Travel Guide: An Overview of Olympic National Park in Washington (Diverse and Distinct Ecosystems)

The Olympic National Park in Washington State, located on the Olympic Peninsula, has something for every type of nature lover, from hikers to stargazers to boaters to photographers. Among its nearly 1 million acres, visitors can explore ice sheet-covered mountains, travel through old-growth mild rainforests, and explore more than 70 miles of wild shore.

The recreation area’s origins can be traced back to 1897 when President Grover Cleveland designated it as the Olympic Forest Reserve in response to growing concerns about the area’s dwindling timberlands. Further safeguards were established in 1909 when President Theodore Roosevelt designated a portion of the preserve as the Mount Olympus National Monument due to a decline in the Roosevelt Elk population. It didn’t authoritatively accept its public park title until 1938, because of President Franklin Roosevelt. Today, the recreation area is both a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve.

Overview of the Olympic National Park

Overview of ecosystem
Source: Viator

Olympic National Park is a naturally diverse region that encompasses a large portion of the Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington, United States. It was established as a public landmark in 1909 and renamed a national park in 1938 to protect the Olympic Mountains and their vibrant woods and natural life. In 1981, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The entire park was declared a wild region in 1988.


It has an area of 1,442 square miles, much of which is surrounded by the Olympic National Forest. Even though European pilgrims visited the promontory in the late eighteenth century, it wasn’t until after 1885 that the first campaign into the sloping interior was launched. The recreation area’s base camp is at Port Angeles on the north bank of the promontory.

The recreation area is divided into two sections: the primary region in the mountains and a limited portion of the Pacific coastline stretching more than 60 miles along the promontory’s west shoreline. Dynamic glacial masses can be found on Mount Olympus and other notable peaks. Taking everything into account, there are approximately 250 icy masses in the recreation area, though the majority are small and restricted. The seashore segment has grand seashores, islets, and focuses, as well as three Indian reservations (of the Makah, Quileute, and Hoh clans).


The mountains’ western slopes get a lot of rain, which feeds an old-growth calm rainforest- the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, where conifers, most notably Sitka tidy and western hemlock, grow to an enormous size. The backwood floor is densely covered with greenery, lichens, and plants, while epiphytes grow on the trees. The rainforest is teeming with enormous yellow Pacific banana slugs (Ariolimax columbianus), which can grow to be 6 to 8 inches long. Because of the lower precipitation, the eastern slants of the mountain massif are not as densely forested as those in the west, and elemental lakes and glades can be found.


In Olympic National Park, untamed life includes a variety of birds, as well as deer, wild bears, cougars, the rare Roosevelt elk, and endemic species such as the Olympic marmot, Olympic yellow-pine chipmunk, and Olympic deluge lizard. In the streams, salmon and trout reproduce. Mountain goats, introduced in small numbers in the 1920s, numbered more than 1,000 years after the fact; they turned out to be increasingly destructive of regional vegetation, and endeavors to control their populace began in the 1980s. Units of whales moving north in late winter and south in the fall should be visible from the sea.


Vehicle access to the recreation area is generally limited to short streets that prompt trailheads around its perimeter, from which climbing trails lead into the interior. There are over 600 miles of hiking trails and a few scenic drives in the recreation area. The three visitors’ locations, the main one at the recreation area’s central command and others in the Hoh Rainforest and on Hurricane Ridge in the recreation area’s northern section, contain exhibits on the landmass’s regular history. The Hurricane Ridge office is near the end of a beautiful drive from Port Angeles through the northern Olympic Mountains.

Fast facts about the Olympic National Park

The property is 922,650 acres in size and is located in Washington on the Olympic Peninsula.

Every year, 3,245,806 people visit Olympic National Park(according to data from 2019).

It was founded (made a national park) on June 29, 1938.

Olympic National Park’s closest city is Port Angeles.

Best things to do in Olympic National Park

A magical experience at Hoh Rain Forest

Hoh Rain Forest, things to do in Olymppic National Park
Source: Coach-Net

The Hoh Rain Forest is a lavish, green wonderland, with greeneries and plants covering every tree and surface, with yearly precipitation ranging from 140 to 170 inches. According to the National Park Service, it is one of the best remaining examples of mild rainforest in the United States and one of the recreation area’s most popular places to see in Olympic National Park.

Most visitors begin their journey at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, which is staffed with officers who can advise them on what to see and do. The guest community also has exhibits and a bookstore. The Hall of Mosses Trail (.8 mile) and the Spruce Nature Trail (.8 mile) both circle through the timberland near the center (1.2 miles). If you’re up for it, there’s also the Hoh River Trail, a 17-mile trail that leads to Glacier Meadows on Mount Olympus’ shoulder.

The Hoh is located on the west side of Olympic National Park, about two hours from Port Angeles and less than an hour from Forks, Washington. Upper Hoh Road, off Highway 101, is the most common way to get there. The guest community, which is accessible, is open day and night throughout the year, with the majority of the time being open Friday through Sunday in the spring and fall and closed December through March.

Skiing at Storm Ridge, Olympic National Park

Skiing at Olympic national park, Storm Ridge
Source: Olympic peninsula

Storm Ridge is located 17 miles south of Port Angeles and is the most easily accessible mountain area within the recreation area. It offers breathtaking views in clear weather. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding are all ways to enjoy the scenery. Storm Ridge has a variety of hiking trails, ranging from ridgetop crosses to soaking ways that descend to subalpine lakes and valleys.

Simple paths include the half-mile full circle Big Meadow trail, which has been cleared and crosses open glades with views of the Olympics. The mile-long roundtrip Cirque Rim trail offers views of Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Other difficult paths include the Klahhane Ridge trail (3.8 miles round trip) and the Hurricane Hill trail (1.6 miles round trip), which is cleared for the first quarter-mile before moving to an all-encompassing view of mountains and saltwater.

Many visitors begin at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, which provides pamphlets, guides, bites, and officer recommendations on things to do and places to see. There’s also a direction film and shows. It is open daily in late spring and on weekends and special occasions the rest of the year. Officer programs are available from late June to September, with snowshoe walks in the winter. Snowshoe and ski rentals are also available at the gift shop.

Visit Kalaloch

Kalaloch, Olympic National Park
Source: oktwister

Kalaloch, located on the Olympic Peninsula’s southwest shore, is one of the most visited areas of Olympic National Park. Three public natural life shelters protect the marine climate and seaward islands. The beachfront waters provide a haven for a large number of marine species, which is why Kalaloch is so popular with birders. Along the southern coast, western gulls, bald eagles, and other beachfront birds should be visible settling and caring for their young. The rough stations attract massive settling settlements of birds, such as common murres and tufted puffins.

The mile-long Kalaloch Nature Trail is a simple circle that runs along the beachfront woods. In addition, from Highway 101, seven ocean side paths lead to the sea. The Ruby Endlessly ocean side Trail 4 has open views and vault latrines. Furthermore, Beach 4 is an excellent location for searching for ocean stars and anemones in tide pools.

Kalaloch and Ruby Beach are easily accessible from Highway 101. The Kalaloch Ranger Station is only open during the summer and provides data, shows, books, and guides. The Kalaloch Lodge is open year-round and features lodges, rest stops, an eatery, a gift shop, and a camp store. Keep an eye out for the tides as you hike the coast. During high tides, certain areas may become blocked.

Sailing at Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Sailing at Lake Crescent
Source: Cision News

This completely clear, frigidly cut lake, formed millennia ago, has depths of up to 624 feet in places. As the ice receded, it left behind a perilous valley filled with Lake Crescent’s waters. Hiking, sailing, and setting up camp are among the activities available at the well-known location. Its protected waters are home to fish such as the Beardslee and Crescenti trout, which are found nowhere else on the planet. There are also a few climbing trails of varying lengths to explore. The climb to Marymere Falls, which is less than a mile round trip, results in a 90-foot-tall cascade.

The Mount Storm King trail, which climbs a lofty path with curves 2,000 feet up, and the Pyramid Peak trail, which climbs steeply to a World War II spotting tower, are two more exhausting paths. A few commentators praised the lake’s tranquility and said the views of the cascade were worth the climb. Because there are facilities (aside from camping areas), many explorers recommended staying here to take in the lake’s beauty. Lake Crescent, which is accessible, is located in the northern lower regions of the Olympic Mountains about 18 miles west of Port Angeles. Facilities, cafés, and boat rentals are available at the Lake Crescent Lodge and the Log Cabin Resort.

Recreation activities at Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach Washington
Source: The Mandates

Rialto Beach, about 40 miles southwest of Lake Crescent and about 70 miles from Port Angeles, has a spectacular waterfront view and is an excellent place to look for sea lions, seals, otters, whales, seabirds, and birds. The Mora region is located further inland and provides an occasional camping area as well as a variety of trails to explore.

Rialto Beach is accessible via Mora Road, which is located off of La Push Road near the town of Forks. The Quillayute River creates a barrier between Rialto Beach and the First, Second, and Third Beaches. The Quileute Indian Reservation relies on First Beach; Second and Third Beaches, just to the south, are located within Olympic National Park and are vital to the Olympic Wilderness Coast.

Olympic National Park’s Sol Duc Valley

Sol Duc Valley
Source: Olympic Hiking Co.

The Sol Duc Valley, located in the northwest corner of the recreation area, has a few paths to explore, the most well-known of which is the mile-long hike to the Sol Duc Falls overlook. Ongoing visitors described the falls as breathtaking and the excursion as a simple climb through the woods.

Other options include a 5.2-mile full circle journey to Mink Lake or a 6-mile Lover’s Lane journey. The Sol Duc River serves as an important passageway for coho salmon, which travel through the valley and up to the lakes and headwaters in the surrounding mountains. In late October and early November, many visitors flock to the Salmon Cascades overlook (about 5 miles down Sol Duc Road) to watch the salmon leap over the falls on their way upstream into the Sol Duc River. Sol Duc, which is open to the public, is located 40 minutes west of Port Angeles and can be reached by exiting Highway 101 onto Sol Duc Road.

Olympic National Park Main Visitor Center and Wilderness Information Center

Wilderness Information Center
Source: My Port Angeles

According to returning visitors, this should be your first stop in the recreation area. The Olympic National Park Discovery Center, located in Port Angeles, Washington, houses exhibits about the park’s natural and social history, an active “Disclosure Room” for children, a 25-minute direction movie, the “Mosaic of Diversity,” a book shop, and two short nature trails directly outside the center. Admission to the center is remembered for park validation. The center is open every day, but the hours vary depending on the season. It is generally open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Hiking in Staircase, Olympic National Park

Hiking in Staircase olympic national park
Source: Roots Rated

The massive Douglas firs overpower Staircase, which is located in the southeastern corner of Olympic National Park. You’ll find a variety of hiking trails along the Skokomish River and in the nearby woods. The Staircase Rapids Loop Trail is a 2-mile loop that takes visitors through old-growth timberland to a scaffold over the North Fork Skokomish River, with only a 200-foot elevation gain. A massive fallen cedar is prompted by a spike trail.

There’s also the easy Shady Lane Trail, which measures less than a mile and takes longer to reach Lake Cushman. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, consider the 712-mile hike to Flapjack Lakes, which boasts a 3,000-foot elevation. A few returning visitors said the short paths were ideal for newcomers and families with small children. If you’re visiting in the summer, some experts recommend bringing your bathing suit to take advantage of a few swimming spots along the paths.

Admission to the area is saved for park confirmation. The staircase is located about an hour north of Olympia and two hours south of Port Angeles. There is an officer station open during the summer (while staffing allows) with data, shows, wild permits, bear canisters, and guides. You’ll also find a camping area here. The unpaved frontage road to the Staircase region is occasionally closed due to hazardous weather conditions, such as snow.

Things to know before you visit Olympic National Park

olymppic national park landscape
Source: national geographic kids

What are the best trails for hiking in Olympic National Park?

Mount Storm King, Hurricane Hill via Hurricane Ridge, Marymere Falls Trail, Hoh Rain Forest Hall of Moss, Sol Duc Falls Nature Trail, Hole-in-the-Wall from Rialto Beach, High Divide, and Seven Lakes Basin Loop, Staircase Rapids Loop, Ruby Beach, Hoh River Trail.,-123.8014728,10z

What are the best places to stay in Olympic National Park?

Super 8 Shelton Wa, Quality Inn and Suites at Olympic National Park, and Juan De Fuca Cottages and Suites are the best hotels in Olympic National Park.

When is the best time to visit Olympic National Park?

The months of July and August are ideal for visiting Olympic National Park because temperatures are generally mild, most streets and offices are open, and a wide range of projects are available. A current list of occasional exercises can be found in the Olympic Bugler, the recreation area’s computerized bulletin. Olympic National Park is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, but from October to May, some streets, camping areas, and other visitor centers are closed or have limited hours.

Where and what to eat in Olympic National Park?

There are a few hotels within the recreation area that provide facilities as well as eateries, bistros, and shops. The Creekside Restaurant at Kalaloch Lodge, the only one open all year, serves nearby charges close by stunning sea views. Honorably, the café boasts that many of its food and drink items are either obtained within 150 miles of the café or are guaranteed natural or both. Even the wine selection is close by; only wines from Washington state are served. Close to the cabin, the Kalaloch Mercantile sells ready-to-eat food, snacks, food, filtered water, lager and wine, and other sundries.

From late April to the beginning of January, the lounge area at Lake Crescent Resort is similarly grand, sitting above Lake Crescent and serving breakfast, lunch, and supper. Dishes like barbecued neighborhood artichokes, Dungeness crab, and privately smoked salmon are on the menu. Meanwhile, the Springs Restaurant at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort (open late March through October) also uses privately obtained ingredients.

Other options include the Log Cabin Resort (open from mid-May to September), which houses the laid-back Sunnyside Café. It is located above Lake Crescent and serves a hot smorgasbord of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sandwiches, mixed greens, pasta dishes, locally constructed pizzas, pulled pork, fried fish, and French fries are all on the menu. There’s also a shop with “in and out” items, which is ideal if you’re planning a mid-hike outing.

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