Planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest and looking for the perfect Olympic National Park itinerary? I’m here to fill you in on all the details — from when to visit, how to get there, what to pack, and of course all the best spots to see in Olympic National Park!
Olympic is more diverse than any other national park I’ve been to. There’s just oh so much to see here — from glacier-capped mountains, cascading waterfalls, wild coastal beaches, tide pools teeming with wildlife, and the lush canopy of the temperate rain forests.
So many unique ecosystems thrive in this corner of the PNW — the park is HUGE! It’s honestly kinda like 4 parks in one, encompassing nearly one million acres of the Olympic Peninsula.
Talk about tremendous natural diversity.
I’m guessing you’re here because you’re planning your own Olympic National Park itinerary, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for you! If you’re visiting Seattle and have the time, definitely add on a few extra days for Olympic!
Let’s just say I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the Olympic Peninsula as much as I did! And now? I can’t wait to come back, despite the wildly unpredictable weather and crazy range of precipitation AND elevation. It’s now one of my favorite parks in the US (yes, I loved it that much).
Expect breathtaking beauty. Preserved wilderness. Roaring waterfalls. Misty mountains. And so much more. This Olympic National Park itinerary covers it all, and then some!
And now that I’ve spent a day in Mt. Rainier and now explored Olympic, guess I need to cross North Cascades off my list as well! Sooner than later I hope!
Olympic National Park Itinerary Logistics
Weather and When to Go:
The weather in two words: WILDLY UNPREDICTABLE — no matter the time of year. In just 2 ½ days, we had sun, fog, overcast skies, mist, light rain, heavy downpours, and everything else in between. Thankfully no snow, although if we had hiked at Hurricane Ridge (the mountains) there’d be some of that as well!
With that being said, be prepared for all weather conditions. And when I say all, I mean ALL. Every single day. Since the park is so big, the weather’s different depending where you go. Sometimes temps are 10-15° different! My advice? Keep extra layers in the car and always carry your rain jacket in your daypack with you when you’re out and about.
It rains all year long and it never gets hot, so don’t expect true beach weather — even at the beach! Regardless of when you go, it’s gonna be extra chilly at Hurricane Ridge since it’s at much higher elevation (5,242 feet). When we were there in June it was in the low 40s, brr!
You’ll wanna plan your Olympic National Park itinerary between late spring and early fall. It’s far too chilly and rainy at other times of year.
The park is open year-round though, although some roads (and therefore facilities) close from October — May. Hurricane Ridge Road is only open on the weekends for snow activities in the winter. As always, check the official park website for the most up to date information on road closures and weather conditions!
March through May are mostly wet, can be windy at times, and temps are pretty mild. Expect the higher elevations (like Hurricane Ridge) to be significantly cooler and with some snow!
But once the heavy rains are over, the landscape is super lush and green! And due to the intense precipitation of winter, this means the waterfalls are rushing and the rivers are flowing. As an added bonus, spring brings colorful wildflowers to the Olympic Peninsula, which I can only imagine are absolutely gorgeous.
- Mountains: Average High — mid 40’s / Average Low — high 20’s
- Rainforests: Average High — mid 60’s / Average Low — mid 40’s
- Beaches: Average High — mid 60’s / Average Low — mid 40’s
While July – early/mid September are known to have the warmest weather hovering around the mid 70s (and fewer rainy days), expect lots of crowds! It’s by far the busiest time of year, so you’ll need to plan accommodation further in advance. Late summer brings lots of foggy mornings, which sometimes (or not) burn off by mid-day (kinda like the coast of California).
Thankfully, I’ve got some tips on how to combat crowds in the high summer season:
- Arrive to the popular areas of the park as early as possible (including the Hoh Rainforest, Rialto Beach, and Hurricane Ridge — weather permitting of course). Parking lots fill up fast and it’s much more peaceful in the park with less people!
- Plan out your Olympic National Park itinerary in advance (like this one here!). The park is HUGE — you don’t wanna waste half your day zigzagging around.
- Check out the park webcams to see how full the parking lots are. Be flexible, and understand you won’t be able to see everything.
For reference, we visited Olympic National Park midweek in early June (what I consider shoulder season for this Olympic National Park itinerary). The days were especially long (the sun didn’t set until 9:15pm!) and the crowds were sparse! Even at the most popular park attractions like Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach, which we found especially surprising.
- Mountains: Average High — mid 50’s / Average Low — high 30’s
- Rainforests: Average High — mid 70’s / Average Low — low 50’s
- Beaches: Average High — mid 60’s / Average Low — low 50’s
Looking for some fall foliage? Plan your Olympic National Park road trip for October! This is when the landscape (which is usually lush and green) starts changing colors — bright reds, oranges, and yellows are common! I can’t even fathom to believe how beautiful the Olympic Peninsula is during this time of year! And plus, fall is when the crowds start to decline, bringing down hotel rates.
But do note that snowstorms as early as September are common, so if hiking in the mountains is on your park bucket list, plan to come earlier in the year.
- Mountains: Average High — mid 40’s / Average Low — high 20’s
- Rainforests: Average High — low-mid 60’s / Average Low — mid 40’s
- Beaches: Average High — high 50’s / Average Low — low 40’s
Expect lots of rain, and snow at higher elevations! It’s chilly everywhere in Olympic during winter — definitely pack appropriately. The rainforests can see up to 50 inches of rain, making the winter months extremely wet and therefore not the greatest time for sightseeing.
Also, Hurricane Ridge Road is only open Friday – Sunday in the snowy winter months, so if seeing the mountains are a must on your Olympic National Park itinerary, you’ll need to plan around that. But the park’s hardly crowded, so there’s that!
- Mountains: Average High — low 30’s / Average Low — low 20’s
- Rainforests: Average High — mid 40’s / Average Low — mid 30’s
- Beaches: Average High — mid 40’s / Average Low — mid 30’s
How Long To Stay
Most people visit the park for 2-3 days, and some even stay for a week or longer! It’s all up to you how much you wanna do and at what speed. The park is massive (at almost a million acres!) so you’ll never cover all of it no matter how long you stay.
This Olympic National Park itinerary covers all the main highlights (and a few less-visited gems) in just 2 days. It’s pretty fast paced with lots of driving, so feel free to extend a day or two if you want a more relaxed pace (or wanna hike all the hikes).
We ventured into the park early morning on Day 1, spent the rest of the day exploring, filled Day 2 with as much as we could see, then headed back to Seattle the morning of Day 3 after checking out the mountains from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.
We had originally planned for Hurricane Ridge on Day 1 but visibility was super poor, so we waited until the weather was cooperative — more on this later.
Where is Olympic National Park?
The park is located in the northwestern corner of Washington State, on the Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest. The Olympic National Park Visitor Center is roughly 2 ½ hours northwest of Seattle, although the park’s main highlights are pretty spread out.
Like other National Parks in the states, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee or show a parks pass to enter. But with that being said, we were surprised we didn’t need to show a pass at some stops (meaning you can see some of Olympic National Park for free)! However, all the main highlights required a ticket or pass, so definitely plan to pay at some point.
If you’re visiting during summer or on a busy weekend, expect delays at entrance stations. There’s several of them around the park, and you’ll need to show your pass at each one. Just something to keep in mind so you factor lines into your day.
- Vehicle: $30; valid for 7 consecutive days
- Motorcycle: $25; valid for 7 consecutive days
- Per-Person and Bicyclists: $15; valid for 7 consecutive days
Since we love visiting National Parks (we’ve been to Death Valley, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Pinnacles this year alone), we always buy the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. If you think you’ll be visiting at least 3 parks in a year, at just $80, it’s more than worth it! You can purchase an annual pass in advance on the official NPS website, or directly at the park itself.
Visitor Centers are a great place to pick up a park map, use the restroom, and fill up on water! You should also ask park rangers about any road or trail closures, as well as if there’s been recent bear sightings at any of the hikes you intend to do. But whatever you do, definitely grab a map if you didn’t get one when you entered the park.
- Olympic National Park Visitor Center (Port Angeles)
- Wilderness Information Center (Backcountry Permit Office — Port Angeles)
- Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center (up Hurricane Ridge road)
- Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center (near Hall of Mosses)
How to Get to the Olympic Peninsula
First things first, you’ll wanna get yourself to Seattle (whether that means flying or driving depending on where you’re coming from).
If you’re flying, book yourself a ticket to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (commonly referred to as Sea-Tac). And whatever you do, if it’s a clear day, make sure you stare out that window upon arrival in Seattle! You may luck out and see the majestic Mount Rainier peeking out and/or a whole bunch of scenic little islands in Elliot Bay. I’m that girl taking 242342 photos out the plane window each and every time. 😉 Look at these photos — can you blame me?!
I’m going into detail on how to get to Olympic National Park via Seattle (since it’s the most popular route), but just know you can also fly into Victoria International Airport in British Columbia, Canada, as well! Remember to bring your passport! From there you’ll need to take the Coho Ferry to Port Angeles, which boasts phenomenal views of the Olympic Mountains I’m told!
Getting to Olympic National Park from Seattle
Once you get to Seattle and pick up your rental car, there’s actually a few ways to get to Olympic National Park! And one option includes a ferry crossing — so very Pacific Northwest!
Two main ways to get to Olympic National Park
Depending on where in Olympic you wanna go, your GPS may give you different instructions. Why, you ask? Well, the park is HUGE!
I’m giving general directions to Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles. This is where we started our trip and a great place to stretch your legs before heading to your first main stop on your Olympic National Park itinerary. And you’ll wanna get out (and use the bathroom) for a few minutes — all the main sites are pretty far away!
- Via I-5 and Hwy 101, driving south through the town of Tacoma (and possibly Olympia depending where you’re going). This route is pretty self-explanatory — just pop it into your GPS. No ferries needed.
- Taking the car ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island (crossing the Puget Sound), and then driving north towards Port Townsend. The Bainbridge Ferry leaves roughly every 50 minutes from Seattle, and thankfully, you don’t need to reserve a ticket in advance. Check the ferry schedule here so you know what to expect.
Ferries in the Olympic Peninsula:
During the course of our Washington road trip, I think we took 4 different ferries — kinda like on our Norway road trip! We not only visited Olympic National Park, but the San Juan Islands and Whidbey Island as well (all requiring ferry crossings). Some ferries you need to reserve in advance, but not to get to Olympic!
If you’re only planning to visit Olympic National Park, you’ll only need to worry about the Seattle to Bainbridge Island Ferry. And you thankfully can just drive on up without an advance reservation! Easy peasy! Just get there early so you don’t need to wait for the next one (in case it fills up).
How does the ferry work? You drive up to the pay station, pay your fee (usually per car and per passenger), and then drive the car right onto the ferry! It’s that easy, and we LOVED it every single time. Once you’re on the ferry, you can leave your car (remember to lock it), and walk around on the passenger decks. Don’t miss the views leaving the city — the Seattle skyline is absolutely perfect on a sunny day (you can see the Space Needle, the ferris wheel, and all the high-rise buildings from the top deck).
For reference, we paid roughly $20 for a small sized car and 3 people. Obviously larger cars and/or more people will cost more. The ferry took about 35 minutes to cross the water, and then bam — we were in Bainbridge. Another 1 ½ hour drive until you reach Port Angeles and the Olympic National Park Visitor Center.
Public Transport to Olympic National Park: You can take a bus from Sea-Tac Airport to Port Angeles (find info here), but it’s gonna be extremely difficult to get around once you reach the park. You can rent a car in Port Angeles, although there’s not tons of car rental agencies out there. I HIGHLY recommend renting a car in Seattle, as there’s much more inventory and thus, prices will most likely be lower.
How to Get Around on your Olympic National Park Trip
While there are no single roads that cross the park, you can reach most of the park via Hwy 101, which basically circumnavigates the entire Olympic Peninsula. Unlike other parks, (like the super easy Joshua Tree National Park), you cannot simply drive through the park. This just means you’ll really need to plan out your Olympic National Park itinerary (aka all your stops) in advance.
Thankfully, driving in Olympic National Park is fairly easy. The roads are pretty well maintained, and we weren’t worried about our car during our 2 days in the park. When we visited, some roads in the park were undergoing construction. Always check on current road conditions before heading out! You don’t wanna drive an hour just to find out the road you need to take is closed!
But remember — the park is massive, so expect long drives between sites. There’s also some one way roads/bridges so bring along some patience for the ride and give yourself extra time to get everywhere. Because of this, you’ll wanna rent something comfortable.
Despite the long drives, there’s (thanksfully) lots of bathrooms around the park. If I remember correctly, we found flush or pit toilets at almost every stop we made! And good thing, because the drives between areas can be long!
Where to Stay in Olympic National Park
If you’re planning on following this Olympic National Park itinerary to a T, you’ll wanna base yourself in the tiny town of Forks, Washington.
Twilight fans — you may have heard of Forks before! The tiny town is actually known for its Twilight fame; you’ll even see vampire signs around. There’s Twilight Tours for all you fanatics out there — just be sure to add an extra few hours for this. Expect to see filming locations, lifesize cutouts, Bella’s truck, Jacob’s house, etc.
While other towns provide more amenities, Forks is located pretty central in the park, making it the most practical location for an overnight stay. It’s 45 minutes to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center (where the iconic Hall of Mosses is located), an hour to Sol Duc Falls, and roughly 20-30 minutes to Rialto and Ruby Beaches.
We had expected to find nothing in Forks, but were pleasantly surprised — there were a few small coffee shops (we got great breakfast sandwiches and coffee at A Shot in the Dark each morning), gas stations, and even a decent grocery store (where we picked up a few hot snacks for sunset at the beach one night). It’s by far the most practical spot, despite not much staying open past 8pm. Don’t expect to find any 5* accommodations here — you’ll see your standard cheap motels.
Our motel was clean, had a microwave for our cup of noodles, there was a pool (although we didn’t use it), and the beds were exceptionally comfy. Or maybe we were just exceptionally exhausted from the day’s activities. And it was super inexpensive compared to other accommodations in other parts of the park. Find other accommodation in Forks here.
Psst — Most blogs recommend staying in Port Townsend (at the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula) or Port Angeles (near Hurricane Ridge Road), but we didn’t think it made much sense. Port Townsend is super far from all the main highlights of the park, and we didn’t think backtracking to Port Angeles for a night only to head closer to Forks the next morning was worth it.
Camping in Olympic National Park: If you’re planning on camping in the park, plan ahead for a stress-free visit! There’s only three campgrounds which take reservations in advance (Kalaloch, Sol Duc, and Mora), and understandably, they book up fast (months and months in advance). If you’re not able to secure a campsite ahead of time — don’t fret! There’s a whole bunch of first-come, first-served.
What to Pack:
Due to the wacky, unpredictable weather in Olympic, you’ll need to pack pretty strategically. Kinda a little bit for everything. Expect the unexpected and come prepared!
- Waterproof hiking boots; sneakers and anything with mesh will not suffice (the ground is too wet and muddy). Comfy hiking socks are a must as well!
- Waterproof hiking sandals like these (stylish and comfy!) are great for the rocky beaches
- Always throw a packable rain jacket in your day bag — that PNW weather is tempermental at best!
- Picnic lunches and snacks are a necessity since there’s not tons of food in the park (we brought apples, bananas, trail mix, cheez-its/crackers, mini muffins, potato chips, lunchables, etc). Throw them all into a mini cooler, and you’re good to go!
- We wish we had auto-focusing binoculars, especially when the bald eagle was flying overhead!
- Easy microwaveable dinners. If you’ll be out and about all day, I HIGHLY suggest bringing some easy dinners to eat back at the hotel room. Nothing stays open terribly late. We bought ramen at H-Mart in Seattle before we left for Olympic! Just make sure you’ve got a microwave in your room if you wanna heat something up.
- A few gallons of water to refill your reusable water bottle (a gallon per person for every 2 days or so)
- Since there’ll be long days in the car, a portable charger will definitely come in handy! As well as this dual-port car charger (good for you and a friend!) for recharging in the car!
- If you’ll be doing any hikes to the beaches for sunset, you’ll definitely want this powerful compact flashlight for hiking back in the dark!
- Layers like a comfy fleece and/or a packable jacket to keep warm, especially up at Hurricane Ridge (you’ll also want polarized sunglasses since the sun reflects off the snow)
- National Parks Pass to show at the multiple entrances
Other Important Info
Cell Service in the Park
Hate to break it to you, but you probably won’t be able to post to IG in real time (haha). Enjoy all the natural beauty around you and put that phone down anyways!
There’s not much cell service in the park, and what we did have was super spotty. Therefore, don’t plan on relying on your GPS for directions throughout the park. Definitely bring a paper map or download offline maps ahead of time.
We were pretty comfortable routing ourselves by looking at Google Maps which was helpful since we completely forgot to download offline maps. But don’t be like us — download offline maps before you leave!
Of course when we left we learned about the new NPS App! I so wish we had downloaded this before arrival, as there’s so many helpful planning tools on it. Just remember to download the content ahead of time for offline use.
Wildlife in the Park:
With the Olympic Peninsula being so diverse, it’s easy to see how so many different species thrive within park borders. Animal lovers will love it — there’s 56 species of mammals and over 300 species of birds here! Although don’t expect to see them all of course, haha. In just two days, we saw giant banana slugs and massive Roosevelt Elk in the rain forests, bald eagles flying near the beach, tons of deer everywhere, and even a black bear and the cutest little baby bear cub on the side of the road!
It’s not uncommon to see whales and porpoises in the spring, summer, and fall as well! Keep your eyes peeled on the water! And if you’re hiking on the alpine trails near Hurricane Ridge, you may get the rare chance to see an Olympic Marmot (the only place in the world where they live). They’re super cute and pretty similar to the marmot I’ve seen in Jasper National Park in Canada.
As always, never approach wildlife and stay a safe distance away. Know what to do in case of a bear encounter (bear spray is always a good idea) — in short, do NOT run, avoid direct eye contact, and walk away slowly if the bear is not approaching. Read these tips by the National Park Service before doing any hiking in bear country. And yes, actually read it — it’s super important and could save your life!
Indian Reservations and Possible Closures:
I’m kind of ashamed to have not recognized this more in-depth before visiting, but Olympic National Park sits on the homeland of the Klallam, Makah, Skokomish, Quileute, Hoh and Quinalt people. The ancestors of these tribes lived throughout the Olympic Peninsula before ceding their lands and waters to the federal government through treaties in 1855 and 1856. They now live on reservations along the shores of the peninsula.
The tribes have the right to limit access and deny entrance to the public whenever they’d like, so if something is unavailable when you visit, don’t get upset. They’re essentially sharing all their ancestral land with us — we should be grateful! On our trip, we had originally planned First and Second Beach into our Olympic National Park itinerary but that didn’t happen because they were closed! There’s lots to see so don’t be too mad about it.
Plus, just another reason to come back in the future, right?! Check the NPS website for any scheduled park closings.
Phew — that was a lot of logistical info (all necessary, I promise!). But now, let’s get to it; the only Olympic National Park itinerary you’ll need to plan your trip!
2 Day Olympic National Park Itinerary
As mentioned above, the following Olympic National Park itinerary is rather fast paced! Feel free to add an additional day if you wanna travel slower. Because we traveled in summer the days were extra, extra long — meaning we had plenty of daylight hours for adventuring!
Day 1: Mountains, Lakes, and Waterfalls (Northern Part of the Park)
Day 1 of this Olympic National Park itinerary is full of snowy mountainous peaks, glacier-fed lakes, and a whole bunch of rushing waterfalls. Carry your rain jacket in your bag, as you never know what the weather will be (and it’ll probably change as you move throughout the park).
It’ll take roughly 2 ½ hours of driving to Port Angeles (from Seattle) and then another 3 hours navigating yourself to the stops below — so my advice? Leave Seattle hella early! If you’re visiting in the summer you’ll thankfully have lots and lots of daylight (the sun sets around 9pm), giving you ample time to see everything!
If you get an early start you may even have time to stop by the Purple Haze Lavender Farm in Sequim — it’s never too early for some lavender lemon ice cream! Don’t have time and live in the San Francisco Bay Area?! Take a day trip to Araceli Farms Lavender Farm in Dixon, California between May and June!
Stop #1: Hurricane Ridge
The first official stop on this Olympic National Park itinerary!
You’ll need to drive 17 miles up windy (and very curvy, and very steep) Hurricane Ridge Road. Although hey — it’s super scenic, so you won’t wanna go terribly fast anyways! Plan for the drive to take roughly 45 minutes in the summer, a bit longer in the winter. And once you reach the top, I promise you’ll be wide-eyed at the incredible panorama of mountain peaks and alpine meadows! Be sure to look out for Olympic marmot and deer over here!
Make sure to layer up and dress warm as it’s always much chillier up here — makes sense, the Visitor Center sits at an elevation of 5,242 feet! The area actually gets its name from the hurricane-type gusts that occasionally happen (up to 75 mph — whoa!). And while we’re on that note, bring sunscreen and sunglasses (yes, really) — it’s super bright up here and the sun reflects off the snow.
Once you get up here, you’ve got a few options (depending on your energy level, timing, and chilliness factor!
1. Viewpoints: Simply check out those panoramic mountain views straight from the viewpoints at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center! This is what we did because we didn’t have enough time to hike, and frankly, it was basically freezing cold once we made it up there! Plus, there was still a decent amount of snow on the trail, and we didn’t have proper shoes/gear for hiking in the snow.
2. Go for a hike! Hurricane Ridge is the most popular hiking destination on the Olympic Peninsula (so get here early, especially if you’re visiting in peak summer). The trails are best used from July until October, as snowpack makes it much more difficult in the winter and spring months.
- The most popular trail is Hurricane Hill (moderate level), which takes you to stunning views over the course of 3.4 miles (round trip) with 700 feet of elevation gain (it’s kinda steep but doable). From the main viewpoint at the top, you can see all the way into Canada (Victoria, BC!!!), and of course those gorgeous Olympic Mountains plus some islands in Washington. On my itinerary for next time I’m visiting Olympic National Park for two days or longer!
- Sunrise Ridge is another trail over here, with similar views, but it’s much less crowded! It’s around 5 miles (roundtrip) and about 1000 feet of elevation gain, so a tad longer than Hurricane Hill.
HOWEVER (of course there’s a however, this is the PNW!), the weather is EXTREMELY temperamental. Before driving up, check the weather conditions on the webcam online. I can’t stress this enough! If the fog is drastically impeding the view, and you can’t even see mountains on the webcam, skip Hurricane Ridge and weave it into your itinerary for another day. You won’t see anything and that long drive will have been a total waste!
We were planning to drive up and hike our first morning but pushed it back until the last day because the rest of the trip the mountains were completely covered in fog.
On that note, the weather changes rapidly at Hurricane Ridge. So if you really wanna see the mountains in all their glory, head to Hurricane Ridge ASAP after checking the webcams for clear weather. Because if you wait, those snowy mountainous peaks may be hidden by the time you get there!
Winter Tips: Spending your two days in Olympic National Park in winter? Do note that this road is only open Friday through Sunday (plus holiday Mondays), so if Hurricane Ridge is a must-stop for you, you’ll need to plan around that. Make sure to keep tire chains in the car, as it’s a requirement during the winter season. As always, call ahead of time to check on the road status ((360) 565-3131 — recorded message).
In winter there’s snowshoeing, sledding, and even cross-country skiing. A must for anyone who’s itching to play in the snow for a bit! We go to Yosemite in winter for that!
Stop #2: Devil’s Punch Bowl
Did you expect to find a sapphire green and aquamarine natural pool in the middle of Olympic National Park? Water so blue you’ll think you’re at a cenote in Mexico! We had originally read that the hike was 5 miles or so, so we were pleasantly surprised when it was only 2.4 miles round trip! There’s a decent amount of parking at the Spruce Railroad Trailhead (aka the Lake Crescent Trail), which is where you’ll start the short hike.
The first part of the hike is on a mostly paved gravel road with lush vegetation all around. You’ll then see a tunnel, but don’t go through! Walk towards the left and continue onto the hike — this part was the most difficult and we had to help each other out a bit, but as soon as you see the bridge, you’ll know you made it! We were so surprised when we saw that deep blue water — and it was crystal clear, even on a cloudy day. I can only imagine how stunning it must be on a clear day with blue skies!
We saw girls jump into the water from the bridge — they were brave, it looked absolutely freezing! On a much warmer day I can see this being super refreshing after a short hike. Had we worn bathing suits and brought a change of clothes and towels, I think we may have jumped too on a warm day!
Stop #3: Marymere Falls Hike
Finally, it’s waterfall time! And Olympic’s got quite a few. We’ll be heading to two of the most popular today, but there’s countless others if you’re a true waterfall fanatic. The 1.8 mile round trip hike to Marymere Falls kinda reminded us a bit of Fern Canyon in Redwood National Park in Northern California; super lush and super green! Expect to see tons of old-growth evergreens and lots of ferns. And we weren’t even in the rainforest just yet!
Psst: The trailhead for Marymere Falls is actually the same for the Mount Storm King Trail (at the Storm King Ranger Station parking area). If you’re looking for the waterfall, make sure to follow the right path! Or else you’ll be climbing up a super steep mountain with ropes to the summit! An especially challenging scramble if you weren’t expecting (or prepared) for it!
The hike was relatively easy and flat (until the last bit with a whole lot of stairs) but very, very wet. You’ll want to wear waterproof hiking boots and keep a rain jacket in your backpack!
Look up — it’s amazing! Kinda like something you’d find in Hawaii — it’s 90 feet high! Don’t miss the lower and upper viewpoints of Marymere Falls; both are very picturesque!
Stop #4: Lake Crescent
After a super busy morning and afternoon, relax for a bit at Lake Cresent’s glacial waters! It’s one of the most iconic destinations on this Olympic National Park itinerary and all of the park, so definitely don’t miss it! And why would you wanna? The lake is absolutely stunning, and 625 feet deep (although not as deep as Lake Tahoe in California/Nevada or Crater Lake in Oregon).
The water was kinda choppy and windy when we visited (that iconic and unpredictable PNW weather), but from photos, it looks especially gorgeous on a calmer day. We made a few stops, and particularly loved the viewpoint from East Beach — those mountains sure are something else!
Stop #5: Sol Duc Falls
Ready for one last hike of the day? I sure hope so — because you don’t wanna miss Sol Duc Falls! It’s kinda like 3 (or 4!) waterfalls in one — depending on the water flow. We clearly saw three streams, although the 4th was partially obstructed.
The hike is fairly early, 1.6 miles round trip on the Sol Duc Falls Nature Trail through an old-growth forest. Check out the trickle of rocks covered in moss midway — and nope, that’s not the waterfall; keep on walking! I bet you’ll hear the thundering sounds of Sol Duc way before you see them! Unlike other waterfalls, you view Sol Duc Falls from above, and watch it fall 50+ feet into the slot canyon below.
It was actually pouring when we arrived at the parking lot, so we had to wait it out for a bit until the rain lightened up. And what a fun hike it was, despite being dripping wet almost the entire time (hey, I told you you’d need a rain jacket at some point!). If it’s sunny, you may get lucky and see rainbows in the mist (we didn’t have such luck).
Remember, it makes the most sense to stay in Forks, Washington tonight (we stayed here for two nights)! This’ll add roughly another hour of driving onto today’s Olympic National Park itinerary, but I promise it’ll save lots of time tomorrow!
If you’ve got more time after the waterfalls, head to one of the beaches near Forks for sunset, like La Push or Rialto (see what’s currently open). We’re headed there tomorrow so if you’re exhausted and just wanna relax without any more driving, no worries!
Day 2: Rainforests and Beaches
On Day 2 of this Olympic National Park itinerary you’ll be strolling through lush, temperate rainforests (two of them if you so please), and then exploring some of the Olympic Peninsula’s finest (and most unique) beaches!
Another long day of driving; at least 4 ½ hours through the park, and then another 30 minutes to reach your hotel in Forks. However, if you wanna shave off about 1 ½ hours of driving, you could skip the Quinault Rainforest — more on this below.
Stop #1: Hoh Rainforest and The Hall of Mosses
Wake up early, because this morning’s adventure is to the Hoh Rainforest — a truly magical experience! There’s every single shade of green you can imagine, and pictures do not do it one bit of justice — you’ve gotta come here to see it for yourself. It actually kinda reminded me of Jurassic Park a bit!
Hoh Rainforest is way different than the tropical rainforest you’re probably thinking of. There’s no toucans or poisonous dart frogs here — expect to see hemlocks, furs, maples, mushrooms, mosses (lots of it) and even Roosevelt Elk if you’re lucky! Everything is super wet and moist, especially after it rains of course. This is the rainforest we’re talking about!
There’s not many temperate rainforests left in North America, and we’re visiting not one, but two of them on today’s Olympic National Park itinerary. Psst: there’s actually 4 right here in Olympic, including Hoh, Quinault, Queets, and Bogachiel, all filled with mossy green flora and Sitka spruce.
First up — the Hall of Mosses in Hoh Rainforest, one of the largest temperate rain forests in all of the USA, as well as the wettest spot in the Lower 48 states. Make sure you’ve got your layers and rain jacket in your backpack! We got lucky and it was relatively dry when we visited, although with 12-14 feet of rainfall each year, I’d expect some precipitation any day.
Plan to get here first thing in the morning because the Hoh Rainforest, and especially the Hall of Mosses, is known to get exceptionally crowded! Make sure you route to the Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center, as this is where you’ll find the trailhead to the Hall of Mosses and Spruce Trail (on the GPS it looks like Hoh Rainforest is super close, 15 minutes or so, but you’ll need to drive about 45 minutes from Forks to actually get to where you’re going, just P.S.)
On the ¾ mile loop we encountered a scenic bridge overlooking some moss-covered wet patches, towering evergreen giants (hello 300 foot tall old-growth Sitka Spruce trees), moss-laden maple trees, and endless ferns along the forest floor. Basically, green as far as the eye can see!
Absolutely spectacular — we loved it so much we spent about an hour and a half slowly wandering through and taking oh so many photos! I’m glad we took it slow because we actually saw a massive Roosevelt Elk deep in the forest.
Read Next: Everything You Need to Know About The Hall of Mosses Trail (my favorite spot in the rainforest!)
Stop #2: Quinault Rainforest (Optional)
Hope you’re ready for more rainforest, because there’s more coming at Quinault. We did the short Nature Trail Loop (only .9 miles), although it honestly looked pretty similar to Hoh and I’m not sure all the extra driving was worth the extra time in the rainforest. I would have preferred to go on a second hike in Hoh instead of all the extra car time (possibly the 1.2 mile Spruce Trail at Hoh). Quinault Rainforest was super quiet and peaceful so there’s that!
It’s further away from other areas of the park, so if you do make it all the way out here, add on a short stop to Lake Quinault. We had planned to but ultimately forgot, whoops!
Did you expect to check out some beaches on this Olympic National Park itinerary? While they’re not like the hot, sunny beaches down in Southern California, they’re full of spectacular and wild beauty. Super scenic and super rugged, all along the Olympic Coastline. Expect to find sea stacks (like at Cannon Beach near Portland), tide pools, rocks and smooth pebbles, stunning shorelines, and a whole lotta driftwood.
And make sure to keep your eyes peeled on the sky — we watched a bald eagle flying overhead and it was absolutely spectacular!
From the list below, I’d pick 2-3 beaches and stick to those. You don’t wanna be rushing around too much — enjoy the actual place! A few beaches were closed during our visit, so we had to quickly change around our Olympic National Park itinerary on the fly, but that was ok!
What to Wear: Leave your bathing suit at home — the beach will probably be pretty moody and possibly even a bit misty/foggy. We wore sweaters and pants, and were very comfy! In terms of footwear, I wore sandals on the beach because all I had were hiking boots (which I couldn’t wait to take off) and white sneakers (of course I didn’t want those to get dirty).
Looking back I wish I had brought my waterproof Keens or something like that because it was pretty difficult walking on the rocks and pebbles in regular old sandals. Rocks kept getting in my sandals and it hurt!
Stop #3: Ruby Beach
Out of all the beaches in Olympic, we loved Ruby Beach the best! It’s the most northern of all the southern beaches, and it’s famous for its moody nature and huge driftwood logs (which you’ll probably need to climb over to access the beach). I’ve even seen wedding photos online taken here!
So many unique vantage points and photo spots with a whole bunch of haystacks jutting out of the water. Look closely and you may see some ruby-like crystals in the sand (where Ruby Beach gets its name). And plus, the parking lot is super close to the beach, although you’ll need to walk down a small trail and then climb over some driftwood to get access to the beach.
There’s caves to explore, huge rocks with holes (some with strange shapes — you’ll see what I mean, wink wink), and even streams to cross. We spent so much time here — we loved it so much! Out of all the beaches you can choose to include on your Olympic National Park itinerary, promise me you’ll make it over to Ruby Beach!
Stop #4: La Push Beaches (First, Second, and Third Beaches)
These three beaches (unique names, am I right?) are all found off of La Push Road / State Route 110. While they’re all super close to one another, you can’t walk from beach to beach — you’ll need to drive on over!
This series of unspoiled beaches are home to the Quileute Native American tribe, and are full of rugged coastline and all things Twilight. You’ll probably recognize them if you’re a fan of the series. The tribe closes certain beaches off to the public, so you just gotta understand you may not get to visit all three. On our visit, all but Second Beach was open, and we didn’t have time to hike out to the beach (more below).
- First Beach: Unlike the other two La Push beaches, the parking lot of First Beach is right next to the beach — no hiking required. Surprisingly, it’s not as crowded as the others (I guess everyone comes for the hike as well?). It was unfortunately closed during our visit, so we didn’t get the chance to check it out! Don’t miss the prominent sea stacks right offshore if you do get the chance to visit!
- Second Beach: Up for a 20 minute hike (0.7 miles) through the rainforest to get here? While open, we opted not to visit Second Beach since we were worried we would run out of time (it was almost sunset and we didn’t wanna hike back in the dark). I’ve heard the hike is similar-ish to Hoh Rainforest, and you’ll need to climb over a bit of driftwood at the end to reach the beach. With arches, tide pools, and a large beach area, it’s the most popular of the three beaches in La Push.
- Third Beach: Plan for an even longer hike than at Second Beach, at roughly 1.5 miles each way. The beginning is pretty easy, through ferns, moss, and lush greenery in the forest, with a steep descent to the beach towards the end!
Stop #5: Rialto Beach for Sunset
We opted to visit Rialto Beach for sunset, and boy were we blown away.
In my opinion, Rialto is the best beach for sunset since you don’t have to climb over rocks and logs to get there (which can be highly dangerous in the dark after sunset). There’s no hiking required, a decent sized parking lot, and bathrooms right there!
If you’ve got time (coming a few hours before sunset) AND it’s low tide (this is very important), you can walk all the way to Hole-in-the-Wall from Rialto Beach! Here you’ll find a water-carved sea arch — probably one of the most photogenic spots on the wild Olympic coast. It’s a long 3.3 mile walk on the sand, so not particularly easy, but definitely doable. Check the tide schedule here and don’t attempt unless it’s low tide!
Phew! Hope this helps you plan out your 2-day Olympic National Park itinerary! What are you most excited for in the park?! Beaches, rainforests, waterfalls, or mountains? You can say everything!
Frank Edward says
Great to see this amazing Olympic National Park. Also you are amazing.
Thank you to share this with us.
Thanks for this awesome post! I have two days in Olympics coming up and I’ve used this to maximize my time. Can’t wait!
Mike Cooney says
Thank you for this itinerary. It gave me everything I needed to see as much as possible on the Olympic Peninsula in 2 days. My wife and I took our 1.5 yr old son which meant not cramming too much in, factoring in naps and finding short or paved hikes. The hiking backpack wasn’t in the cards for us this trip.
We started north of Seattle and actually went backwards (clockwise) so our son could morning nap on the long drive out to the western beaches. That worked absolutely perfect. We did Kalaloch Beach 4 (Ruby is closed till mid-Sept), Hoh Rain forest then stayed in Forks day 1. Beach 4 and The Hall of Mosses were both easy to carry my son with no hiking backpack. Day 2 we drove past Lake Crescent in awe and went to Devils Punch Bowl around 9am. Literally no-one was there but we watched people come in groves on our walk back. We were actually able to off-road the stroller almost the entire way to the punch bowl bridge from where the pavement stops at the tunnel without issue. Then we planned it so we could get a long drive nap time from there to the summit of Hurricane Ridge. We spent some time up there as well as the vistas, had planned to eat in Port Angles but were a little nervous about the ferry wait and headed to the Kington. We waited about an hour for the ferry on a Friday. Not terrible, we all enjoyed the ride and it was better than driving.
Thank you again for this guide. I found it 2 days before we went and it took very little effort to plan from.
So glad you found it useful! Sounds like you had a very memorable trip! Isn’t Washington just spectacular?!
Me and my husband are constrained on time and only have 2 days to spare for Mt Rainier and Olympic national park this August and stumbled upon your blog while googling for a 2-day itinerary. we are also planning to stay in hotels/motels. I loved to read your blog- lots of great tips but most of all the 2 day itinerary. We are driving up from Mt Rainier to Olympic National Park so what would be your advice with regards to the itinerary?
Hi there — you’ll have such a great time; the parks in Washington are just the best! And August is a great time to visit! I recommend making your drive to Olympic the night after your day in Rainier. Rainier is a much smaller park and you can see the main highlights in a few hours (if you aren’t interested in doing long hikes). There’s tons to do in Olympic, but since the park is really spread out, I’d stick to your top 3 things to do if you’ve only got one day (I’d probably choose Hoh Rainforest, one of the beaches, and Hurricane Ridge).
Enjoy your trip!
Is it ok to drive an RV around the park or is it too steep and curvy? Thank you for your great 2 day itinerary! It is very helpful.
Hi there! I definitely don’t wanna give the wrong advice since I’ve never driven an RV and know nothing about driving them. Sorry I can’t help!
Thanks for sharing your itinerary. This will cut down my time researching Olympic Ntl Park.
So glad it’s useful! Enjoy the park — it’s gorgeous!