Things to Do in Olympic National Park FI

Best Things to Do in Olympic National Park

By Emily Leikam on February 28, 2024
15 min read

Visiting Washington state’s Olympic National Park is like stepping into a world where nature's diversity unfolds in every corner. This park isn't just a stretch of wilderness; it showcases the planet's most splendid natural variety. It's a place where the misty rainforests, rugged coastlines and towering mountains challenge you to adapt, invite you to explore and remind you to respect the natural world. Planning your visit here means considering everything from the unpredictable weather of the Pacific Northwest to selecting trails that suit your adventure level, all while keeping in mind the importance of leaving no trace. Olympic National Park isn't merely a place you visit, it's a place you immerse yourself within. If you’re ready for an incredible wilderness experience, keep reading for some of the top things to do in Olympic National Park.

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Morning light on the Elwha River, Olympic National Park. Photo by: Roger.

Key Takeaways

  • Diverse Landscapes: Olympic National Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty, boasting everything from misty rainforests to rugged coastlines and snow-capped mountains.
  • Adventure Awaits: Whether you're into hiking, wildlife viewing, or simply soaking in the natural beauty, there's an activity for every type of outdoor enthusiast.
  • Cultural Richness: The park offers a glimpse into the area's rich cultural heritage, with opportunities to learn about the native tribes and historical sites within its boundaries.
  • Conservation Efforts: Visitors will learn about ongoing efforts to preserve the park's unique ecosystems, highlighting the importance of conservation and respect for nature.
  • Accessible Adventures: With a range of facilities and services, the park is accessible to visitors of all ages and abilities, ensuring an enjoyable experience for everyone.

Things to Consider Before Visiting Olympic National Park

Heading into Olympic National Park opens a gateway to some of the most diverse natural landscapes the Pacific Northwest has to offer. This sprawling park invites not just a visit but a meaningful engagement with its forests, mountains and coastlines. Preparing for a trip here means more than just filling your backpack; it's about equipping yourself with the knowledge to navigate this vast natural wonder respectfully and safely. 

Considerations like the weather's whims, matching your hiking ambitions with your ability and the ethics of wildlife observation are key to making your visit both memorable and harmonious with the park's ethos. Olympic National Park isn't simply a place to see; it's an environment to interact with thoughtfully. Here are some simple yet incredibly important things to consider before your trip.

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View of Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park. Photo by: khomlyak.

How Many Days Do You Need to Spend in Olympic National Park?

Deciding on the optimal duration for your visit to Olympic National Park hinges on the breadth of experiences you wish to embrace in this vast and varied landscape. Given the park's expansive territories – which include over 922,000 acres of protected wilderness – a minimum of three to five days is highly recommended to truly appreciate its diverse ecosystems. This time frame allows for deeper exploration beyond the surface, affording you the opportunity to traverse its rainforests, mountain ranges and coastal areas with more than just a fleeting glance.

The best times to visit Olympic National Park generally span from late spring to early fall, when the weather conditions are most favorable for outdoor activities. During these months, the park's trails are accessible, and the natural beauty of the area is in full bloom, offering spectacular vistas and wildlife viewing opportunities.

A three-day visit might focus on key highlights: a day in the Hoh Rainforest, a day hiking the mountainous regions like Hurricane Ridge and a day along the coast exploring places like Rialto Beach. Extending your stay to five days or more allows for deeper exploration into less-trafficked areas, leisurely hikes and the chance to discover the park's hidden gems at a more relaxed pace.

Ultimately, the duration of your visit should reflect your interests, whether they lie in rigorous hiking, photography, wildlife observation, or simply soaking in the tranquility of nature. Each additional day spent in Olympic National Park unfolds new layers of its natural majesty, enriching your experience and connection to the great outdoors.

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Crescent lodges and spruces on a lakeside in Olympic National Park. Photo by: Wirestock.

Where to Stay in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park offers a variety of accommodations to suit different preferences and budgets. Here are a few options:

  • Lodges within the Park: For those looking to stay within the park itself, there are several lodges that offer comfortable accommodations amidst stunning natural surroundings. These include the historic Lake Crescent Lodge, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, and the Log Cabin Resort. These lodges provide easy access to hiking trails and other outdoor activities.
  • Campgrounds: For the more adventurous visitors, there are numerous campgrounds scattered throughout the park. From the coastal sites at Kalaloch and Mora, near Rialto Beach, to forested settings like Hoh Rainforest Campground, camping is a great way to immerse yourself in the park's natural beauty. Campsites vary in amenities, so it’s worth checking what’s available at each location.
  • Vacation Rentals and Hotels in Port Angeles: Just outside the park, Port Angeles offers a range of vacation rentals, hotels, and bed & breakfast options. Staying in Port Angeles provides convenient access to the park via the Hurricane Ridge entrance and includes the comforts and conveniences of a small city.
  • Cabins and Cottages: Throughout the Olympic Peninsula, visitors can find various cabins and cottages for rent. These can offer a more secluded and intimate experience of the area, perfect for those looking for a quiet retreat after a day of exploring. For detailed listings and to find the perfect cabin or cottage for your stay, platforms like Vrbo and Vacasa offer a wide selection of properties on the Olympic Peninsula.
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Tree of Life, Olympic National Park. Photo by: MekunaPhotography.

What to Wear When Visiting Olympic National Park

Weather in Olympic National Park can vary widely, from the cool, damp conditions of the rainforests to the more variable and sometimes harsh weather of the mountain areas. Here are some recommendations for what to wear, incorporating versatile and durable clothing options from KÜHL that are well-suited for


  • Layered Clothing: Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep you dry, followed by an insulating layer for warmth, and top it off with a waterproof and breathable outer layer. KÜHL's Alfpaca fleece jackets make an excellent insulating layer, providing warmth without the bulk.
  • Durable Hiking Pants: Choose pants that are quick-drying and offer freedom of movement. KÜHL's Renegade™ Cargo Convertible Pants are a great choice, as they are made from a durable, water-resistant fabric and can be converted into shorts on warmer days.
  • Waterproof Hiking Boots: You’ll want boots that are well-fitted, supportive, and waterproof. Trails can be wet and muddy, especially in the rainforest and alpine areas.
  • Rain Gear: A waterproof and breathable rain jacket is essential. The Jetstream™ Jacket is lightweight and packable, offering excellent protection against rain and wind.
  • Sun Protection: Even on cloudy days, UV protection is important. Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Consider long-sleeved shirts with UPF rating, like KÜHL’s Airkuhl™ Hoody, which provides sun protection while keeping you cool.
  • Backpack: A comfortable, day-sized pack is useful for carrying water, snacks, a first-aid kit, and extra clothing. Ensure it fits well and distributes weight evenly.

For a more extensive offering of women’s hiking clothing and men’s outdoor wear to keep you warm and dry or cool and comfortable while visiting Olympic National Park, KÜHL has you covered.

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Olympic National Park Top Things to Do

Olympic National Park is massive. With over 366,000 acres of nature to explore, there are endless options for fun in this area of Washington. Highlighted below are some top activities that shouldn’t be missed, but there's so much to discover in the park. For a more detailed overview of what to see and do in Olympic National Park, from hidden gems to the most popular attractions, check out our complete Olympic National Park guide.

Hiking Through Diverse Landscapes

Olympic National Park's trails offer something for every hiker, from serene walks through the emerald realms of the Hoh Rainforest to awe-inspiring treks up Hurricane Ridge for incredible mountain views. These paths not only highlight the park's rich biodiversity but also its dramatic landscapes, from dense forests to rugged coastlines. Trails like the Hall of Mosses immerse you in ancient ecosystems, while the Hurricane Hill Trail promises panoramic vistas that are easily accessible to most.

For those drawn to the ocean's edge, the Olympic Peninsula's coastline features trails that meander past tide pools and sea stacks, offering glimpses of marine life. Meanwhile, ambitious hikers might explore the backcountry, where remote basins and mountain peaks provide solitude and unspoiled beauty, further solidifying Olympic National Park as a must-see destination for its diverse landscapes and unique hiking experiences. Discover more about these adventures and plan your hikes with this guide to the best hikes in Olympic National Park.

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Milky Way over Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park. Photo by: Kevin Lisota.

Camping Under the Stars

Camping under the stars is one of the coolest things to do on the Olympic Peninsula. The park's array of campgrounds accommodates everyone's taste. Each location offers its own slice of the park’s diverse landscape, from lakeside views at Lake Crescent and the enveloping greenery of the Hoh Rainforest to the ocean sounds at Rialto Beach. Whatever beautiful backdrop you choose, the stars will be waiting.

The experience can be as simple as enjoying the peace of your surroundings or as engaging as hiking nearby trails or gathering around a campfire. Campsites come with various amenities to support your stay, from campfire rings and picnic tables to access to potable water and restrooms, making your time outdoors more comfortable. It's a good idea to book your campsite in advance, particularly during the busy season. And to be fully prepared for any camping trip, make sure to have a camping checklist.

Stargazing at Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge stands as a premier destination for those looking to marvel at the night sky. Its remote location, high elevation and clear atmospheric conditions create an unparalleled viewing experience, far removed from the light pollution of urban areas. Here, stargazers find themselves in a serene setting perfect for observing the universe's marvels. From the Milky Way's dense band arching across the sky to meteors darting into the atmosphere, the absence of artificial light allows for a spectacular celestial display.

On clear nights, the sky above Hurricane Ridge transforms into a vivid showcase of constellations, planets and other astronomical wonders. This area is particularly appealing for both amateur astronomers and casual observers aiming to absorb the night's beauty. Park rangers and local astronomy clubs occasionally host special programs, providing insights into the celestial sights above. 

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Road bicycling on the Hoh Road in Olympic National Forest. Photo by: Danita Delimont.

Biking Along Scenic Routes

Biking through Olympic National Park offers a refreshing perspective on its vast landscapes, appealing to those who enjoy exploring nature with a bit of speed and the freedom to cover more ground. The Spruce Railroad Trail, skirting the serene Lake Crescent, is particularly favored among cyclists for its scenic beauty and gentle terrain. This trail, part of the Olympic Discovery Trail, allows bikers to experience the tranquility of the lake alongside the dense forest canopy, with several spots to pause and soak in the views or have a picnic by the water's edge.

Expanding your biking adventure in the park, several other trails and roads cater to cyclists looking for varied experiences — from coastal routes offering views of the rugged Pacific shoreline to forested pathways that meander through the lush valleys and along riverbanks. 

While the park's mountainous areas present more of a challenge, they reward the intrepid with incredible views and a sense of solitude. Besides biking essentials like spare tubes, a multi-tool and a helmet for your cycling adventure, don't forget to pack a first aid kit

Skiing and Snowshoeing

As winter arrives, the landscape transforms, offering a different kind of adventure — skiing and snowshoeing. Hurricane Ridge, easily accessible and boasting a reliable snowpack, becomes a hub for winter sports enthusiasts. The ridge provides various trails and open areas suited for both beginners and experienced skiers and snowshoers, allowing visitors to glide through snow-covered meadows and forests, with the Olympic Mountains serving as a spectacular backdrop.

Equipment rentals and lessons are conveniently available at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, making it easy for everyone to participate, regardless of whether you're packing your gear or trying out snow sports for the first time. Beyond Hurricane Ridge, the park's vast wilderness offers countless opportunities for those looking to explore more secluded areas on skis or snowshoes.

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Cross-country skiing at Olympic National Park. Photo by: Pedro.

Wildlife Viewing

Olympic National Park's rich ecosystems offer a haven for wildlife, making it an ideal spot for visitors to experience the natural inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest. From the dense, moss-laden floors of the Hoh Rainforest to the serene waters of Sol Duc Valley, the park is alive with creatures great and small. Elk roam the park's valleys, while black bears are often spotted in quieter, more secluded areas, a reminder of the wilderness that thrives within these protected lands. Above, bald eagles circle, showcasing the park’s rich avian life.

The Hoh Rainforest's quiet trails might reveal the delicate steps of a deer or the quick movement of an otter beside the river. In contrast, the Sol Duc Valley offers chances to hear the call of the varied thrush or spot the flash of a beaver tail. Observing these animals in their natural settings offers a glimpse into the importance of conservation efforts to maintain these habitats. 

Scenic Drives

Scenic drives through Olympic National Park offer visitors a chance to witness the park's natural wonders from the comfort of their vehicles. The drive to Hurricane Ridge is particularly renowned, winding its way up the mountains to present sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains and the Puget Sound. This route, easily accessible from Port Angeles, is a must-do for any visitor. It not only provides spectacular photo opportunities but also chances to spot wildlife along the way.

Similarly, the road to Lake Crescent takes you through lush forests to one of the park's most serene spots. The lake, known for its crystal-clear waters and deep, glacial origins, is surrounded by towering mountains. This creates a picturesque setting perfect for picnics, short hikes, or simply enjoying the tranquility of the area. Other scenic routes, like the drive along the Pacific coastline or the journey into the heart of the rainforest, offer their unique beauty as well. 

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Black tailed deer meandering along Hurricane Ridge Trail. Photo by: Nathaniel Gonzales.

Water Activities in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is a playground for those who love water activities of all sorts. Kayaking on the serene waters of Lake Crescent allows visitors to glide through reflections of the surrounding forested mountains, providing a peaceful way to explore the area. For kayakers seeking more challenging waters, the Quinault River delivers routes that range from Class II to V. 

For anglers, the Sol Duc River presents a coveted opportunity to fish in the clear, flowing waters, with salmon and trout being the prized catches. Equipment rentals, including kayaks and fishing gear, are available at Lake Crescent Lodge and the Olympic Outdoor Center, making it easier for visitors to dive into these activities. 

Visiting Iconic Beaches

The rugged coastlines are a must-see in Olympic National Park. Areas like Rialto Beach and Ruby Beach are quintessential examples, known for their dramatic sea stacks that rise majestically out of the ocean and the rich tide pools that dot their shores. These locations are more than just beaches; they're natural galleries showcasing intricate ecosystems and geological formations carved by time and the elements. Definitely some of the most beautiful things to see in the Olympic National Park. 

Visiting these beaches offers a chance to walk among these ancient sea stacks, explore the diverse marine life in the tide pools, and experience the powerful presence of the Pacific Ocean's waves. The unique combination of geological features and the dynamic marine environment creates a memorable visit, offering endless opportunities for exploration, photography, and quiet contemplation amidst the stunning landscapes. 

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Photo by: Akib.

Backpacking Olympic National Park

For those seeking to immerse themselves in the backcountry, several places to visit in Olympic National Park stand out as must-tries, offering a range from moderate to strenuous adventures. 

A must-do in Olympic National Park for any avid backpacker is the trek through the Quinault Rain Forest to the Enchanted Valley, known for its awe-inspiring old-growth trees and stunning valley waterfalls. This route offers ample camping spots, and the unique experience of watching waterfalls cascade down 4,000-foot valley walls right from your tent. The journey includes a mix of elevation gains, and the excitement of navigating through Anderson, LaCrosse and O'Neil passes, with side trips to Anderson Moraine and LaCrosse Lake adding to the adventure.

For those looking for coastal experiences, Shi Shi Beach to Ozette Lake is a highlight, featuring 19 miles of beach sunsets, tide pools, and sea stacks. This point-to-point trek requires careful planning for tide navigation but rewards with unique beachside camping and exploration.

Additionally, the challenging Grey Wolf Pass / Cameron Pass / Hurricane Ridge Loop offers a blend of remote wilderness and iconic views, traversing several steep passes and showcasing diverse scenery from mossy forests to alpine ridges.

Each of these routes requires careful preparation, including obtaining the necessary permits and bear canisters for food storage in certain areas. To prepare yourself with ease of mind, check out this ultimate backpacking checklist.

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Photo by: FlagtailsPhotography.

Final Thoughts

Olympic National Park is vast, offering everything from silent forests to the roar of the ocean. It's where every visit brings something new, whether it’s your first hike or your hundredth. It’s about seeing the sunrise over mountains or watching the fog roll through trees. And if you're looking for things to do near Olympic National Park, check out this guide to national parks near Seattle for even more outdoor escapes.

Featured image by: Wirestock Creators.


Is it worth visiting Olympic National Park?

Exploring the best of Olympic National Park is an unforgettable experience, offering an unparalleled diversity of ecosystems, from lush rainforests to rugged coastlines and majestic mountains. Its natural beauty and array of outdoor activities make it a must-visit destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

What is the best month to visit Olympic National Park?

The best months to visit Olympic National Park are from May to September, when the weather is most favorable for exploring the park's diverse landscapes. During these months, visitors can fully enjoy hiking, wildlife viewing, and the scenic beauty of the park with fewer rain interruptions.

Can you do Olympic National Park in 1 day?

The sheer size and variety of ecosystems mean you'll only scratch the surface of the Olympic National Park highlights. Spending several days allows for a more comprehensive exploration of its rainforests, beaches, and mountain areas, ensuring you don't miss the essential experiences this diverse park offers.

Do I need a reservation to visit Olympic National Park?

For general entry into the park, reservations are not typically required, but it's always best to check the current park guidelines. However, reservations may be needed for camping, backcountry permits, and some lodgings within the park, especially during peak tourist seasons.

Does it rain a lot in Olympic National Park?

Yes, certain areas of Olympic National Park, especially the rainforests like the Hoh, receive a significant amount of rainfall, making them some of the wettest places in the continental United States. However, the park's diverse climates mean that other areas, like the eastern parts, can be much drier.

Emily Leikam
Emily Leikam

Emily is an avid traveler and has been all around the world from Alaska and Iceland to Peru and Bali. Her home base is Nashville, TN and when not traveling you can find her hiking, practicing yoga or cooking/baking!


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