Essential Olympic National Park Info

About the Olympic National Park and National Forest

The Olympic National Park was established in 1938 and is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.  It features rugged coastline, wildflower filled alpine, glaciers, snow capped mountains (view live on Hurricane Ridge Webcam) and the only temperate rainforest on the continental US.

Inside the Olympic Mountains is an outdoorsman's dream.  The park features almost endless places to explore and a full network of hiking trails.  One could truly spend a lifetime exploring the Park. Remember: A good portion of the Olympic Mountains, is also regulated by the Olympic National Forest.

Hiking is the prominent attraction in the area.  One can be outside year around, if you know where to go. As long as you keep your eye on the conditions.

The weather rapidly changes on the Olympic Peninsula, especially in the winter months.  One must be mindful of the weather forecast and always plan for the worst-case scenario; since it can change in a matter of hours.  It is not uncommon for the area to receive snow in the summer, at higher mountain elevations.

Olympic National Park
Olympic Mountains in winter

Hurricane Ridge above Port Angeles, Wa

Hiking trails on Hurricane Ridge can be accessed near Port Angeles, Wa.  Located at 5,242 feet above sea level, thanks to maintenance crews, its road can be driven almost year-round.  Popular activities include mountain viewing, hiking and skiing during the winter months.

hurricane ridge winter
Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center

Elwha River Valley near Port Angeles

The Elwha Valley includes a 45 mile long river.   Its lower parts can be accessed almost year-round by hikers.  It was once world famous for fishing, before the dams were put in place; which blocked salmon migrations.  Known destinations include Humes Ranch and a number of other intact historical homesteads.

Elwha hike
Hiking along the Elwha river

The Hoh Rain Forest

The Hoh Rain Forest Trail includes a 56 mile river, which is fed by the Hoh, White, Blue and several other small glaciers.  Its rainforest is world famous and unique to other surrounding drainages. Visitors from around the world flock to see the other-worldly Big Leaf Maple trees whose every inch is draped in long ferns and mosses. A popular backpacking destination includes hiking 18 miles to Blue Glacier, while advanced mountaineers continue on to climb Mount Olympus.

hoh trail
Hoh Rain Forest

The Quinault Rain Forest

The Quinault Valley Trails includes a 69 mile long river, which branches into two parts; the East and North forks.  It features some of the biggest trees you will have the honor of seeing on the peninsula and is home to the most wildlife in the Park. It hosts a huge variety of trails suitable for every type of dayhiker. Popular backpacking destinations include the Enchanted Valley and Low Divide.

Quinault Rain Forest

The Dungeness Valley above Sequim, Wa

The Dungeness River Trails includes a 28 mile long river.  It is known as the more dry part of the mountains with an ecosystem distinct to what you will find on the West side of the peninsula. Its home to the Buckhorn Wilderness. Popular day hikes include Marmot Pass and Camp Handy. Popular backpacking destinations include Royal Basin, Camp Handy, Marmot Pass and Mount Constance.

Upper Dungeness
Upper Dungeness River Drainage

The Olympic Coast near La Push, Wa

The North Olympic Coast and South Olympic Coast is home to hundreds of different species of marine life. It is broken into two sections, because of the Quileute River who crossing is impossible without a boat or a road walk around using a bridge. Shi Shi to Rialto Beach is the North section and 3rd Beach to Oil City is the South section. Backpacking and hiking can be done here almost year around, if one is mindful of the incoming weather and tidal patterns; which is important for a safe journey.

olympic coast
Cape Alava, Olympic Coast

Interested in learning more? Check out my Olympic trail guide list!

Updated in July 2017 by Barefoot Jake