliffs, rock stacks, tidal pools and dozens of beaches.
Glacier-covered mountains, Pacific coast beaches, temperate rain forests encompasses UNPARALLELED beauty of Olympic National Park
Wildlife accompanies the landscape’s variety: visit the Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary to observe colonies of birds and marine mammals (otters, whales, seals, sea lions), or the forests and mountains which are home to eagles, black bears, mountain goats, elk, beavers, marmots and 300 bird species.
Most people visit in the dry season (June through September) to avoid the harsh winter season; however, Hurricane Ridge is open for cross-country skiing on weekends and holidays in winter. The temperatures range in extremes based on precipitation, elevation and location, but there is a distinct wet season from October through May. Summer temperatures typically range from 40 to 80 F.
5 Must-Do’s in Olympic National Park
Beach Camping: Kalaloch or South Beach
Coastline and Beaches: Kalaloch, Rialto, Ozette, Shi Shi and Ruby
Glaciers: Over 60 in the park, many on Mount Olympus
Swimming Hole: Sol Duc Hot Springs resort
Big Trees: Primeval forest of Douglas-fir, redcedar, Sitka spruce and western hemlock
Olympic National Park Campgrounds
There are no shortage of camping opportunities in Olympic with sixteen campgrounds and over 900 sites. Take note: only three (Kalaloch, Sol Duc, Mora) accept reservations; the rest are first-come, first-served—by cash or check only, and a few are walk-in only. The two group campgrounds (Kalaloch and Sol Duc) require reservations by phone or recreation.gov. Individual site fees range from free to $25.
Adhere to food storage rules. No campgrounds have showers. Firewood can be collected (see rules) or purchased. Most campgrounds do not have RV hookups and require shorter lengths (under 21 feet). The park limits camping to 14 consecutive days (7 days at Kalaloch).
Heart O’ the Hills Campground
What you need to know: Situated not too far from Port Angeles and the Olympic National Park Visitor Center, this first-come, first-served campground with 105 sites (RVs up to 21 feet), some ADA-compliant/accessible, is open year-round with walk-in options during heavy snowfall.
Amenities: flush toilets, potable water. Nearby Sequim KOA allows visitors to use showers.
Why this campground? The campground is surrounded by old-growth forest and is not far from two visitor centers, the northern Olympic peninsula coast, Port Angeles and Hurricane Ridge.
Family-Friendly Hikes and Activities: Heart O’ the Hills Campground offers summer ranger programs. Hike Heart O’ Forest Trail (easy, 4 miles) through the forest, or drive up 17-mile Hurricane Ridge Road to spectacular viewpoints of the mountains and valley. Adventurous cyclists climb this 5,400-foot incline.
Be warned: the winds can gust up to 75 mph. The road is open all hours from June through October (weekends in winter, weather permitting; the ridge sees up to 35 feet of snow).
Other hikes atop the ridge include Big Meadows Trails (easy, 2 miles: Cirque Rim, Big Meadows, and High Ridge) and Hurricane Hill (moderate, 3.2 miles).
Hidden Treasure: Experience interpretive programs at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, which is open all year (weather permitting). Snowshoe or cross-country ski rentals are available. Take in glacial views of the ridge. Don’t forget about the Junior Ranger Program.
Fairholme & Elwha Campgrounds
What you need to know: Neighboring Lake Crescent, Fairholme Campground has 88 sites as first-come, first-served (RVs up to 21 feet), some ADA-compliant/accessible, and is open April through September. Enjoy lakeside campsites.
Amenities: picnic tables, fire pits, flush toilets and potable water. Nearby Elwha has 40 sites, is first-come, first-served, and is open year-round, with similar amenities.
Why this campground? If you are looking to stay at one campground with access to Hurricane Ridge, Hoh Rain Forest and the coastal beaches, this is an ideal location. There is also easy access to a boat launch and Lake Crescent.
Family-Friendly Hikes and Activities: Kayak, canoe and motorboat rentals are available to explore the lake (or bring your own). Swim at Fairholme, East Beach and Devil’s Punch Bowl.
Hidden Treasure: Elwha Valley is the largest watershed in the park. Near the Elwha Campground, take the easy 0.2-mile walk to Madison Falls. Longer hikes include Geyser Valley Loop Trail (moderate, 6 miles) or Cascade Rock Trail (moderate, 4 miles). Ride the Elwha River rapids.
Sol Duc Campground
What you need to know: Sol Duc Campground is open seasonally from April through October, with 82 reservable sites (RVs up to 21 feet), some ADA-compliant/accessible.
Amenities: picnic tables, fire pits, flush toilets and potable water (pit toilets and no water in winter). Road is open year-round, weather permitting.
Why this campground? Located along Sol Duc River, the campground is surrounded by old-growth forest in the northern part of the park and is another ideal campground if you plan to stay in one place.
Family-Friendly Hikes and Activities: Get your face misty on 1.6-mile Sol Duc Falls Trail, one of the most popular trails in the park, with breathtaking views of the falls.
Hidden Treasure: Go for a longer waterfall hike on Lover’s Lane Trail (5.8 miles) along the river. Best viewing is from the bridge. In fall, watch salmon swim upstream.
What you need to know: Hoh Campground is encircled by an ancient rain forest and some campsites sit along the Hoh River. This campground has 78 sites (RVs up to 21 feet), some ADA-compliant/accessible, and is first-come, first-served.
Amenities: picnic tables, fire pits, flush toilets and potable water.
Why this campground? Camp within a temperate rain forest. Take a day trip to the coastal beach hikes. Lose yourself among old trees and watch the Hoh River bring glacial water from Mount Olympus to the Pacific Ocean.
Family-Friendly Hikes and Activities: Explore the Hoh Visitor Center and hike easy trails through rain forests thick with maples and carpeted with moss and ferns. The Spruce Nature Trail takes you on an easy 1.2-mile loop that meanders through forest and along the river, and the 0.8-mile Hall of Mosses Trail loops past towering trees.
Hidden Treasure: Take a splashy raft adventure on the Hoh River. Count the different types of colorful, gigantic slugs on the rain forest trails.
What you need to know: Mora is one of the newest campgrounds in the park. Located two miles from Rialto Beach, it sits in coastal forest with views of the Quillayute River. Open year-round, it is reservable with 94 sites (non-booked sites are first-come, first-served), with a few accommodating 35-foot RVs (no hookups). One site has ADA-compliant/accessibility.
Amenities: fire pits, flush toilets and potable water.
Why this campground? Nearby beaches include Rialto, La Push and Quileute Reservation.
Family-Friendly Hikes and Activities: Hike to nearby beaches: Rialto (3 miles), Second Beach (1.4 miles) and Third Beach (2.8 miles) to explore the rocky shores draped with giant driftwood and tidal pools. Use Dickey’s Launch on the river for boating.
Hidden Treasure: Two easy trails begin at the campground: James Pond (0.3-mile flat loop to a small pond), and Slough Trail which brings you to the Quillayute River (0.9 mile).
What you need to know: Open year-round, Kalaloch Campground is located near the beach on the southern coast of the park and in one of the most popular areas. The 170 sites (including RV) are reservable in the summer months and are first-come, first-served off-season.
Amenities: fire pits, flush toilets and potable water. There is ADA-compliant accessibility to facilities, but not the beach access trails. Nearby South Beach Campground has 50 sites (but no potable water).
Why this campground? There are seven short walks to the beach. Ruby Beach is not far away.
Family-Friendly Hikes and Activities: Hike to nearby beaches (Ruby and La Push) or take one of many access points to Kalaloch Beach. Dip into and explore tidal pools at Beach Four, with rangers providing tidal pool tours in the summer. Walk the easy 1-mile Kalaloch Nature Trail through coastal forest.
Hidden Treasure: Tidal pools and sea otters. Watch whales during spring migration (March through May).
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
– John Muir
Olympic National Park Backcountry Camping
Obtain a permit and get backpacking in the newly named Daniel J. Evans Wilderness in Olympic. There is an abundance of backcountry options. Camping is allowed with permits on some wilderness beaches. Dosewallips is a walk-in campground in the eastern, wooded area of the park.
Hike the 17-mile Hoh River Trail through rain forest to montane forest and subalpine meadows, ending at the shoulder of Mount Olympus and with a farther trek, the toe of Blue Glacier. Hike Hurricane Hill to Elwha Valley. Seven Lakes Basin Area provides a superb loop trail (strenuous) with views of Mount Olympus.
Exciting Sites & Scenic Drives Near Olympic National Park
The park has many vehicle-accessible regions but is not a drive-thru kind of park, with most roads branching off US-101, a road that encircles the Olympic Range. To visit all the regions, plan to put in some driving, including on spur roads. A few stunning stops: Ozette Beach, Shi Shi Beach, Quinault Rain Forest and Queets Rain Forest.
Insider Tips for Visiting Olympic National Park
The park is tucked into the northern most part of Washington state. Port Angeles is the closest town and Seattle/Tacoma the closest airport (a few hours away via car and ferry). Other starting points: Tacoma and Olympia (both 140 to 180 miles from Port Angeles).
Though many areas are open in the winter, it is weather-dependent. The park gets anywhere from 18 to 220 inches of rain per year (fall and winter are the wet seasons), with much snow falling on Hurricane Ridge. Deer Park and Quinault are the lesser-visited areas of the park.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK CAMPERS BEWARE:
Adhere to food storage rules.
There are no showers or RV hookups (electric, water) in the park.
Summer months mean mosquitoes and blackflies.