The hardest part of being a Park Chaser is having to come home from an amazing vacation. We’re back to reality today after a blissful 5 days in Olympic National Park last week. Nestled in the Northwest corner of Washington, Olympic National Park has everything a national park enthusiast can ask for. Gorgeous beaches. Snowy peaks. Giant trees. Wildlife on the trail. Together all of these things add up to one of our top visits to a park ever. Now the only question is when we get to head back for another visit. We loved everything about this place!
While we sort through the laundry and pack away the camping gear, we thought we’d give you a recap of our Olympic National Park Trip and an itinerary to help plan your own tour. Just make sure you pack wisely, you just may find yourself on the beach and at 10,000 feet in the same day!
Olympic National Park – Day 1
Arrive in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as early in the day as possible to give you plenty of time to make your way to the park. Take the southern route on Highway 101 to enter the park at the Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station. Stretch your legs on a short hike to the Big Sitka Spruce Tree just off the road past Lake Quinault. Grab a snack at the Lake Quinault Lodge before heading back north on Highway 101.
Drive back out of the park through the Quinault Indian Reservation to the Kalaloch (pronounced CLAY-LOCK) Ranger Station. Collect your passport stamp at the Ranger Station before you set up camp at the Kalaloch Campground (the only campground in the park that accepts reservations). If it is raining (which given this area gets more than 8 feet a year, your chances are high!) head to the Kalaloch Lodge for dinner or ice cream in the general store.
Olympic National Park – Day 2
Check the tide charts at the ranger station before driving out to one of the many beaches in the Kalaloch area. At high tide you can see the large timber crashing along the rocky shore. But at low tide, the magic happens. Hike along Ruby Beach, one of the most famous scenes in all of Olympic National Park.
Hop back in the car for a quick drive to the Upper Hoh Road and the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. Pick up your passport stamp at the ranger station, grab a park map, and set out on the Hall of Mosses Trail. Allow yourself plenty of time to walk slowly among the giant spruce and hemlock trees and moss-covered maples. While you are there, watch out for banana slugs and Roosevelt elk on the trail.
Enjoy a quick lunch in the picnic area before heading north on Highway 101 to Forks, Washington. Forks is a small town just west of the Olympic National Forest made famous by the Twilight series. It is also a good place to pick up any items you forgot at home, grab a tarp to get out of the rain, or make a gas and a bathroom stop.
If the tides are in your favor, make your way back to the beach (La Push, Rialto Beach, or South Beach area all great choices). Climb around the rocks on shore and check out the tide pools. Some of the more unique ecosystems in Olympic National Park, the tide pools have aquatic creatures you wont find anywhere else in the world. Head back to the Kalaloch area for the evening. If you’re lucky enough to have a clear night, take photos of the Pacific Ocean sunset. Kalaloch Rocks offers some of the best in Washington.
Olympic National Park – Day 3
Break camp early in the morning for the drive to the north side of the park. Along the way watch the road for signs for big trees, including world record spruce and cedar. When you approach the north entrance to the park, turn right towards the Sol Duc area of the park. Stop at Salmon Cascades, where in the autumn you can catch a few salmon traveling back upstream. Drive to the end of the park road to hike the Soleduck Trail. The out-and-back trail features views of Sol Duc Falls, one of the most famous waterfalls in Washington.
Once you’re back in the car, keep driving east towards Lake Crescent. Lake Crescent is one of the most popular stops in Olympic National Park. Reported to be more than 1,000 feet deep, the turquoise water is extremely low in nitrogen preventing most plant and algae growth. Stop for lunch and passport stamps at Lake Crescent Lodge. If weather permits, rent a kayak or canoe and look down through the crystal-clear water. Or drive to the north end of the lake for a hike along the Spruce Railroad Trail to the man-made bridge at Devil’s Punchbowl.
In the early evening, make your way to Heart O’ the Hills Campground along Hurricane Ridge Road. Set up camp and dry out with a roaring campfire.
Olympic National Park – Day 4
Grab your binoculars and head back out of the park towards Port Angeles. It’s whale watching time! The Strait of Juan de Fuca between the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island is home to hundreds of migrating and resident whales and orcas. Choose a reliable whale watching company and spend the morning enjoying the magic of these graceful animals.
When you are off the boat, grab lunch in Port Angeles while you watch the car ferries and container ships loading. In the early afternoon, drive back up Hurricane Ridge Road, stopping first at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center for passport stamps and then along the many pull-outs that look back towards the ocean. Continue the climb towards the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center at more than 5,000 feet. On a clear day you’ll have plenty of places to photograph Mount Olympus and the entire Olympic Wilderness area.
Hike along the Hurricane Hill Trail for panoramic views and the chance to spot some mountain goats and black-tailed deer. Enjoy the sunset and a picnic dinner from the parking lot before heading back to the campground. On clear summer nights, the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center also offers a night-sky stargazing program if you can stay up late enough!
Olympic National Park – Day 5
Pack up at the campground in the morning. Drive down to Port Angeles for a quick breakfast before making your way down the Hood Canal and Puget Sound back to Sea-Tac Airport.