See rainforests, mountains and wild coastal beaches at the famous Olympic National Park.
The Olympic National Park in Washington State is a great destination in both summer and winter, with 60-miles of wild pacific beaches, 266 glaciers, spectacular mountains, sub-alpine lakes, enchanting waterfalls, and old growth rainforest.
The main route around the Olympic National Park is Highway 101, and your journey begins at Port Angeles, the gateway to the Olympic National Park.
A recommended driving itinerary is provided at the bottom of this list (keep scrolling down).
10 BEST attractions in the Olympic National Park
1. Look across the rooftop of the Olympics at Hurricane Ridge.
Hurricane Ridge has spectacular views across the rooftop of the Olympic National Park, including Mt Olympus (6,900 feet), and provides the only high country access to the park by car. It's an 18-mile drive up to the seasonal visitor center at Hurricane Ridge from Port Angeles. The higher altitudes are blanketed in 30 to 35 feet of snow for much of the year, so always check current conditions to see if the road has been cleared.
2. Kayak or take a boat tour on stunning Lake Crescent.
Lake Crescent is a glacially carved lake 30-miles west of Port Angeles, and home to the historic Lake Crescent Lodge built in 1914. The lodge has a storied history, once hosting famous guests like President Roosevelt and Frank Sinatra. The main lodge is adults only (summer only), but families can stay in the adjacent cabins. Lake Crescent is a fantastic place to unwind, with boat tours, kayaking, forested trails, and peaceful beaches to savor the incredible views.
One of the most popular trails at Lake Crescent is the 1.5 mile roundtrip to see Marymere Falls, starting at the Storm King Ranger Station just a few minutes from Lake Crescent Lodge.
3. Swim in hot springs and hike to a waterfall at Sol Duc.
Sol Duc Falls is a 1-hour drive from Port Angeles, and the most popular waterfall in the Olympic National Park. Take the 20 minute moderate hike to see Sol Duc Falls, through a gorgeous temperate rainforest with towering firs and hemlocks. The best time to visit is during spring, when water run-off is strongest.
The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is a five minute drive from the Sol Duc Falls, and has both cabins and campsites for overnight stays (seasonal only).
Take a dip in the three hot springs soaking pools or one freshwater pool at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. You don't have to be a guest at the resort to visit the hot springs, and day trippers are also welcome.
Another fantastic attraction in the Sol Duc area is the Salmon Cascades, 5-miles north of the resort. There's a viewing platform overlooking the Sol Duc River just a short distance from the road, where you can watch salmon swimming upstream during late summer and early fall.
4. Book an oceanfront cabin at First Beach at La Push.
The tiny coastal village of La Push is part of the Quileute Indian Reservation, with an incredible setting at the mouth of the Quillayute River, overlooking the mysterious James Island. It's not part of the Olympic National Park, but many visitors include this on their itinerary due to its scenic location, and proximity to other wilderness beaches in the Olympic National Park like Second Beach and Rialto Beach.
Stay overnight in a cabin or campground at the Quileute Oceanside Resort overlooking First Beach at La Push, and enjoy a delicious meal at the town's only restaurant, or pick up some supplies at the general store. First Beach at La Push was also featured in the Twilight book and movie series, so you might bump into a few fans!
5. Take a 20 minute hike to breathtaking Second Beach.
Second Beach is part of the Olympic National Park, and the trailhead is 3 minutes south of La Push. From here it's a 20-minute hike through lush coastal forest to this beach, first ascending 160 feet, then descending 200 feet to the beach. Walk along this dramatic, 1.5 mile wilderness beach, and look out at the surreal seastacks and the famous sandstone arch known as Quateata Arch. You can also obtain a wilderness permit to camp on this beach.
6. Explore the dramatic wilderness coastline at Rialto Beach.
Rialto Beach is another must-see wilderness beach in the Olympic National Park, an 11-mile drive from La Push. This beach is popular with visitors, because no hike-in is required! Walk 2-miles along this striking beach, although wear sturdy shoes because the beach is covered in gravel and pebbles. The most popular attraction is the natural sea arch known as Hole in the Wall, a roughly 1.5 mile walk up the beach from the parking lot.
The forest encroaches directly on the beach, with the ghostly form of dead trees standing upright at the high tide line, their roots destroyed by erosion from coastal storms.
Giant logs are also discarded at the high tide line of Rialto Beach, characteristic of so many Pacific Northwest beaches.
7. Walk through the otherwordly 'Hall of Moses' at the Hoh Rain Forest.
The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the most popular stops in the Olympic National Park, infused with a haunting, otherwordly ambience. This temperate rain forest is one of the wettest places on earth, getting up to 12 to 14 feet of rain each year! Stop at the Visitor Center, then take the 3/4 mile loop trail along the Hall of Mosses, to see curtains of moss hanging from the twisted limbs of maple trees.
8. Visit Ruby Beach to see the most photographed beach in the Olympics.
Ruby Beach is one of the most photographed beaches in the Olympic National Park, with a cluster of jagged seastacks infront of cathedral-like Abbey Island, and a beautiful stream meandering towards the Pacific Ocean. It's directly off Highway 101, and only a 5 minute walk down a steep trail. Once there you can check out the tide-pools at low tide, or stroll along the 0.7 mile beach.
**CLOSURE ALERT: Sometime starting in May/June 2022, Ruby Beach will be closed 90 days for maintenance. Check alert before visiting.
9. Stay at the historic blufftop lodge or cabins at Kalaloch Beach.
Kalaloch Beach is just a 7 mile drive down Highway 101 from Ruby Beach, and the location of the blufftop Kalaloch Lodge. Stay overnight in the historic lodge, or book one of the oceanview cabins or a campsite. There's also an on-site restaurant with delicious meals, a gift shop and general store.
Kalaloch Lodge overlooks an enchanting inlet where the Kalaloch Creek flows into the ocean.
It's an easy walk down to Kalaloch Beach from the lodge, and the beach stretches for miles in either direction. Head north up the beach to find the Tree of Life, with its root system completely exposed and dangling over a cave between two cliff edges. You can also drive to other beaches in the local area accessible off Highway 101, including Beaches 1, 2, 3 and 4. Visit the seasonal Kalaloch Ranger Station across the road from the Kalaloch Lodge, to pick up a map.
10. Kayak, hike or stay overnight at a historic lodge at Lake Quinault.
The historic Lake Quinault Lodge was built in 1926 on the south shore of Lake Quinault, and is a fantastic place to stay. There's lots to do at the lodge, including an indoor swimming pool, lawn games, restaurant, games room, and a rustic lobby with a cosy, stone fireplace to hang out in. There's also three campgrounds along the south shore of Lake Quinault, run by the U.S National Forest.
In warmer months, guests can rent kayaks, rowboats and paddleboards on the beach directly out the front of Lake Quinault Lodge.
There's also a 2-hour boat tour (seasonal only) that leaves from the dock at the Lake Quinault Lodge. Bookings can be made at the front desk.
It's interesting to note that the shores of Lake Quinault are bounded by three different owners! The south shore of Lake Quinault where the Lake Quinault Lodge and three campgrounds are located, is owned by the U.S. Forest Service. The west shore is owned and managed by the Quinault Indians, and the northern shore is owned by the Olympic National Park.
If you want to check out Lake Quinault attractions inside the Olympic National Park, then drive to the Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station. From here you can take a 1.3 mile hike to the Kestner Homestead (1890s) or a stunning tract of rain forest at Maple Grove. To avoid a rough, gravel road, drive in a clockwise direction around the lake to get to the ranger station.
The south shore of Lake Quinault is full of attractions, like a short trail to the World's Largest Spruce Tree, over 1000 years old!
One of the most popular trails on the south shore of Lake Quinault is the easy Rain Forest Nature Trail Loop (0.8 miles), with a series of gorgeous cascades along a rain forest stream. Other highlights along the south shore include the Gatton Creek Falls and Cascade Falls Loop, although there is some evidence of earlier logging along these trails. You can also drive up to the stunning Merriman Falls, easily accessible from the roadside.
If you need a map or assistance from a ranger, stop by the Olympic National Forest office (353 S Shore Road).
Day 1: Start at Port Angeles
On Day 1, travel to Port Angeles, the gateway to the Olympic National Park. Explore nearby attractions including Hurricane Ridge (17 miles south) and the Dungeness Spit (17 miles east), and spend your first night in Port Angeles.
Day 2: Port Angeles to La Push [69 miles]
On Day 2, travel 30 minutes west of Port Angeles along Highway 101 to stunning Lake Crescent, and enjoy a coffee in the historic Lake Crescent Lodge (closed winter).
Continue 15 minutes west along Highway 101, then take the exit to Sol Duc Hot Springs. After arriving at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, take a dip in the hot springs (closed winter), and then a short hike to stunning Sol Duc Falls.
Drive 1-hour from Sol Duc to La Push, a small coastal village home to the Quileute Native American Tribe. First Beach at La Push is easily accessible from the parking lot, and provides superb views of James Island. Camp or stay in a beachfront cabin at the Quileute Oceanside Resort at La Push, or book a room at the nearby Manitou Lodge or Quillayute River Resort. (If these accommodation options are booked, book lodging at the logging town of Forks, like the Woodland Inns).
Day 3: La Push
Hike 20-minutes to Second Beach, just minutes from La Push. The coastal stacks and natural arch are spectacular, and the sandy beach is perfect for long walks. Then drive 15 minutes north to Rialto Beach, north of the Quilleyute River. This stunning wilderness beach is just steps from the parking lot, and features the remarkable "Hole in the Wall" natural sea arch. Stay a second night at La Push.
Day 4: La Push to Kalaloch Beach [51 miles]
Drive 1 hour east from La Push to the lush Hoh Rain Forest, and take the Hall of Mosses trail (0.8 miles). Year round camping is also available at the Hoh Rain Forest. Drive 1-hour southwest to two famous coastal beaches, Ruby Beach and Kalaloch Beach. These sandy, log-strewn beaches are truly spectacular. Stop by the Kalaloch Ranger Station across the road from the Kalaloch Lodge to get a map, and explore other nearby Kalaloch Beaches, including Beach 1, 2, 3 and 4. Beach 4 is especially beautiful, with tidepools worth exploring at low tide. Stay overnight at the campground, cabins or inn at Kalaloch Lodge, and enjoy superb coastal views.
Day 5: Kalaloch to Lake Quinault [32 miles]
Your final destination is Lake Quinault. A must-see attraction is historic Lake Quinault Lodge with beautiful views from the expansive lawns across the lake. Many visitors stop at the restaurant to enjoy these views, or wander down to the pier and rent a kayak or boat. If time permits, take the 20-minute "Rain Forest Nature Trail Loop" near the lodge. Stay overnight at Lake Quinault Lodge, or one of the campgrounds on the south shore of Lake Quinault.
Day 6: Return
**CLOSURE ALERT**: Sometime starting in May/June 2022, Ruby Beach will be closed 90 days for maintenance. Check alert before visiting.
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