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The Best Things To Do In Olympic National Park, Washington


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Marsha Hornsby



Located in the state of Washington, Olympic National Park is renowned for its diverse landscapes and natural beauty. This vast park covers nearly one million acres, encompassing everything from rugged mountain ranges to pristine coastline and ancient rainforests. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or simply looking to reconnect with nature, Olympic National Park offers a plethora of activities and attractions to suit every interest.


With its unique combination of ecosystems, Olympic National Park is a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts. From hiking and camping to wildlife viewing and beach exploration, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The park also boasts magnificent waterfalls, scenic drives, and opportunities for boating, kayaking, and birdwatching. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a casual visitor, Olympic National Park will leave you in awe of its natural wonders.


In this article, we’ll explore the top things to do in Olympic National Park, allowing you to make the most of your visit. Whether you’re planning a day trip, a weekend getaway, or a longer stay, these activities will provide you with unforgettable experiences and memories to cherish.


So, pack your hiking boots, grab your camera, and get ready to embark on an adventure in Olympic National Park. Let’s delve into the amazing activities that await you in this incredible destination.



Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Olympic National Park, offering visitors the chance to explore its breathtaking landscapes up close. With over 600 miles of trails to choose from, there are options for hikers of all skill levels, from easy beginner trails to challenging multi-day treks.


One of the must-visit hiking destinations in Olympic National Park is the Hurricane Ridge. The Hurricane Hill Trail is a moderate 3-mile round trip hike that rewards hikers with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and Strait of Juan de Fuca. For a more challenging hike, the Hoh River Trail takes you through the enchanting Hoh Rainforest, where you can witness ancient trees covered in moss and listen to the soothing sounds of the river.


If you’re up for a longer adventure, consider hiking the High Divide Loop. This 18-mile loop trail takes you through some of the most scenic areas of the park, including alpine meadows, lush forests, and crystal-clear lakes. The views from the summit of the High Divide are simply awe-inspiring, making it a favorite among experienced hikers.


When embarking on a hike in Olympic National Park, it’s essential to come prepared with proper gear, including sturdy hiking boots, a map, plenty of water, and layers of clothing to accommodate changing weather conditions. It’s also advisable to check weather and trail conditions before setting out to ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.


Whether you’re seeking an easy stroll or a challenging trek, the hiking trails of Olympic National Park offer an opportunity to connect with nature and discover the park’s hidden gems. So lace up your boots and hit the trails for an unforgettable hiking adventure.



For those who want to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Olympic National Park, camping is a fantastic option. The park offers a variety of campgrounds and backcountry camping options, allowing visitors to spend the night under the stars and wake up to the sounds of nature.


One of the popular campgrounds in Olympic National Park is the Kalaloch Campground, situated along the stunning Pacific coastline. Here, you can set up your tent or park your RV just steps away from the beach, where you can enjoy breathtaking sunsets and the soothing sound of crashing waves.


If you prefer a more secluded camping experience, consider exploring the backcountry camping options. There are designated wilderness camping sites throughout the park that require a permit and often involve a hike to reach. This allows you to truly escape the crowds and enjoy the tranquility of the wilderness.


It’s important to note that camping in Olympic National Park requires careful planning and preparation. Many campgrounds operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so arriving early is recommended, especially during peak season. Backcountry camping requires obtaining the necessary permits and adhering to Leave No Trace principles to preserve the park’s pristine environment.


Whether you’re camping near the beach, in the forest, or in the remote backcountry, spending a night under the stars in Olympic National Park is an incredible experience. It allows you to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and reconnect with nature in its purest form.


Wildlife Viewing

Olympic National Park is home to an abundance of wildlife, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. From majestic elk to elusive mountain goats, the park offers numerous opportunities to observe and appreciate these incredible creatures in their natural habitat.


One of the best places for wildlife viewing in Olympic National Park is the Hoh Rainforest. This lush and dense forest is not only a haven for unique plant species but also a sanctuary for various animals. Keep an eye out for Roosevelt elk wandering through the moss-covered trees or black bears foraging for food.


Another area known for its diverse wildlife is the Hurricane Ridge. Here, you may spot gray wolves, Olympic marmots, and even elusive mountain goats traversing the alpine meadows. Remember to keep a safe distance and observe these animals from afar to ensure their wellbeing and your own safety.


If you’re an avid birdwatcher, Olympic National Park is a haven for bird species. Grab your binoculars and head to the park’s coastal areas, such as the Dungeness Spit or the Quillayute Needles, where you can spot a variety of coastal birds, including majestic bald eagles and vibrant puffins.


When embarking on a wildlife viewing adventure, it’s essential to respect the animals’ natural behavior and refrain from feeding or approaching them. It’s also important to remember that wildlife sightings are never guaranteed, as animals roam freely in their natural environment.


Immersing yourself in the wildlife of Olympic National Park is a truly magical experience. The opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat is a privilege and a reminder of the importance of preserving their home for future generations.


Beach Exploration

With its unique combination of rugged coastline and pristine beaches, Olympic National Park offers an unforgettable beach exploration experience. From breathtaking views to opportunities for tidepooling and beachcombing, there’s something for everyone to enjoy along the park’s miles of coastline.


Rialto Beach is a must-visit destination for beach enthusiasts. Located just west of Forks, Washington, this picturesque beach features towering sea stacks, driftwood-lined shores, and stunning rock formations. Take a leisurely stroll along the sandy beach, listen to the crashing waves, and marvel at the unique geological formations that dot the coastline.


If you’re interested in exploring tidepools, head to the tidepools at Second Beach. During low tide, these rocky pools come alive with a variety of marine life, including starfish, crabs, and anemones. Be sure to tread carefully and leave everything as you found it to protect these delicate ecosystems.


For a more secluded and peaceful beach experience, venture to the wilderness beaches in the southern part of Olympic National Park. These remote beaches, such as Third Beach and Ruby Beach, offer a true sense of tranquility and a chance to immerse yourself in the raw beauty of the Pacific Northwest.


As you explore the beaches of Olympic National Park, it’s important to remember to respect the environment and practice Leave No Trace principles. Take only photographs, leave only footprints, and refrain from disturbing any wildlife or natural features you encounter.


Beach exploration in Olympic National Park offers a unique opportunity to marvel at the power and beauty of the ocean. Whether you’re walking along the sandy shores, searching for seashells, or gazing at the vibrant sunset, the beaches of Olympic National Park will leave you with unforgettable memories.


Rainforest Exploration

One of the most enchanting experiences in Olympic National Park is exploring its ancient and lush rainforests. The park is home to several temperate rainforests, including the famous Hoh Rainforest and the Quinault Rainforest, where you can immerse yourself in a magical world of towering trees, vibrant green moss, and a symphony of bird songs.


The Hoh Rainforest, located in the park’s western region, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit destination for nature lovers. As you hike through its moss-covered trails, you’ll find yourself surrounded by towering Sitka spruce and western hemlock trees, some of which are over 300 feet tall and hundreds of years old. The forest floor is carpeted with a variety of plant species, creating a lush and otherworldly atmosphere.


The Quinault Rainforest, located in the park’s southwestern region, is another incredible rainforest waiting to be explored. Here, you can take a leisurely stroll along the Quinault Loop Trail, which meanders through a mix of old-growth forest and second-growth trees. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, such as the elusive Olympic black bear or the shy Roosevelt elk.


While exploring the rainforests, be sure to take your time to appreciate the intricate details of this unique ecosystem. Stop to admire the colorful array of fungi, listen to the melodious songs of the forest birds, and breathe in the fresh scent of damp earth and moss.


Remember to stay on designated trails to protect the fragile ecosystem and respect the privacy of the forest inhabitants. Take only photographs and leave no trace of your visit, allowing future generations to continue experiencing the magic of Olympic National Park’s rainforests.


Rainforest exploration in Olympic National Park is a truly awe-inspiring experience. It’s a chance to disconnect from the outside world and immerse yourself in nature’s pristine beauty, where time seems to stand still and the wonders of the ancient forest come alive.


Waterfall Sightseeing

Olympic National Park is a paradise for waterfall enthusiasts, offering a multitude of breathtaking cascades to discover and admire. From powerful and majestic falls to delicate and hidden gems, the park’s waterfalls capture the essence of nature’s beauty in its purest form.


Marymere Falls is one of the most iconic waterfalls in Olympic National Park. Located near Lake Crescent, this 90-foot cascade is easily accessible via a short, family-friendly trail. As you hike through the lush forest, the sound of rushing water will guide you to the picturesque viewpoint, where you can witness the power and elegance of Marymere Falls.


The Sol Duc Falls is another must-see waterfall in the park. This picturesque waterfall is located in the Sol Duc Valley and can be reached via a moderate hike. The falls tumble down in multiple tiers, creating a mesmerizing display of cascades and a serene atmosphere that will leave you in awe.


For a more secluded and off-the-beaten-path experience, venture to the secluded Glines Canyon Overlook. This overlook provides panoramic views of the remnants of the Glines Canyon Dam and the adjacent waterfall. Witnessing the raw power of the rushing water as it surges through the canyon is a sight not to be missed.


It’s important to note that waterfall hikes can involve varying levels of difficulty, so it’s essential to come prepared with appropriate footwear and a respect for the environment. Additionally, be cautious when approaching waterfalls, as rocks can be slippery and currents can be strong.


Exploring the waterfalls of Olympic National Park is a treat for the senses. The sights and sounds of the cascading water, combined with the surrounding natural beauty, create a truly immersive experience that will leave you feeling captivated by the wonders of nature.


Boating and Kayaking

With its stunning coastline, crystal-clear lakes, and enchanting rivers, Olympic National Park offers endless opportunities for boating and kayaking enthusiasts. Whether you prefer a leisurely paddle along a serene lake or a thrilling adventure through whitewater rapids, the park’s waterways have something for every skill level and interest.


Lake Crescent is a popular destination for boating and kayaking. The pristine waters of this glacially-carved lake provide a tranquil setting for a relaxing paddle or a day of fishing. Rent a kayak or bring your own and explore the serene lake, surrounded by towering evergreen forests.


If you’re seeking a more thrilling kayaking experience, head to the Elwha River. This river offers both calm stretches and exciting whitewater rapids, depending on your preference and skill level. Navigate your way through the rapids, surrounded by the breathtaking scenery of the Olympic Peninsula.


In addition to Lake Crescent and the Elwha River, the park is home to numerous other waterways that are perfect for boating and kayaking, such as the Quinault River, the Hood Canal, and the Quillayute River. Each of these waterways offers unique opportunities to explore the park’s diverse ecosystems and observe wildlife along the shores.


Before embarking on any boating or kayaking adventure, be sure to familiarize yourself with the necessary safety procedures and regulations. Wear a properly fitted life jacket and be aware of the water conditions, including tides and currents. Respect the wildlife and natural habitats, allowing them to thrive undisturbed.


Whether you’re gliding across a calm lake or navigating through rushing rapids, boating and kayaking in Olympic National Park allow you to experience the park’s natural beauty from a unique perspective. So grab your paddle and embark on an aquatic adventure you won’t soon forget.


Scenic Drives

One of the best ways to explore the beauty of Olympic National Park is by taking a scenic drive through its diverse landscapes. The park is home to several breathtaking drives that showcase the park’s natural wonders, from winding mountain roads to coastal highways.


The Hurricane Ridge Road is a must-see scenic drive in Olympic National Park. This picturesque road takes you through the heart of the park, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountain peaks, lush meadows, and panoramic vistas. Keep an eye out for wildlife along the way, as deer and mountain goats are often spotted along the roadside.


The Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, also known as Highway 101, is another iconic drive that traverses the park’s rugged coastline. This drive offers breathtaking views of the wild Pacific Ocean, dramatic sea stacks, and pristine beaches. Take your time to stop at viewpoints and explore the secluded beaches along the way.


The Quinault Rainforest Loop Drive takes you through the lush and ancient rainforest of the Quinault Valley. As you drive along this scenic route, you’ll be surrounded by towering trees, vibrant moss-covered landscapes, and the soothing sounds of nature. Be sure to stop at the Quinault Rainforest Ranger Station for information and a chance to explore the area on foot.


As you embark on a scenic drive in Olympic National Park, be prepared for changing weather conditions and potential road closures. Check the park’s website or visitor center for the most up-to-date information to ensure a smooth and enjoyable drive.


There’s something truly captivating about experiencing the beauty of Olympic National Park from the comfort of your vehicle. Whether you’re driving along mountain roads, coastal highways, or winding through ancient forests, the scenic drives of Olympic National Park offer breathtaking views and memorable experiences that will stay with you long after your journey ends.



Olympic National Park is a photographer’s dream, offering endless opportunities to capture the breathtaking beauty of nature. Whether you’re a professional photographer or a hobbyist with a camera phone, you’ll find a plethora of stunning subjects to photograph in this diverse and scenic park.


From snow-capped mountains to lush rainforests, Olympic National Park showcases a diverse range of landscapes and natural wonders. Photographers can capture majestic vistas, intimate close-ups of plant life, and dramatic landscapes at every turn. The park’s ever-changing weather conditions and the play of light create endless possibilities for unique and captivating photographs.


One of the most iconic locations for photography in the park is the sunrise at Hurricane Ridge. Capture the first golden rays of the day illuminating the mountain peaks and casting a warm glow on the surrounding landscape. The changing colors of the sky and the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains make for truly magical photography opportunities.


The expansive coastline of Olympic National Park is another incredible subject for photographers. With its dramatic sea stacks, crashing waves, and sandy shores, the coastal areas provide the perfect backdrop for capturing the power and beauty of the Pacific Ocean. Be sure to experiment with different perspectives and compositions to capture the essence of these stunning landscapes.


The rainforests of Olympic National Park are also a photographer’s paradise. Capture the lush green mosses, towering trees, and delicate ferns that make up these ancient ecosystems. Focus on the small details, such as dewdrops on leaves or the intricate patterns of tree bark, to capture the unique beauty of the rainforest.


When photographing in Olympic National Park, be mindful of the environment and the wildlife. Respect any closures or restrictions in place to protect sensitive areas, and keep a safe distance from wildlife to ensure their well-being. Remember, capturing the beauty of nature should never come at the expense of its preservation.


Whether you’re a photography enthusiast or simply enjoy capturing memories of your adventures, Olympic National Park provides endless opportunities to hone your skills and create stunning visual art. So grab your camera and explore the park through the lens, allowing its remarkable beauty to shine through in your photographs.



Olympic National Park is a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts, with its diverse ecosystems providing habitats for a wide array of bird species. From coastal areas to alpine meadows and ancient forests, the park offers numerous opportunities to observe and appreciate the rich avian life that calls this place home.


The park’s coastal regions are particularly fruitful for birdwatching. Head to the Dungeness Spit, a sandy spit that extends into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where you can spot a variety of seabirds, including pelicans, cormorants, and gulls. Keep an eye out for majestic bald eagles soaring overhead or perched on tall trees along the coast.


Inland, the Hoh Rainforest and other forested areas of the park are home to a diverse range of bird species. Look for the distinct red plumage of the Northern Spotted Owl as it hides among the trees or listen for the melodic tunes of the songbirds that populate the canopy. With patience and keen observation, you may even spot the iconic pileated woodpecker hammering away at a tree trunk.


The park’s meadows and alpine areas also provide unique birdwatching opportunities. The open spaces and wildflower-filled meadows attract species such as mountain bluebirds, white-crowned sparrows, and American pipits. Keep a lookout for the elusive white-tailed ptarmigan, a master of camouflage in the snowy alpine regions.


When birdwatching in Olympic National Park, be sure to bring binoculars, a field guide, and comfortable footwear for walking through various terrains. Move quietly and be patient, as many bird species can be shy and may take some time to reveal themselves.


As you immerse yourself in the fascinating world of birdwatching, remember to respect the birds and their habitats. Maintain a safe distance, avoid disturbing nesting areas, and refrain from feeding or interacting with the birds in any way.


With its diverse ecosystems and abundant birdlife, Olympic National Park offers an unparalleled birdwatching experience. So grab your binoculars, sharpen your observation skills, and prepare to be amazed by the stunning array of bird species that call this park their home.



Olympic National Park is a true gem of Washington state, offering a spectacular array of landscapes and activities that showcase the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest. From the towering mountain ranges to the pristine coastline, the park’s diversity is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.


Whether you’re hiking through ancient rainforests, camping under a star-filled sky, or exploring the park’s stunning waterfalls and beaches, Olympic National Park provides endless opportunities for adventure, relaxation, and connection with the natural world. The park’s wealth of activities caters to all interests and skill levels, from leisurely beach walks to challenging mountain trails.


As you explore Olympic National Park, remember to respect and preserve its pristine environment. Follow Leave No Trace principles, stay on designated trails, and take the time to learn about the park’s unique ecosystems and wildlife. By doing so, you can ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty and serenity of this remarkable place.


Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a photographer, a wildlife lover, or someone seeking a peaceful retreat, Olympic National Park has something for everyone. So plan your visit, immerse yourself in the wonders of the park, and create memories that will last a lifetime in this true Washington state treasure.