Explore the Olympic National Park!
Set in the farthest northwest corner of the contiguous United States, you’ll find the unbelievably verdant world of the Olympic National Park in Washington State. As you gear up to plan your upcoming spring and summer travels, we hope you’ll consider visiting this pristine part of the world. It’s not only filled with jaw-dropping views and vistas around just about every bend, but there are a vast number of things to do in the Olympic National Park in every season as well.
Spend your days walking through the moss-covered forests, take a hike to any number of breathtaking mountaintop vistas, see meadows absolutely bursting with wildflowers, admire native wildlife from a distance, visit resplendent coastal beaches, and otherwise enjoy soaking up unprecedented access to nature in the Olympic National Park. It’s not just a destination relegated to summer, either. There are plenty of things to do in the Olympic National Park throughout the year, including skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
The Olympic National Park is located on the Olympic Peninsula, which is approximately 2 hours from downtown Seattle. Though the Olympic National Park is the main draw for tourists coming to the area, the towns that call the Olympic Peninsula home are equally as charming and worth the visit. You’ll find beautiful architecture and a hip, Northwestern vibe in Port Townsend, one of the country’s top-lavender producing areas in the town of Sequim, and a bustling port-city and gateway to the Olympic National Park and the coastal beaches in Port Angeles.
More importantly, these towns, and the Olympic National Park itself, are away from the busy din of city life in Seattle. It’s here that visitors are able to fully immerse themselves in nature, admire the massive trees and impressive landscapes that have been shaped by natural forces over many centuries, and experience a sense of solitude not often found in our busy world. The Olympic Peninsula also happens to be home to a few of our wonderful Select Registry member properties, which means you’ll not only enjoy all of the incredible things to do in Olympic National Park, but you’ll have comfortable accommodations in which to unwind at the end of the day.
10 BEST Things to do in the Olympic National Park
Even with a lifetime dedicated to visiting this amazing place, we can pretty confidently say you’ll ever run out of things to do in the Olympic National Park. The Olympic National Park is vast, encompassing nearly one-million acres of space. It also covers a number of different ecosystems, each one as unique and beautiful as the next. You’ll definitely want to give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the diversity of things to do in the Olympic National Park.
From visiting the famed Hoh Rainforest and Washington’s coastal beaches to taking in the views at Hurricane Ridge, there are plenty of things to do in the Olympic National Park. We’ve listed out 10 of our favorite things to do in the Olympic National Park, from the top 5 attractions to 5 of our favorite activities.
1. Hurricane Ridge
Located just minutes from downtown Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge is one of the most popular destinations in the park, and the easiest to access. From the parking lot, there are a number of great hikes to take and viewpoints from which to admire the distant mountains, including the famous glacier, Mt. Olympus. You can also enjoy views of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, clear across the water into Canada. By June, wildflowers bloom profusely, lighting up the mountain meadows with colorful displays of native vegetation. Deer, mountain goats, and other wildlife are commonly seen here, too. It’s no wonder a visit here is amongst the most popular things to do in Olympic National Park!
2. Hoh Rainforest
If you’re dreaming off massive moss-covered trees and more shades of green than you ever thought possible, then head to the Hoh Rain Forest. One walk through this indescribable old-growth forest will give you a new appreciation of and thirst for protecting these wildlands. The Hoh Rainforest is one of the finest remaining examples of temperate rainforest in the United States. Take layers and raincoats, even during the summer. You are in a rainforest, after all!
3. Lake Crescent Lodge
We’ve never seen a lake more beautiful than Lake Crescent, which is nestled in the foothills of the Olympic National Park. Visiting the Lake Crescent Lodge, and exploring the surrounding area, is one of the most popular things to do in the Olympic National Park, and for good reason! There are some wonderful hikes, including the popular Marymere Falls in the area, along with opportunities to get out on the water for some kayaking. On the opposite side of the lake is the Spruce Railroad Trail, which has recently been renovated and offers a beautiful, accessible walk along the lake.
4. Visit Sol Duc Falls
The Sol Duc Valley is known for its quiet serenity. As soon as you turn off the highway and head up to this part of the Olympic National Park, you’ll understand the allure of these deeply green and lushly forested lands. The area is home to a popular hot springs resort, which we highly recommend you spend some time at, as well as a variety of hiking trails. The most popular hike in the area is to Sol Duc Falls.
5. Coastal Beaches
The ocean is calling, and you really must go. Visiting the coastal beaches and feeling the power of the pounding surf is easily one of the most impressive things to do in the Olympic National Park. There are more beaches than you’ll have time to visit, and all of them offer their own breathtaking beauty. Play (carefully) in the surf, comb for beach treasures, explore tidal pools, and otherwise sit back, relax, and admire the views. Popular beaches include La Push’s 1st, 2nd, and 3rd beaches, Mora & Rialto Beach, Kalaloch & Ruby Beach, Shi Shi Beach, and beaches accessed through the Ozette Triangle (Loop).
6. Bike along the Olympic Discovery Trail
If you’re an avid biker, this trail is for you! The Olympic Discovery Trail is the state’s premier destination for non-motorized recreation, and, increasingly, is one of the most popular things to do when visiting the Olympic National Park. This incredible trail starts in the Victorian seaport of Port Townsend, then winds its way through the Peninsula, highlighting views of snow-capped peaks, ocean vistas, fast-flowing rivers, majestic forests, and pristine lakes as you go, before ending at the Pacific beaches. It’s not located entirely in the Olympic National Park, but it sure offers a beautiful view of the surrounding areas, and a unique way to experience the park lands that are near the trail.
7. Hiking in Olympic National Park
Take a hike through the vast wilderness areas of the park. Hiking is one of the most sought-after things to do in the Olympic National Park for a reason! There are so many great ones, too, ranging from simple nature walks or accessible trails to longer day hikes and backpacking trips. Perennial favorites include Hurricane Hill, Grand Pass, the Bailey Range Traverse, Royal Lake Basin, Obstruction Point, Marymere Falls, 7 Lakes Basin, and Sol Duc Falls.
8. Hit the Water!
Great scenery, hiking, and biking aren’t the only things to do in the Olympic National Park. There are also some great rivers and lakes on which you can enjoy some kayaking and even whitewater rafting. The Elwah River, famous for its Dam removal and habitat restoration in recent years, is a great place to enjoy some scenic river paddling, while the Hoh River, the Queets River, the Quinalt River (the most challenging), and the Sol Duc River are well-suited to whitewater rafting. For calmer waters, take a kayaking trip on any of the lakes in the park, including Lake Quinalt, Lake Cresent, and Lake Ozette.
9. Star Gazing
Though dark night skies are often something we take for granted, you aren’t going to want to miss the way the sky transforms in the Olympic National Park at night, especially on a clear night. Perhaps one of the most underrated things to do in the Olympic National Park is stargazing. The dark skies here are simply breathtaking. After a day of adventure, find a comfy spot on the ground, away from the crowds, look up, and be reminded of just how small a part of this universe we truly are.
10. Chase Waterfalls (& Scenic Drives)
If you’re short on time and still want to enjoy as much of Olympic National Park as possible, head out for a scenic drive, chasing waterfalls along the way! There’s a lot of rain and snow that falls on the Olympic National Park, which is great news for waterfall lovers. There are endless waterfalls found throughout the park (many of which are seasonal) – but some you can hike to and really shouldn’t miss! Here’s a guide to 3 of the best waterfalls in the park, rounding out our list of all the best things to do in the Olympic National Park this year.
Where to Stay on the Olympic Peninsula
As we mentioned earlier, even though there are plenty of fantastic things to do in the Olympic National Park, these remarkable public lands aren’t the only reason to visit the Olympic Peninsula. There, you’ll also find several small and charming communities worth visiting, including those where our Select Registry properties are located!
Port Angeles is best known as the gateway to the Olympic National Park. It’s not only a great jumping-off point from which to enjoy all of the previously noted things to do in the Olympic National Park, but it’s the last major town before you head out to the remote coastal beaches (where you’ll find another popular local town, Forks) as well. In Port Angeles, visitors can not only drive up to Hurricane Ridge and hike for miles, all while soaking in those incredible mountain views, but they can also drive out to the stunning Lake Crescent Lodge, where the blue hues of the water are a sight to behold.
Port Angeles is also home to a busy harbor and is the largest of the towns on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s a great place to find a little local shopping, plenty of great local restaurants, and other interesting things to see and do.
From here, you can even cross the Straits of Juan de Fuca on a different ferry (the Coho Ferry) and find yourself in the quaint harbor town of Victoria, B.C. It’s an excellent place to go for a day (or two!), before returning back to Port Angeles.
On the Olympic Peninsula, Sequim is most famous for its weather and for being a retirement mecca. This town enjoys far more sunny days than many other locales in the Pacific Northwest, thanks in large part to the rainshadow effect of the Olympic Mountains.
But Sequim is also known as one of the best lavender-growing destinations in the country. During July, the bright purple buds paint the rolling hills of this valley purple, and droves of visitors descend upon the area for their chance to visit the farms up close and personal at the annual Sequim Lavender Festival.
Another top attraction in Sequim is the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, which is located on the largest natural sand spit in the country. If you’re up for the 11-mile roundtrip hike, you can walk along the beach, enjoying the coastal views and diverse wildlife that call this area home, all the way out to the historic Dungeness Lighthouse.
Though there aren’t any Select Registry properties in Port Townsend (yet), it’s an easy day trip from both Sequim and Port Angeles, and well worth your time! Port Townsend is a quaint and historic seaside town known for its beautifully-preserved Victorian architecture.
Here, you’ll find plenty of great shops to explore and a number of delicious restaurants. It’s also home to Fort Worden Historical State Park and Fort Flager Historical State Park, both remnants of coastal military installations dating back more than 100 years. Hop on the ferry to Whidbey Island from here for an exciting day trip, and you’ll find more military installations on the other side, along with one of the most beautiful State Parks, Deception Pass State Park.
Each of the 3 Select Registry Bed and Breakfasts below are located conveniently for you to enjoy a quintessential trip to the Pacific Northwest. After enjoying all of these unforgettable things to do in the Olympic National Park, as well as visiting these charming towns on the Peninsula, we have no doubt you’ll leave with a lifetime of incredible memories.
Lodging Near Olympic National Park
Colette's Bed and Breakfast
Colette’s Bed & Breakfast in Port Angeles is located on a beautiful 10-acre oceanfront estate. Each day of your stay will start with a gourmet multi-course breakfast, fueling up for the days’ worth of adventure ahead in the Olympic National Park.
Their luxury king suites feature oceanfront views, romantic fireplaces, and indulgent two-person jacuzzi spas, perfect for those tired muscles after a day in the park.
Consistently been selected as a Top Choice by travel magazines and guides for over 30 years, Domaine Madeleine is a beautiful place to relax while you’re exploring the Olympic National Park.
The scenic waterfront property offers guests the perfect retreat with a combination of unique suites and cottages, each inspired by the beautiful natural surroundings. With convenient breakfast options and plenty of amenities, you’ll experience unparalleled hospitality during your getaway at Domaine Madeleine.
George Washington Inn
George Washington Inn sits on a high bluff overlooking both the sparkling blue waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the majestic Olympic Mountains.
Built in 2007 as an exterior replica of George and Martha Washington’s Mount Vernon in Virginia, the spacious king rooms offer our guests plenty of modern luxury. With features like private 2-person spas, seasonal fireplaces, rich cotton linens, a delicious daily breakfast, and a lavender farm on-site, you’ll want for nothing during your stay at this luxurious bed and Breakfast.