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15 Things to Do in Olympic National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park is an enormous natural paradise that brings together awe-inspiring vistas, unique ecosystems, and unmatched tranquility. It's located on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State in the Pacific Northwest.

The Olympic National Park Service estimates that 366,000 acres of old-growth forest cover 572 square miles of the park. It is a natural wonderland that offers a variety of activities and sights.

Olympic National Park (photo: Jachan DeVol)
Olympic National Park (photo: Jachan DeVol)

It's also one of the most visited locations in the United States. In 2022, there were about  2.43 million visits to Olympic National Park. Along the coast and in valleys, the annual rainfall ranges from 100 to 170 inches

The park has a lush ecology with more than 62 species of mammals and 250 species of birds. There are countless unique plant species.

The park is divided into four sections: the Pacific coast, alpine areas, temperate rainforest on the west side, and forests on the dry east side, with three distinct ecosystems.

Are you a hiking enthusiast? Enjoy an extensive network of trails through enchanted forests. There are abundant waterfalls and towering peaks.

The Hoh Rain Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is renowned for its emerald-green vegetation. 

The rugged coastline is perfect for beach getaways. It features popular spots like Rialto Beach and Ruby Beach. These beaches offer picturesque sandy beaches and dramatic sea stacks.

We are going to see 15-plus things to do in this beautiful park. Come along with us as we explore the mysteries and spectacular experiences of Olympic National Park.

Outdoor Activities

Deer on Hurricane Ridge (photo: Anurag Jain)
Deer on Hurricane Ridge (photo: Anurag Jain)

1. Hiking and Nature Trails

Olympic National Park offers many hiking trails catering to different skill levels and interests. Here are some popular routes worth exploring.

Hurricane Hill Trail

This trail is famous for its panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Embark on a captivating hike along this scenic trail, where every step reveals breathtaking vistas that proudly display the park's unparalleled beauty.

Hoh River Trail

The Hoh River Trail is an enchanting route that takes you deep into the heart of the Hoh Rainforest. Along the way, you'll encounter towering trees and lush greenery. 

Sol Duc Falls Trail

The Sol Duc Falls Trail leads you to the stunning Sol Duc Falls. Here, cascading water plunges into a picturesque canyon. This trail offers a tranquil and captivating journey through old-growth forests.

Key attractions along these trails include:

  • Spectacular viewpoints 
  • Waterfalls and rivers 
  • Diverse flora and fauna
Sol Duc Falls (photo: Shakti Rajpurohit)
Sol Duc Falls (photo: Shakti Rajpurohit)

2. Scenic Drive

For anyone interested in seeing the natural splendor of Olympic National Park, scenic drives are available. There are some notable road options.

Hurricane Ridge Road

Hurricane Ridge Road leads to the Visitor Center and offers Olympic Mountains vistas, breathtaking landscapes, and wildlife spotting opportunities.

Lake Crescent Highway

This Highway offers access to stunning Lake Crescent, surrounded by lush forests and peaks. Enjoy crystal-clear waters and a picturesque hike at Marymere Falls.

Hoh Rain Forest Drive

The drive leads you into the enchanting Hoh Rainforest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Immerse yourself in the ancient, moss-draped trees. The serene ambiance will captivate you.

Notable features along these drives include:

  • Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. 
  • Marymere Falls 
  • Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center

3. Beaches and Coastal Areas

Rialto Beach at sunset (photo: Zetong Li)
Rialto Beach at sunset (photo: Zetong Li)

This park is home to stunning coastal areas that offer a distinct and mesmerizing experience. The following are three notable beaches to visit.

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach is known for its rugged beauty. It features rocky shores and dramatic sea stacks rising from the Pacific Ocean. Take a stroll along the shoreline. Marvel at the power of the ocean waves crashing against the rugged coastline.

Ruby Beach

This beach is renowned for its impressive sea stacks and intriguing rock formations. Visit the tidal pools to learn more about the unique marine life there. Don't forget to take photos of the mesmerizing sunsets that light up Ruby Beach.

Kalaloch Beach

Kalaloch Beach offers a perfect blend of serenity and natural beauty. Take a peaceful walk along the sandy shoreline, and breathe in the fresh ocean air. Enjoy the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

Activities and sights at the beaches include:

  • Tidepooling and beach combing 
  • Wildlife watching
  • Beach hiking and picnicking

4. Camping and Picnicking

Camp or enjoy a picnic in its picturesque settings. Here are some camping options.


  • Heart O' the Hills Campground is near Hurricane Ridge. It offers stunning mountain views. It provides tent and RV camping options, along with basic amenities.
  • Kalaloch Campground is just by the coast. This campground allows you to camp just steps away from the beach. It offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere for a memorable camping experience.
  • Lush forests surround Sol Duc Campground, conveniently close to the Sol Duc Falls Trail. It provides both tent and RV camping sites.

Picnic areas and facilities

  • Staircase Picnic Area
  • Ozette Picnic Area 

5. Wildlife Viewing

Bald eagle in Olympic National Park (photo: Meg Jerrard)
Bald eagle (photo: Meg Jerrard)

The fauna of the Olympic National Park is quite diverse. Explore the park's vast expanses and witness majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Observe the following remarkable species.

Roosevelt elk – Keep an eye out for these majestic creatures. They can often be seen grazing in meadows or crossing rivers.

Bald eagles – Look to the skies for the iconic bald eagles soaring overhead. They can be spotted near bodies of water, such as Lake Quinault and the park's coastal areas.

Black bears – Although elusive, black bears inhabit various parts of the park. Keep a safe distance and respect their presence if you're lucky enough to spot one.

Best locations for wildlife viewing include:

  • Elwha Valley
  • Quinault Rain Forest 
  • Lake Quinault 

6. Water Activities

Various water-based activities are available in Olympic National Park, allowing visitors to enjoy the park's lakes, rivers, and shoreline. Here are some opportunities for water recreation.

Kayaking and canoeing

Grab a kayak or canoe and explore the tranquil waters of Lake Crescent. Enjoy the calm environment while paddling at your leisure.


You'll find ample fishing opportunities in Olympic National Park if you're an angler. Get general fishing information and permits, and enjoy casting your line into the pristine lakes and rivers.

The fishing brochure can help you get any information regarding fishing regulations. Depending on the season, you can catch species such as trout or salmon.

Boating on Lake Crescent

Rent a boat or bring your own and cruise along the crystal-clear waters of Lake Crescent. Enjoy the surrounding mountain views and a relaxing day on the lake.

Be aware of park rules and get permission before boating and fishing activities. 

The Washington State Parks Boating Programs provide detailed instructions for operating boating.

Olympic National Park prohibits personal watercraft like jet skis and motorized vessels from the Hoh River to Makah Indian Reservation. Lake Crescent and Ozette allow motorized boat towing and water skiing.

7. Visitor Centers and Museums

There are many visitor centers and museums inside the Olympic National Park. They offer insightful information about the park's ecological and cultural history. These are the park's three most prominent informational facilities.

Olympic National Park Visitor Center

This Olympic Park visitor center offers exhibits and resources to help you plan your visit. Learn about the park's history, geology, and wildlife before embarking on your adventure.

Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center

This center is at the top of Hurricane Ridge. It offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Explore the exhibits that highlight the unique ecosystems and wildlife found in the area.

Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center 

This center gathers information about The Hoh Rainforest, a major temperate rainforest in the United States, on the Olympic Peninsula in western Washington.

It stretches over 15 miles (24 kilometers) along the Hoh River, created thousands of years ago by glaciers.

Wilderness Information Center

All wilderness users can find information and trip preparation recommendations here. It includes the most recent trail reports, safety guidance, weather forecasts, and Leave No Trace guidelines.

Exhibits and Educational Programs 

These centers provide a deeper understanding of the park's natural and cultural significance, from interactive displays to informative presentations. These centers offer engaging experiences for visitors of all ages.

8. Mountaineering and Climbing

For experienced climbers seeking a thrilling adventure, Olympic National Park offers opportunities to conquer majestic peaks. Here are some popular spots for climbing in the park.

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus is the highest peak in Olympic National Park. It presents a challenging climb for experienced mountaineers. It requires technical skills and proper equipment to tackle its icy slopes.

The Brothers 

This is a prominent twin-peaked mountain that offers exhilarating climbing routes. The adventure in The Brothers requires experience and knowledge of mountaineering techniques.

Mount Constance

Mount Constance is another popular destination for climbers. It has rugged terrain and steep slopes. It provides an exciting challenge for those seeking an alpine adventure.

Obtaining climbing permits and adhering to safety guidelines when attempting these climbs is essential. Mountaineering in Olympic National Park requires advanced skills and preparation.

9. Hot Springs

The Park is home to natural hot springs. It provides an opportunity for relaxation amidst the wilderness. Here are some notable hot springs in the park.

Sol Duc Hot Springs

This is in the heart of the park, and it features mineral-rich waters perfect for soaking. Enjoy the soothing warmth while surrounded by the lush forest.

Olympic Hot Springs

The Olympic Hot Springs is accessible via a scenic trail. It offers a tranquil setting for a rejuvenating soak. Indulge in the therapeutic qualities of the natural mineral waters.

Soaking options and facilities at the hot springs include:

  • Soaking in hot pools
  • Pools of varying temperatures
  • Changing rooms 

10. Winter Activities

During the colder months, Olympic National Park changes into a winter paradise. And offers a variety of activities for outdoor lovers. You may engage in the following wintertime activities at Olympic National Park.

Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing 

Explore the park's winter trails on snowshoes or cross-country skis. The serene snowy landscapes provide a unique perspective and a peaceful natural experience.

Winter wildlife viewing 

Winter is a great time to observe wildlife in the park. Watch for animals such as elk and deer as they navigate through the snow-covered terrain.

Winter camping and accommodations

Camping is available in designated areas for those seeking a genuinely immersive winter experience. Nearby lodges and cabins provide cozy accommodations. Here, you can enjoy the park's winter beauty.

11. Ranger-Led Programs and Events

Participating in ranger-led programs and events is a fantastic way to enhance your experience in the Park. Here are some popular ranger-led activities.

Guided hikes and nature walks 

Join an experienced ranger on a guided hike or nature walk. Learn about the park's flora, fauna, and geological features from there. Gain insights into the park's ecology and history while exploring its trails.

Campfire programs 

Gather around a campfire with a ranger for entertaining and educational programs. Learn about the park's natural and cultural heritage. Engage in storytelling, music, and interactive activities.

Astronomy programs

Experience the park's night skies by attending astronomy programs. Discover the wonders of the universe and learn about celestial objects and constellations.

Why are the programs important?

Participating in these ranger-led programs provides a deeper understanding of the park's natural wonders. It helps you learn about its cultural significance. It's a chance to connect with experts and fellow park visitors while gaining valuable insights.

12. Photography Opportunities

The spectacular scenery of the Olympic National Park makes it a photographer's dream. Here are some notable sites for beautiful photography.

Crescent Lake 

This lake has picturesque, crystal-clear waters and surrounding mountains. It provides a stunning backdrop for landscape photography. Capture the reflections of the surrounding trees and mountains in the calm waters. 

Sol Duc Falls

The magnificent Sol Duc Falls are nestled in the woods. It is an excellent photographic subject. Capture the flowing water as it travels through the rich flora, creating a lovely setting.

Tips for capturing the best shots

  • Golden hour: Take advantage of the soft, warm light during the golden hour, which occurs during the early morning or late afternoon. This lighting enhances the natural beauty of the park.
  • Composition: Pay attention to composition by using leading lines, framing elements, and the rule of thirds to create visually appealing photographs.
  • Experiment with angles: Try different perspectives and angles. This gives your images more depth and visual intrigue. Get low to the ground or find elevated positions for unique viewpoints.
  • Capture the intricate details of the park's flora, fauna, and textures. Macro photography can reveal a whole new world of beauty.

13. Wilderness Areas

Several wilderness regions in Olympic National Park provide a real backcountry experience. Within the park, there are some important wilderness areas.

Mount Skokomish Wilderness 

Mt. Skokomish Wilderness, located in Mason County, features steep terrain from Lake Cushman to Mt. Stone's summit. It covers 13,291 acres in the Olympic National Forest.

Buckhorn Wilderness 

Situated northeast of Hurricane Ridge. It is a remote and rugged area known for its towering peaks and pristine alpine lakes. It provides opportunities for challenging hikes and backpacking expeditions amidst stunning natural beauty. 

Colonel Bob Wilderness

Colonel Bob Wilderness is in the southwestern part of Olympic National Park. It offers a diversified terrain with old-growth woods, picturesque rivers, and panoramic vistas. It's a popular backpacking and adventure site.

14. Explore the Quinault Rainforest

The Quinault Rainforest is a magical and enchanting part of Olympic National Park. With its lush greenery, moss-draped trees, picturesque waterfalls, and tranquil lakes.

It offers a serene escape into nature's embrace. Here are some key features of the Quinault Rainforest.

Moss-draped trees 

Wander through ancient forests adorned with moss that hangs from the branches. This creates an otherworldly atmosphere. The towering trees and vibrant greenery provide a captivating backdrop for exploration.

Picturesque waterfalls

Discover hidden waterfalls cascading down moss-covered rocks. Popular waterfalls in the area include Merriman Falls, Bunch Falls, and Falls Creek Falls. Capture their beauty and listen to the soothing sounds of rushing water.

Tranquil lakes 

Explore the calm and reflective lakes nestled within the rainforest. There are Lake Quinault and Irely Lake. These peaceful bodies of water offer a serene setting for relaxation and contemplation.

15. Discover Lake Crescent

Olympic National Park is home to the magnificent glacier-carved lake known as Lake Crescent. Its pristine blue waters and surrounding mountains create a captivating landscape.

Here are some key attractions and activities to enjoy at Lake Crescent.


Take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters of Lake Crescent during the summer months. Enjoy the cool water and embrace the picturesque surroundings.


Rent a kayak and explore the tranquil waters of Lake Crescent. Paddle along the shoreline, and marvel at the surrounding mountains.


Glide across the placid surface of the lake in a canoe. Experience the tranquility of the surroundings and take in the breathtaking views of the water.

Other Things to Do in Olympic National Park

Besides the activities mentioned above. Olympic National Park offers a plethora of other interesting things to do.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Birdwatching: Many birds live in the park. Grab a pair of binoculars and explore the various habitats to spot bald eagles, owls, hummingbirds, and more.
  • Stargazing: Because of its isolation and little light pollution. Olympic National Park provides excellent stargazing opportunities. On a clear night, marvel at the twinkling stars and constellations that adorn the dark sky.
  • Attend ranger talks: Join informative ranger talks and presentations. You can learn more about the environmental and cultural history of the park. These engaging sessions provide. fascinating insights into the park's ecosystems, wildlife, geology, and conservation efforts.
  • Backpacking and overnight camping: For those seeking a multi-day adventure, backpacking through the park's backcountry is an exhilarating experience. Set up camp in designated wilderness areas and wake up to the sounds of nature surrounding you.
  • Nature observation and meditation: Take a moment to connect with the natural world. Engage in mindful observation or meditation. Find a peaceful spot, and let the sights, sounds, and scents of the park envelop you. You'll enjoy a sense of tranquility and inner calm.
  • Learn about Native American culture: Olympic National Park is rich in Native American history and culture. Take the opportunity to learn about the Indigenous peoples who have inhabited these lands for thousands of years. Visit cultural heritage sites and learn about their myths and customs.

When organizing a vacation, online travel resources can be of tremendous help. They provide a multitude of services and information to help you make well-informed decisions regarding your travel plans. 


Olympic National Park in Washington provides various activities and attractions for nature enthusiasts, adventurers, and those seeking tranquility.

It offers diverse trails, breathtaking vistas, wildlife encounters, and natural wonders. The park's stunning landscapes, ancient forests, pristine lakes, and rugged coastline create a magical experience for nature lovers.

Visitors can discover and connect with nature by visiting the park, escaping daily life, and finding solace in the wilderness.

Pack your hiking boots, bring a camera, and embark on an unforgettable adventure in Olympic National Park, making lifelong memories.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:


Tuesday 1st of August 2023

Those all sound amazing, but visitors should be warned that the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center burned to the ground this spring and due to limited services entry to Hurricane Ridge Road is limited to the first 345 cars each day.

Dave Lee

Thursday 3rd of August 2023

Thank you for the update!

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