Article Overview: Things to Do at Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park was rated the best national park in America for good reason – it’s got it all with an unbelievable amount of incredible adventures and things to do. Lush river valleys, glaciated mountain peaks, rugged wilderness coastline, pristine temperate rain forest, abundant wildlife, tranquil alpine lakes and more all combined in a single national park. Almost seems too good to be true!
In this article I’ll cover all of the best things to do in Olympic National Park based on my extensive experience exploring and appreciating this national treasure. Included you’ll find helpful tips along with lots of photos from our award-winning film on the park (more on that below).
Please visit this place with respect and practice your best leave no trace manners while visiting Olympic National Park so we can keep it as beautiful as we found it.
Ready for the best things to do in Olympic National Park? Let’s get right to it!
Table of Contents: Best Things to Do at Olympic National Park
Table of Contents: Best Things to Do at Olympic National Park
- About My Travels to Olympic National Park
- Things to Know Before Visiting Olympic National Park
- Best Time to Visit Olympic National Park
- Where to Stay at Olympic National Park
- Things to Do at Olympic National Park
- Top 20 Best Things to Do at Olympic National Park
- Top 15 Things to Do at Olympic National Park
- Top 10 Best Things to Do at Olympic National Park
- Top 5 Things to Do at Olympic National Park
- Summary of Things to Do in Olympic National Park
- List of Things to Do at Olympic National Park
- Map of the Best Things to Do at Olympic National Park
About My Travels to Olympic National Park
My brother Jim and I first visited Olympic National Park back in 2014 along with a good friend to set about creating a film that captured the park’s essence. This was actually the beginning of our More Than Just Parks series.
We spent three weeks living in the park, hiking nearly every major trail and exploring every corner of the park. It was magical.
In fact, I loved the park so much that I returned a few years later and proposed to my wife on top of Hurricane Ridge. The next time my brother and I appeared on the The Weather Channel we did a segment on the park and they surprised me with a special segment featuring the photo.
All this is to say if you’re looking to learn everything and anything about Olympic National Park – where to go, what to see, things to do, secret spots, and much more – you’ve come to the right place.
Ready to start planning? Let’s go!
Things to Know Before Visiting Olympic National Park
$30 per vehicle OR if you plan to visit more National Parks within the next 12 months I suggest you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be found at the entrance gates to most national parks). This pass gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more including 2,000 sites for free after a one time $79 fee.
Use it. Lots of it. Especially this one which I never leave the house without because it plays nice with our dear friend, earth 🙂
Fuel up fully before you get into the park. Drive times are longer than you might assume because there are no through roads. Drive times from popular destinations can be 3+ hours apart. More on drive times below.
Cell Service is spotty in the park at best so be prepared to go without. Verizon works better than AT&T.
The Best Guide Book for Olympic National Park is this one which we’ve marked up and highlighted quite a bit.
The Best Map: I like this map best for Olympic National Park.
Drink it. Lots of it. Don’t forget it in the car.
Best Time to Visit Olympic National Park
The Best Time to Visit Olympic National Park is during the Summer when temperatures are warm, and the wildflower meadows are exploding with kaleidoscopic colors. For peak wildflower viewing I recommend the first couple of weeks in August.
Where to Stay at Olympic National Park
Visiting Olympic National Park? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our complete guide on visiting Mount Rainier National Park. Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in Olympic National Park.
There are also 5 lodges within Olympic National Park which we detail below.
Things to Do at Olympic National Park
Top 20 Best Things to Do at Olympic National Park
20. Go Wildflower Peeping
Location: Throughout the park
The state of Washington has some of the best places on the planet to see wildflowers. One of my personal favorite things to do in Olympic National Park is to go wildflower peeping. In the summer, kaleidoscopic displays of wildflowers erupt all over the park providing a veritable feast for the eyes.
While peak wildflower viewing season varies from year to year the first week of August is nearly a guarantee to have great displays. Late July is usually pretty great as well but by late August they’re mostly gone.
Some of the best places to view wildflowers at Olympic National Park are:
- Deer Park
- Hurricane Ridge
If you’re a true wildflower nut (like me) be sure to check out the best places in the world to view wildflowers.
19. Discover Olympic’s “Staircase”
Location: Southeast Corner
Staircase is a lesser-visited, less-crowded southeastern corner of Olympic National Park. This is a great area to bookmark for people looking for more secluded and intimate things to do in Olympic National Park. Here you’ll find stunning old growth forests full of massive conifers along with some beautiful hiking trails.
I recommend the Rapids Loop Trail for first-timers as an easy 2 mile loop that gently weaves through the old-growth forests and crosses the North Fork of the Skokomish River twice.
There’s a campground at Staircase with 49 sites for folks looking to camp out here (I highly recommend it).
18. Venture Out to Ozette Lake
Location: Northwestern Corner
The Ozette region of Olympic National Park combines the majesty of the old-growth forests with the rugged beauty of the Olympic Coastline. This is another one of the great things to do at Olympic National Park for folks looking to escape the crowds.
Ozette is also a great recreation hub offering all sorts of activities including hiking, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, wildlife viewing (whales!), and more.
There’s a campground at Ozette if you’re looking for an overnight experience. Given it’s remote proximity (at least an hour from the rest of the park) to the other parts of the park I recommend grabbing a campsite for the night!
17. Explore Port Angeles
If you’re looking for a great place to start your journey, then a quick exploration of Port Angeles should be at the top of your list of things to do in Olympic National Park.
This cute little town is the closest settlement to the park’s main entrance, so it has developed into a natural way-station for people about to dive into all that Olympic has to offer.
You’ll find plenty to do here, so don’t worry!
Port Angeles plays host to numerous businesses and attractions to keep everyone entertained, including the Feiro Marine Life Center, the Dungeness Spit Wildlife Refuge, Bella Italia Italian restaurant, Brewery Supplies local craft beer outlet, and the famous Welly’s Ice Cream Truck, which will be a delight for those with a bit of a sweet tooth.
16. Spot the Beautiful Roosevelt Elk
Location: Mostly the Western side of Olympic
A little-known fact about Olympic National Park is that it was originally set up as a measure to help preserve the Roosevelt Elk. These elk, named in honor of President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, are the largest elk subspecies residing in North America, some weighing over a thousand pounds.
Elk-spotting is one of the most awesome things to do in Olympic National Park, so don’t miss out. You can spot these majestic ungulates meandering within Hoh Rain Forest and the beaches running along the peninsula.
Top 15 Things to Do at Olympic National Park
15. Soak in the Starry Night Skies
Location: Everywhere but especially Hurricane Ridge
One of the best things to do in Olympic National Park for night sky lovers and astrophotographers is to go stargazing at Hurricane Ridge. Olympic is home to some of the most fantastic stargazing in the pacific northwest (on clear nights).
I have witnessed some absolute breathtaking night skies and milky way scenes from Hurricane Ridge and elsewhere in the park (Deer Park).
The milky way is most visible primarily during the summer months of July and August.
14. Check Out Kalaloch Beach
Location: Western side of Olympic
With over 73 miles of spectacular rugged coastline, spending a day at the beach is one of the most popular things to do at Olympic National Park.
If you’re expecting white sands and warm temperatures then you’ll be in for a bit of an awakening. Here you’ll find massive drift logs, rock-filled shores, bald eagles, fog, and rocky islands.
One popular attraction here is the Kalaloch Tree Of Life, a Giant Sitka Spruce estimated to be hundreds of years old (some say over a thousand!). It grows out the side of a cliff, allowing people to walk down and under it, among the tree’s roots.
This mighty root system provides an excellent opportunity for reflection and mindfulness, making it one of the most spiritually rewarding things to do in Olympic National Park.
13. Explore Forks & the Twilight Tour
Location: Northwestern corner
As we all know, vampires and the Pacific Northwest go hand-in-hand. Whether you consider yourself a Twilight fan or not (come on, there’s no shame in it), you can’t make a trip to Olympic National Park without encountering the franchise’s influence.
With spots ranging from La Push Beach to Bella’s Trucks, there’s more than plenty here for Twilight fans to enjoy nerding out to.
Forks is the biggest town center on the peninsula’s West Side, so you will probably be spending a night here, Twilight fan or not, so you might as well make the best of it.
The town acts as a base of operations for many visitors due to its proximity to many other attractions and things to do in Olympic National Park. Every year Forks hosts a Twilight festival for fans from all over the world.
12. Whale Watching
Location: Western (coastal) side
Most people are surprised to learn that whale watching can be included in their list of things to do in Olympic National Park. You can start at the Whale Trail station on Kalaloch Beach, which will provide you with all the information you need to get to the best whale-spotting trails and hotspots.
If you’ve got sharp eyes then that may be all you require to spot these undersea wonders, but most people choose to come out with a set of binoculars. If you don’t have a pair on you then you can rent a pair at the ranger station. If you want to get a bit closer to the action, you can also go on whale-watching boat tours.
11. Hike the Marymere Falls Trail
Location: Northwestern corner
There are plenty of waterfalls to see up in the heights of this peninsula, but Marymere Falls ranks high among the most exhilarating places to see here, and hiking the trail running alongside it is among the most rewarding things to do in Olympic National Park.
The trail is approximately one mile from the Storm King Ranger Station and is a great option for a quick early morning hike since it is a mildly challenging incline – just what you need to warm everybody up before a day of exploration.
Top 10 Best Things to Do at Olympic National Park
10. Bike Along The Olympic Discovery Trail
The Olympic Discovery Trail is among the most extensive trails available to the public, which extends almost 135 miles from Port Townsend to La Push on the Peninsula’s coast.
It’s wildly popular with bikers and walkers, not only because of its stunning sights and sounds but because it is paved for about a third of its way.
This makes it a great option for people looking for things to do in Olympic National Park during the muddier seasons.
9. Rialto Beach, Split Rock & Hole In The Wall
Location: Northwestern Corner
Rialto Beach is among the more popular beaches that make up the Olympic National Park’s list of scenic locations. You will only need to take a 30-minute drive southwards from La Push beach to get here.
There are two popular attractions here including the giant “Split Rock” and “Hole in the Wall.”
Once at Rialto Beach, you can get to the Hole In The Wall & Split Rock by walking north on the coastline. Split Rock refers to two massive rock outcroppings that you’ll see in the distance as soon as you reach the beach.
Hole in the Wall is a rock formation hole in its middle that, for some reason, has grown to become one of the folks favorite things to do in Olympic National Park.
NOTE: Getting to Hole in the Wall on foot is only possible during low tide.
8. Hike Mount Storm King
Location: Northwestern corner
Should you be in the mood for a bit of adventure during your visit, then Mount Storm King will have just what you’re looking for. This hike will have you walking approximately two miles each way.
This is a moderately difficult hike, so it might not be the best choice for young children or people with mobility issues.
Even so, it is one of the more thrilling things to do in Olympic National Park. Because of its high elevation points and sometimes snow-covered trails, it’s a good idea to check trail conditions prior to starting the hike.
Those who are up for the challenge will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views of Lake Crescent below and the surrounding mountain ranges in the Peninsula.
The trail is 4.1 miles long with about 2,000 feet of elevation gain so come prepared for a bit of a challenge getting to the top!
7. Hike to Sol Duc Falls
There’s no shortage of beauty spots at Olympic Park, but Sol Duc Falls is considered by many to rank among the most beautiful. Getting to Sol Duc is a rewarding hiking experience, and you can expect to stop and take endless photos as you make your way towards this popular attraction.
The waterfall is one of the most popular things to do in Olympic National Park, so be prepared to encounter a significant number of folks along the way. Even so, weekday mornings are the best time to visit as the crowds tend to be lesser then.
Length: 3.2 miles round trip
Time: 2-3 hours
6. Go Camping (Especially at Queets)
Location: Southwestern Corner (Queets)
Camping is one of the most incredible things to do in Olympic National Park. The hardest aspect of it is choosing which campground to settle down in. There’s something for everyone who’s into the outdoor lifestyle, as the park hosts 16 camping grounds in various locations.
Hikers prefer the Heart O’ Hills and Deer Park sites, while beach-lovers tend to choose the grounds at Mora, South Beach, and Kalaloch. You can bunk down among the trees at Graves Creek or Hoh Rainforest camping grounds. They are mostly operated on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to get there early on time.
To this day, Queets is one of my favorite campgrounds in the entire national park system. It’s location right off of the Queets River (some of the sites are on the river itself) and lush forest make for a dreamy camp site.
Top 5 Things to Do at Olympic National Park
5. Visit Lake Crescent
Location: Northwestern Corner
Another check on your list of things to do in Olympic National Park, after your morning hike on the Marymere Trail, should be visiting Lake Crescent. There is a beautiful lodge here where you can spend your nights, and the summer season offers plenty of kayaking, swimming, and paddling fun for the whole family.
The lake is a short walk from the iconic Storm King Ranger Station, but remember to take special care of younger visitors in your group, as the lake is usually much colder than it looks.
There’s a special treat in this lake for anglers in the form of the rare Crescenti and Beardslee trout. This lake is one of the only (perhaps the only) place where these species are found due to the lake’s unique formation. According to the NPS, about 7,000 years ago a massive landslide separated Lake Crescent from Lake Sutherland isolating the trout in this lake which have adapted differently.
4. Deer Park & Blue Mountain
Location: Northern side
This one falls into the hidden gems category of things to do at Olympic National Park. It’s not every day that you can bag a summit with such minimal effort. Blue Mountain is an easy hike from Deer Park and features some of the best views in Olympic National Park. On a clear day you can see clear across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to British Columbia.
The long gravel road up to the parking area along with it’s proximity just far away enough from Hurricane Ridge weeds out a lot of the crowds making for a really lovely experience full of solitude.
Length: .5 miles round trip
Time: 30 – 45 minutes
NOTE: Getting to the trailhead requires a long drive up a gravel road from Port Angeles. Be sure to drive slow as there are no guard rails on the drive. Once at the top drive past the campground and up to the trailhead parking lot.
3. Visit the Hoh Rain Forest
No list of things to do in Olympic National Park would be complete without mentioning the lovely Hoh Rain Forest. The Hoh Rain Forest is the largest temperate rain forest in America. It is also the quietest place in North America and one of the quietest places on earth.
The Hoh Rain Forest receives a staggering 200 inches of rainfall yearly, making it one of the wettest places in the US as well..
In the Hoh Rain Forest you’ll have your choice of hiking trails to choose from, each bursting with seemingly alien plant life, such as the Hall of Mosses trail, which is teeming with mosses and bizarre foliage as well.
If you’re quiet enough you might stumble across a roaming herd of Roosevelt Elk.
2. Explore Hurricane Ridge
Visiting Hurricane Ridge is one of the most popular and best things to do in Olympic National Park. There are few better viewpoints on the Olympic Peninsula than those you’ll find at Hurricane Ridge, which peaks at 5,000 feet above sea level.
Call me biased but Hurricane Ridge is one of my personal favorite places in the world as I got engaged here in the snow many moons ago.
To get here, you’ll need to follow Hurricane Ridge road to the top of the ridge (about 45 minutes from the visitor center at the bottom). This area serves as a great jumping off point point for several hiking routes and trails, which branch off from the visitor center at the top.
On a clear day, you will have an unparalleled view of the surrounding ridges, peaks, and valleys. However, if you are visiting in Fall or Spring, you’ll need to be mindful of the snow.
1. Hike the Obstruction Point Trail
Now for the top of the list of best things to do in Olympic National Park! The Obstruction Point Trail is hands down the most beautiful trail in Olympic National Park and the best thing to do in the park. I still remember my first time hiking this trail and being in constant disbelief from the unimaginable scenery here.
Epic mountain peaks stretch out in every direction, isolated snow patches, retreating glaciers, Olympic marmots, stunning alpine meadows, turquoise glacial ponds, tranquil mountain lakes, and endless views make this a truly magical place.
If there’s one trail you do in Olympic National Park, make it Obstruction Point – you won’t regret it.
To get to the trailhead drive up the Hurricane Ridge road and then turn left at the top for Obstruction Point.
Length: 14 miles (don’t let that scare you – just hike it for a couple of miles to witness scenes like the one featured in the photo above)
NOTE: This trail is open seasonally starting in June into October.
Watch the Award-Winning Olympic National Park Video
MTJP | OLYMPIC is a visually stunning journey through Olympic NP. This video is the culmination of a month spent backpacking through Olympic. We chose Olympic as our first of the More Than Just Parks short films due to its incredible diversity.
It is unlike any park on the planet offering glacial mountain peaks, old-growth rain forests, and over seventy miles of wilderness coast – all within a day’s drive. This production was filmed entirely in UHD 4K.
We decided to shoot this film in Summer months during peak accessibility. During winter the road to Hurricane Ridge closes due to snow accumulation.
Olympic is one of three Washington State National Parks, the other two being North Cascades and Mount Rainier.
Filming locations include: Hurricane Ridge, Obstruction Point, Hoh Rainforest, Quinalt Valley, Queets Valley, La Push, Ruby Beach, Crescent Lake, Staircase, Kalaloch, and more.
Visiting Olympic National Park – Directions & Location
There are a few popular ways to get to Olympic.
Closest Airport: SEA – Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (distance – 131 miles from the Port Angeles entrance)
The fastest way to get to Olympic National Park is by plane, flying into Seattle’s Sea-Tac airport (unless you live in the Pacific Northwest, like me). Flights into Seattle usually aren’t terribly expensive as it’s a major Delta & international hub.
Alternatively you *could* fly into Portland (PDX) and drive up (4 hours) or fly into Vancouver, British Columbia (YVR) and drive down (5 hours).
Driving From Seattle
If you are driving from Seattle (city center or north of the city), getting to the park can be done one of two ways. Option one is driving through Seattle, Tacoma, and then around the Puget Sound which takes about 3.5 hours.
Olympic National Park Ferry From Seattle
Option two is taking the ferry from Seattle across the Puget Sound to the Olympic Penninsula. This route takes about the same amount of time as the drive around the sound but requires less driving. The ferry costs $15 for a standard vehicle each way.
Summary of Things to Do in Olympic National Park
Let’s be honest for a moment; there’s simply no way to go over all the things to do in Olympic National Park in a piece like this – you might have more luck writing a book about it. Still, this should give you some idea of what a magical place this park is.
It doesn’t get as much hype as some of the other parks in the United States – which is great! You still have the opportunity to explore and discover the park without having to contend with massive crowds you’ll find in places like Yellowstone or Yosemite.
List of Things to Do at Olympic National Park
- Obstruction Point
- Hurricane Ridge
- Hoh Rain Forest
- Deer Park & Blue Mountain
- Lake Crescent
- Storm King
- Rialto Beach
- Olympic Discover Trail
- Kalaloch Beach
- Port Angeles
- Sol Duc Falls
- Marymere Falls
- Whale Watching
- Roosevelt Elk
- Lake Ozette
Map of the Best Things to Do at Olympic National Park
About the Folks Behind More Than Just Parks
I’m Will Pattiz, and along with my brother Jim, we’re collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
I’ve spent my entire adult life exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands. Along the way I’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Tips for Visiting Olympic National Park
Permit Systems and Reservations
Check to see if the national park you’re visiting has a permit or reservation system in place before visiting. As parks become increasingly crowded more has to be done to safeguard them which means controlling the hundreds of millions of people who visit these places each year.
Popular national parks with reservation systems of some kind include Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, Rocky Mountain, Glacier, Arches, Acadia, Denali, and more.
Want Less Crowds? Try a National Forest!
Try visiting a national forest while you’re on your trip to avoid the crowds. There are 155 national forests in America, many of which are equally as beautiful as the national parks they neighbor and only see a fraction of the visitors.
For example, try the Flathead National Forest next to Glacier National Park, the Bridger-Teton next to Grand Teton, and the Dixie which borders nearly all of the Utah National Parks.
Practice Safety, Seriously
National parks are amazing but wild places so it is essential to practice basic safety while visiting them. Every year people die while vacationing in national parks. This is easily avoided by:
- Sticking to trails
- Checking the weather before going out on a hike
- Maintaining a safe distance between wildlife which means at least 25 yards from most wildlife and 100 yards from predators
- Avoid ledges with steep drop offs
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