Olympic National Park is arguably one of the most beautiful spots in all of America. It is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and is one of the more primeval areas in the lower 48 states.
It is a location you can go to if you genuinely want to feel surrounded by nature and away from anyone else. It is 95% wilderness and filled with incredible experiences to try no matter what time of the year you choose to visit.
Things to do in summer
Hike Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge is one of the more popular areas to visit within the park. It is because it is one of the most accessible mountain locations that offer stunning panoramic views on a clear day.
There is a visitor center close to the hiking trailhead in Hurrican Ridge, and the drive up alone is worth it. The views are breathtaking and offer plenty of pull-offs so you can pull out your camera. If you don’t feel like doing a longer hike, you can also take up a cooler for a picnic at one of the tables by the visitor center and soak it all in with a sandwich in hand.
Walk along Ruby Beach
Bring hiking sandals or go barefoot for this scenic walk along with one of Olympic National Park’s plethora of beaches. This beach is one of the more accessible ones, and many others take much more work to hike into, so it can be a more popular tourist destination in the park.
Ruby Beach is only a short walk from the area where you can park. Bring another picnic along on this day or take a hike among the driftwood. There is no camping allowed at Ruby Beach, although there are other beaches to look into if beach camping is a goal.
Visit the Hoh Rain Forest
Washington State is filled with veritable wonders that tickle the edges of your imagination. Some of the best have been grouped to form The Seven Wonders of Washington State. One of these is the Hoh Rain Forest, one of the largest temperate rainforests in North America.
Some of the trees that have taken root in the rainforest are centuries old. The Hoh Rain Forest can receive as much as 14 feet of rain each year, so don’t expect dry weather! Bring along a rain jacket no matter what time of the year you visit.
Things to do in fall
Take a trip to Lake Cresent
Since the area around the Olympic Peninsula receives so much rain, it should come as no surprise to anyone that there are plenty of mountain lakes you can visit. Lake Cresent is a beautiful example of these, a lake flanked by mountains as you enter the peninsula.
If you are looking for some hikes to do, there are stellar options to take from there that give you incredible overlooking views. The Mount Storm King Hike is one of these. Keep in mind that if it has rained heavily during the year, parts of the trail might not be usable anymore.
Avoid a plunge at the High Steel Bridge
Another great detour to take as you come into the peninsula is at the High Steel Bridge. If you are scared of heights, it is better to view this spot from a distance. Otherwise, you can be brave and head right up to a barrier to gain a vertigo-inspiring view of the bottom 427 feet below you.
This bridge is accessible by car. It runs over a gorge formed by the South Fork Skokomish River. You can even see a waterfall from the bridge. Word of warning: do not try to climb over the barriers and practice caution as you approach them.
Take the Scenic Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive
If you are looking for more of a scenic road trip than an outdoor adventure, take the Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive. It takes you throughout the park and gives you access to some areas with the best views.
The entire drive is 454 miles, so give yourself several days to get through it if you want to really soak it up. You can camp along the way or check out some of the lodges in the area.
Things to do in winter
Get cozy at Kalaloch Lodge
Kalaloch Lodge is one of two lodges at the southwest side of the National Park that is open year-round. There is a beach in front of Kalaloch Lodge, and you can go clamming on certain days or simply relax and watch the ocean from their dining room.
Kalaloch Lodge is a great place to bunk after a day out skiing or snowshoeing in the mountains in the winter. They foster community or give you plenty of room to gain some solitude in this mountainous reserve.
Watch winter storms
Winter storms might not sound like the kind of thing you want to get caught in. For the most part, you are right, of course. This particular activity entails a lot of care and preparation taken before if you want to be outside for them. However, the two lodges in the park give you a safe front row seat to watch them roll in.
The waves on the ocean swell to incredible sizes and toss large logs onto the beach as though they were Linking Logs. You can walk out on the beach if you would like, but it is not the safest choice.
Take a winter tour with a park ranger
Take plenty of warm winter gear, like heated vests and gloves, on any of these available trips. Since Olympic National Park is so popular no matter what time of year, there are park rangers that lead tours and activities throughout the winter.
If you want to go on a guided hike, you can join a ranger for a snowshoe session. Check into the visitor’s center at Hurricane Ridge to be able to sign up for any available walks during your visit.
Things to do in spring
Hike along the Trail of Waterfalls
During the mid to late spring, waterfalls begin to burst at their seams from the winter snow’s melt. If waterfalls are one of your favorite reasons for hiking or visiting a National Park, you won’t want to miss the trail of waterfalls.
One of the names for the Olympic Peninsula is the valley of 10,000 waterfalls. Along this trail, you will take in some of the most notable. You can’t forget your camera, but keep it in a hiking camera bag for protection. You will hike by Sol Duc Falls, Madison Creek Falls, Falls Creek Falls, and through the Enchanted Valley.
Read More : What Should I Bring for A Day Hike?
Get in the last days of skiing
Downhill and cross-country skiing is one of the most popular sports within the Olympic Peninsula. There are many, many mountain slopes that you can take advantage of on a day of skiing.
Although this might seem like a winter activity, and it can be, if you go early enough in the spring, there is bound to be heaps of snow left. If it has started to get warm earlier in the year, try to head higher in elevation.
Cast a line
Since fish are cold-blooded creatures, as the weather begins to warm up, they begin to move around more. With warmer waters, they become more active and start to bite more aggressively.
Some of the best spots to cast a line in the spring are the Hoh River, Lake Crescent, and Queets River. There are unique fish that survive in some of these areas due to historical geological occurrences, so fishing takes on a new light for seasoned fishermen.
Things to do with kids
Go whale watching
During April, whales begin to migrate from the area around Kalaloch towards LaPush. These are mostly companies of gray whales. It can be thrilling to get a glimpse of them as they come to the surface for air and is bound to inspire kids who get to see the spectacle.
You can try to watch from a beach or hire boat rides to see them during the spring. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars just in case they are further away from the boat.
Become an ocean steward
Teach kids about the ocean’s beauty and their personal impact on the environment through the National Park’s Ocean Stewards program. From the time that kids are 4-years old and up, the quality to earn Ocean Steward’s rewards.
To begin this environmental journey, pick up an Ocean Steward Junior Ranger book from the visitor center. If you want to be extra prepared, you can also print one out at home. They can go through the booklet and complete it while they explore the National Park. At the end of your trip, take it back to the visitor center to get an official Ocean Steward patch.
Visit the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort for a dip
Finally, at the end of a long trip of hiking, biking, and fun, take a relaxing dip with the family in the Hot Springs at Sol Duc Resort. Olympic National Park has three mineral hot springs all encompassed by this resort.
The pools range in both depth and temperature. Once you heat up for a while, cool off again in the freshwater pool. Bring your own towel and go early if you want to avoid the crowds. This resort is closed in the winter.
Amanda Williams is a writer, plant-nerd, and outdoor enthusiast. She has traveled extensively, around the U.S., throughout Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Everywhere she treks, she takes time to enjoy the outdoors. John Muir is her hero. She aspires to inspire people to live better as he did.