Olympic National Park Vacation. Follow this guide for five memorable days of magical, awe-filled forays into the Olympic National Park.
Without a doubt, the most frequent regret of visitors to the Olympic National Park (ONP) is: "We didn't allow enough time to see everything we wanted to see."
We live here, but if we did not, here is how we'd schedule our Olympic National Park vacation.
Map and directions can be found on our Hurricane Ridge page.
Hurricane Ridge is the top-visited destination within the Olympic National Park. There are panoramic views of snow-capped mountains to the south, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north, framed by the mountains of Canada's Vancouver Island. The air is clear and it smells gloriously of the surrounding forest.
Visit the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, ask the Rangers your questions, compare the mountain peaks that you can see to the glass-encased relief display with the mountain peaks labeled.
Do you like to hike? The trailheads to several hikes are right here. Some are easy ones, such as the circular hike (more a stroll) around the Hurricane Ridge area.
The hike to the top of Hurricane Hill is my favorite. It is not difficult, and the views are spectacular at the top. Other hikes are more strenuous, but will reward you at the far end of your hike with a beautiful lake, for example, Angeles Lake or PJ Lake.
If you intend to hike at length or snowshoe, dedicate a full day for your excursion to Hurricane Ridge. Otherwise, it just depends on how long you wish to soak in the grandeur of the hills, forest, and wildlife.
Consider adding Madison Falls to your itinerary, either before or after Hurricane Ridge, or on the way to your next stop to the west. Just be sure there is sufficient daylight to do justice to the falls.
Take Highway 101 west from Port Angeles, turn south (left) on Olympic Hot Springs Road; travel 2 miles. The hike to the waterfall is paved, level, and literally no more than 530 feet long (0.1 mi).
Madison Falls, or Madison Creek Falls as it is sometimes called, makes for a delightful quick detour and stop. If the time of day is right, you can eat your picnic lunch here. Click the link for lots more detail.
Spend the first night of your Olympic National Park Vacation at Lake Crescent Lodge.
See our overview of all five ONP Lodges here: Olympic National Park Lodging
Your back-up plan, should the Lodge be full, is to return to Port Angeles. See Port Angeles Hotels.
On a second day in the ONP, start your day early! Lake Crescent is west of Port Angeles and east of Forks. Within a few miles of the lake are no less than eight delightful attractions, counting the lake itself. Unless you wish to hike for hours, these can probably all be seen and enjoyed in one day.
So much to do in the Olympic National Park! And so many activities around Lake Crescent for day 2 of your Olympic National Park vacation! Highway 101 skirts Lake Crescent along its south shore. The turnoff to Lake Crescent Lodge, Marymere Falls and Storm King Ranger Station is well marked.
Pick several of your favorite kinds of activities at Lake Crescent and the Nearby Sol Duc Valley:
An overview of these options is below. Pick several of these activities for day 2 of your Olympic National Park vacation.
Find the Barnes Creek trailhead along the trail to Marymere Falls, which starts at the Storm King Ranger Station.
This is a fairly long and moderately strenuous hike over well-maintained trail. It connects to the ONP back country trail system including Aurora Ridge and Happy Lake Ridge. If you intend to pack in and spend the night, get your required permits at the Storm King (or other) Ranger Station.
Follow the signs on Highway 101 for the Marymere/Lake Crescent turn-off; further signage will guide you to the Storm King Ranger Station.
The ranger station is manned year around. Stop and visit with the rangers and get all your questions about the park answered. This makes for an excellent pit stop amidst beautiful views of Lake Crescent.
A hike up Storm King Mountain yields glorious views of the peaks and Lake Crescent below.
A hike to Marymere Falls is icing on the cake. The trailhead to Marymere Falls begins near Lake Crescent at the Storm King Ranger Station. There is no entry fee.
A hike to the Falls is one of my favorite destinations within the Olympic National Park.
The Salmon Cascade is a short falls of the Sol Duc River, easily accessed along Sol Duc Hot Springs Road west of Lake Crescent. The turn-off is well marked.
The months of October through the early part of November are your best bets for seeing salmon on their way to spawn upstream.
The spawn migration is tied to rainfall; therefore the first big rain at the end of September or early October is your signal to come see the salmon!
It is remarkable to watch the determination of the fish to achieve their goal of overcoming the 'roadblock' in their way.
The Ancient Groves Trail is along Sol Duc Hot Springs Road. The turn-off is well marked, and a mile or two beyond the Salmon Cascade turnoff. The 0.6 mile trail is well maintained and mostly level. It forms a loop bringing you back to where you started.
The trail meanders through dark rain forest, some of which is intensely green. It wanders along the edge of the valley offering a view of the Sol Duc River and the valley below. It offers a wonderful taste of a temperate rain forest.
See Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. The natural hot springs have been commercialized, feeding various concrete pools (most of them very warm) behind the lodge.
At the end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, 12 miles from Hwy 101 just west of Lake Crescent, you'll find the trailhead to Sol Duc Falls. It is an easy 0.8 mile hike (one way) to the falls.
“Rain forest green” is an apt description of the hike as well as the scenery around the Sol Duc Falls. The waterfall at the end of the hike throws a misty spray in which rainbows frequently glint.
I am certain that it would take superhuman powers to accomplish ALL of the activities that are available to you near Lake Crescent and Sol Duc Valley, during day 2 of your Olympic National Park vacation.
So, if there is still an activity you'd like to accomplish in the Sol Duc Valley, then spend night 2 in Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, and wrap up your visit in the morning.
If, however, you're completely satisfied with your time near Lake Crescent and in the Sol Duc Valley, then hit the road and find lodging in Forks for night 2.
Day three of your Olympic National Park vacation is a beach day!
Each of the three Olympic National Park beaches near La Push Washington: Rialto Beach, Second Beach, and Third Beach, are similar, in that sea stacks stand stubbornly against the surf, and the white sandy crescent beaches are littered with drift wood.
But on the other hand, they each have "personalities" of their own:
Pack food and water, and enjoy leisurely explorations of all three beaches.
We wrote about these on our Forks WA Attractions page, due to their proximity to the town of Forks WA. If you're a real beach nut, you'll be in beach heaven, thanks to the beauty of the rugged rocky coast, driftwood logs, and sea stacks trying desperately to withstand the assault of the waves.
If you run out of beaches to explore before you run out of time, head in to Forks for more rain forest attractions.
See Olympic National Park Beaches. We list more beaches below, at Day 5 of your Olympic National Park Vacation, which, depending on your interests and schedule, might be combined with the Day 3 beaches.
Plan on spending night 3 in Forks. The Hoh Rain Forest is on the schedule for Day 4 of your Olympic National Park vacation, but there is almost NO lodging in the vicinity of the Hoh unless you have a tent or an RV.
But no worries - in the morning it will take only 45 minutes to arrive at the Hoh Visitor Center from your hotel in Forks.
The Hoh Rain Forest is another amazing destination for your Olympic National Park vacation, the epitome of a temperate rain forest. Despite the many visitors who come every year, the Park has managed to preserve its primordial, untouched character.
The Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center is located at the end of Upper Hoh Road, which is accessed from Highway 101, 13 miles south of Forks WA.
The Hoh River drains the eastern, northern, and western slopes of Mount Olympus, while the Queets River drains the southern slopes of Mt. Olympus.
If you thought Forks was green (and it is), the Hoh is a rainforest on steroids. “Even the air is green,” some say. For me, this is a most magical place.
Because one must drive inland toward the mountains for 31 miles or so up the Hoh River valley, one drives deeper and deeper into areas receiving more and more rain. Whereas Forks receives an average of 120 inches/year (10 feet - a lot!) and this is considered genuine temperate rain forest, the Hoh Rainforest receives upwards of 170 inches every year, or 14 feet worth of rain.
Once there, plan to gather whatever information you are most interested in from the Visitor Center or ranger. Check the trails – there is the Mini Trail - very short loop close to the Visitor Center, and a couple longer ones:
Hike both of these trails! And don't forget your camera and an umbrella....
As noted above, lodging options are scarce in the area. Camping can be had at Kalaloch Campground and at South Beach, the most southerly beach access point in the Olympic National Park.
If there is no room at Kalaloch:
Ruby Beach is located where Highway 101 meets the Washington State coast north of Kalaloch Lodge. Ruby Beach is one of the most photographed beaches on the Olympic Peninsula. See Visiting Kalaloch and Ruby Beach.
Kalaloch Beach, long and sandy below the bluffs on which Kalaloch Campground sits, is host to the "Tree of Life." Hike a mile north from Kalaloch Lodge to see this old tree perched above a void in the bluff, hanging precariously onto the bluff with fingernails of roots.
See Olympic National Park Beaches for info on visiting some of these beaches during your next Olympic National Park vacation.
If you wrap up your explorations of the Kalaloch Beaches early, you may still have some time to pick an attraction or two in the Quinault Rain Forest!
Did you stay at Lake Quinault Lodge on night 4 of your Olympic National Park vacation?
Then the Quinault Rain Forest is yours to explore all day long. And you may very well need the whole day!
Near the Lake Quinault Lodge is the Rain Forest Nature Trail, a 0.5 mile loop dubbed "The Quinault Rain Forest in a Nutshell." Add to this the Falls Creek Loop, the Trail of the Giants, and the Quinault Rain Forest Trail, all of them nearby.
Drive the circle formed by North Shore and South Shore Drives.
There is so much more to see in the Quinault Rain Forest!
See the Lake Quinault Brochure.
This wraps up five glorious days in the Olympic National Park. Stay your last night at Lake Quinault Lodge, unless time constraints, or airline tickets, compel you to press onward.
Thanks for visiting - we hope you enjoyed your Olympic National Park vacation!