47.8021° N, 123.6044° W
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK IS PRETTY DARN BIG - AND DIVERSE. SO IT CAN BE OVERWHELMING TO PLAN AN ITINERARY TO SUCH AN AMAZING PLACE. LUCKILY, WE HAVE DONE A LOT OF THE TOUGH WORK FOR YOU. BELOW ARE FOUR POSSIBLE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK TRAVEL ITINERARIES YOU CAN TOTALLY STEAL.
Olympic National Park is pretty darn big (it is over 1,400 square miles in size) and of that, nearly 95% of it is considered "wilderness". Because of how rugged the park is, there are no roads that cross it completely. Instead, you have to somewhat circumnavigate it - mostly via Highway 101. If you are looking to head into the interior, then you will either have to drive up Hurricane Ridge Road or hike along one of the many long-distance trails.
But it isn't just the size that makes Olympic National Park so hard to see. What really makes it tough is how diverse it is. Within the national park you have high snowy mountains, lush temperate rain forests and over 70 miles of rugged Pacific coastline. That's is a lot to see. So it really is no wonder that it can be tough to plan the perfect travel itinerary.
Luckily, we have visited this stunning national park a good number of times and have explored almost all of the main areas. Below you will find four Olympic National Park travel itineraries that are based on where you want to explore and how much time you have. This includes a couple of 1 day itineraries, and also a 2 day, 3 day and even a 4+ day adventure itinerary. Hopefully, these travel itineraries hope you plan the perfect adventure in this stunning Pacific Northwest national park!
► You can find even more information on the national park in our comprehensive Olympic National Park Adventure Guide!
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK MAP
4 PERFECT OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK TRAVEL ITINERARIES
We suggest that if you are short on time (have only a couple of hours) then you should definitely try to focus on just one area of the park instead of the whole park. Below are six adventure-filled travel itineraries for Olympic National Park; including, a couple of 1 Day itineraries (based on the area you want to explore), a 2 Day, 3 Day and even a 4+ Day itinerary if you happen to be lucky enough to have that much time to spend in Olympic National Park :).
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK 1 DAY ITINERARY
If you only have one day in Olympic National Park then we definitely recommend narrowing down your travel itinerary to just one specific area. While it is possible to visit multiple sections of the park in one day, due to the distances between them, it will likely seem more like you are spending time just in your car driving than actually out in the national park exploring.
ONE DAY IN THE MOUNTAINS
Hurricane Ridge is a fantastic place to head to if you want to spend a day exploring the high mountains of Olympic National Park. The drive up to Hurricane Ridge takes about 30 minutes if coming directly from Port Angeles. Along the drive, you can stop off at a couple of viewpoints and hiking trails. Once at the top, wander around the main base area and spend a bit of time in the lovely visitor center.
After that, consider heading out for a longer hike. Some of the most popular trails nearby include the Klahhane Ridge Trail (3.8, one-way), Hurricane Hill (1.6 miles, one-way), Wolf Creek (8 miles one-way, all downhill) and the 6-mile one-way trail down to the Elwha Valley and Ranger Station (where you can then hike out to Highway 101).
If you get your fill of Hurricane Ridge and still have some time left over, then consider checking out the stunning Lake Crescent and hiking out to Marymere Falls (which are both roughly an hour away) or visiting the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, which is around 1.5 hours away (there are also a lot of great hiking trails nearby).
ONE DAY IN THE RAINFOREST
If you instead want to explore the stunning temperate rainforest - one of the last remaining examples of this biome in North America - then we suggest driving just over 2 hours from Port Angeles to the Hoh Rainforest. Here you can check out the visitor center (check hours ahead of time), walk along the two nature trails - the Hall of Mosses Trail and the Spruce Nature Trail - or head out for a full day of adventure on the 18+ mile long Hoh River Trail.
Nearby, you can also check out the Bogachiel Rainforest (25 miles / 40 minutes away), or drive further south to the equally stunning Quinault Rainforest and Lake Quinault (72 miles / 1.5 hours away).
ONE DAY ON THE COAST
Finally, you can choose to spend your one day in Olympic National Park on the rugged Pacific Coast. The best beaches to head to will likely be Rialto Beach near the town of La Push, or Ruby and Kalaloch Beaches down near Oil City. Both areas will have plenty to offer the adventurous visitor, from just walking along the beach looking for marine life (seals, otters and whales are relatively common) to birdwatching to tidepooling in the numerous little rainbow pockets left behind once the ocean water recedes.
It takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach Rialto Beach from Port Angeles, and just under 2 hours to reach Ruby Beach (and another 10 minutes to reach Kalaloch).
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK 2 DAY ITINERARY
If you have two days to explore Olympic National Park, then we suggest splitting your days between the mountains - where you can head out on numerous hikes - and the rainforest and coast.
On Day 1, head either up to the Hurricane Ridge area to do some high mountain exploring (see above for ideas on how to fill your time) or down to the beautiful Sol Duc Valley where you can head deeper into the heart of the mountains and explore some amazing alpine lakes.
Some of the top hikes in the Sol Duc Valley and surrounding areas are:
| Lovers Lane Loop // 5.8 miles round-trip, only 480 feet of elevation gain; the trail follows the Sol Duc River out to Sol Duc Falls.
| Sol Duc River Trail // 17 miles round-trip, 3,200 feet of elevation gain; this is one of the most beloved hikes in the whole national park - and for good reason. It takes you through lovely old growth forests and along the mighty Sol Duc River all the way to various high alpine meadows (where wildlife is commonly spotted). Due to its popularity, backcountry camping permits are required and a quota is enforced.
| High Divide Trail // 9.63 miles round-trip, 5,111 feet of elevation gain; this challenging hike takes you up into the high mountains where you will find alpine lakes and stunning mountain views (on a clear day of course). This trail is part of the longer Seven Lakes Basin Trail, a popular backpacking route.
Other popular areas to explore nearby are the Mount Storm King/Marymere Falls area, Lake Crescent itself and the Elwha Valley (which includes the Olympic Hot Springs).
On Day 2, get up early and drive out to the coast for a morning of wildlife watching and tidepooling (you can check tides here). If you are hoping to spot migrating whales, then your best chance will be to visit Neah Bay and Shi Shi Beach (up on the northern section of the coast), Rialto Beach and La Push (closer to Forks, Washington) and Kalaloch and South Beach (this is also a great spot to watch sea otters). The best time of year for whale watching along the Pacific Coast will be between March and May (with May being the unofficial "Whale Watching Month").
➳ If you would like to head out on a whale watching tour, then your best bet is to head to Port Townsend where you will find numerous tour operators. Or you can head a bit further north and hop on a tour through Orca Spirit Adventures Whale Watching, which is located in Port Renfrew, British Columbia (Canada). You can check out their whale-focused adventure tour for yourself here.
Other popular activities along the coast include bird watching (bald eagles are commonly seen) or just hiking along the beaches (there is even a designated Coastal Trail that stretches along the whole Olympic National Park coastline). Once you get your fill of the coast, head inland to the numerous Olympic National Park temperate rainforests - including the Hoh Rainforest and the Quinault Rainforest.
Both areas offer opportunities to stretch your legs on various hiking trails, learn about the temperate rainforest biome, and even spend the night under the dense green forest canopy.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK 3 DAY ITINERARY
If you have more than two days to spend in Olympic National Park then definitely consider putting aside a day to explore some of the more off the beaten path destinations. This includes such hidden gems as the Staircase area (which is located in the far southeast corner of the national park), the forested Quinault Valley (where you can hike through lush temperate rainforests and then up into alpine mountain meadows, including to the famous Enchanted Valley) or out to Deer Park, which - though quite close to Port Angeles - is often quite quiet (though still stunning).
With three days put aside to visit the park, you can really get a deeper understanding of what makes Olympic National Park so amazing. Definitely still try to visit each of the three areas (the mountains, rain forest and coast) - either on their own individual day, or by combining them (of course the first option is more recommended).
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK 4+ DAY ITINERARY
If you somehow have the time to spend 4 full days in Olympic National Park (lucky you!) then definitely try to plan a trip into the marvelous and rugged backcountry. There are a ton of options for backpacking in the park - from the more popular Seven Lakes Basin area to the more off the beaten path trails in the higher alpine meadows (there are plenty of ways to combine routes to form loops too).
Just know that you will first need to get a Wilderness Permit before setting out on the trail, and, depending on where you plan on going, you might also need to reserve a campsite (quotas exist in the popular areas). If you have any questions about backpacking and spending time in the backcountry of Olympic National Park, then definitely stop in at the Wilderness Information Center at the main Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles. The rangers will help answer all of your questions and even help you figure out the right route to head out on.
These six Olympic National Park travel itineraries will hopefully help you plan out the perfect adventure to this wonderful national park. With so much to see and do, we totally understand how it can be overwhelming to figure out how best to spend your time (don't worry we've been there).
If you have any questions about these travel itineraries - or Olympic National Park in general - then please leave a comment or question below, or reach out to us directly.
EVEN MORE HELPFUL OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK PLANNING INFORMATION
\\ Where to Stay in Olympic National Park
You have a couple of options when it comes to deciding where you want to base yourself when exploring Olympic National Park. The closest major towns with lodging options are going to be Port Angeles (the largest town on the entire Olympic Peninsula), Sequim, Forks and Port Townsend.
If you are looking to explore the rainforests and the coast, then Forks is probably your best bet. While if you are looking to check out the mountains and Lake Crescent, then Port Angeles and Sequim are great options. Port Townsend is not as close to the national park, but it is one of the cutest and most tourist-centric towns on the Olympic Peninsula. So if you want to combine your trip to the national park with a bit of luxury and history, then this could be a great spot to stay.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK HOTELS AND LODGING
LODGING INSIDE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
There are four options for lodging within the national park: the Kalaloch Lodge, the Lake Crescent Lodge, the Log Cabin Resort and the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. Of the four, only Kalaloch Lodge is open year-round (the other three are open all summer and part of spring and fall).
Each spot comes with its own perks, from having kayak rentals to easy access to hot springs, it totally depends on what kind of trip you want to have. No matter which one you choose, it is smart to plan ahead and make your reservation far in advance. You can do that for all four of them here.
LODGING OUTSIDE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
If you want to instead book a spot outside of the national park, then your best option will be in either the town of Port Angles (which is the closest major town to a lot of the top adventure destinations) or in Forks.
Below are a couple of awesome options to consider when booking a spot near Olympic National Park.
| Sea Cliff Gardens Bed and Breakfast: this cozy and romantic BnB is located just outside of Port Angeles along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It includes a hot tub, water views, free breakfast and immaculate gardens. BOOK YOUR STAY.
| Juan de Fuca Cottages: another unique lodging option near Olympic National Park is this quaint spot that offers amazing views of the Dungeness Spit, the New Dungeness Lighthouse, Hurricane Ridge, the Olympic Mountains, and even Victoria, British Columbia. Plus, this locally owned spot has also been recognized for its eco-conscious ways. BOOK YOUR STAY.
| All View Motel: if you just want a simple spot to spend the night in Port Angeles, then this motel should definitely do the trick. Located right off Highway 101 and only a mile from the main park visitor center, this is a really good option for basecamp - especially if you want to spend a couple of days exploring the mountains and other parts of Olympic National Park. BOOK YOUR STAY.
| Hoh Valley Cabins: located along the same road out to the Hoh Rainforest region of the national park, this quaint resort is super well located for both exploring the rain forest and the coast (it is only 50 minutes from Rialto Beach). There is free parking and a cute café nearby. The cabins are roughly 30 minutes from downtown Forks. BOOK YOUR STAY.
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK CAMPING
If you want to instead live it up a bit more ruggedly, then definitely consider getting a campsite either in the national park (there are a lot of campgrounds to choose from) or in one of the nearby towns. Just remember, if you are planning to camp in Olympic National Park in the summer, definitely get a reservation ahead of time (if possible) or try to show up early to snag a first come, first served spot.
CAMPING INSIDE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
There are 13 campgrounds spread around Olympic National Park. Of the 13, four of them require reservations during the busy summer season (Fairholme, Hoh Rainforest, Mora and Kalaloch). A few other important things to note about camping in Olympic National Park is that there are no showers available at any of the campgrounds. Likewise, none of the campgrounds are equipped with electrical hook-ups. If you need either, your best bet is to reserve a spot at the Log Cabin Resort RV and Campground.
You can learn more about the 13 campgrounds - including how many sites there are, where they are located, their seasonal openings and what amenities they include, at the Olympic National Park Camping page. Likewise, below are some recommended campgrounds to get a spot in for specific adventures.
| Hiking up in the high mountains --> Heart O' the Hills Campground; $24 /night, open year-round and no reservations are required. Or consider Deer Park for a more off the beaten path camping location.
| Exploring the rain forests --> Hoh Rainforest Campground; $24 /night, open year-round and reservations are required.
| Awesome coastal access --> Mora Campground (only 2 miles from Rialto Beach); $24 /night, open year-round and reservations are required. Or consider South Beach Campground farther south ($20 /night, open in the summer and no reservations are required).
| Quiet and off the beaten path --> Queets Campground, which is located along the Queets River ($15 /night, open year-round and no reservations are required) OR the North Fork Campground, which is located above Lake Quinault and only has 9 sites ($20 /night, open year-round and no reservations are required).
BACKPACKING IN OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
If you are interested in backpacking in Olympic National Park, then you will first need to get your backpacking and wilderness permit. You MUST do this ahead of time and online (you can no longer get it in person). You can get your backpacking and wilderness permit here. If you are unsure of where you want to go backpacking in Olympic National Park, then we highly recommend first stopping by the Wilderness Information Center, which is located in the main park visitor center in Port Angeles. They have a ton of useful information and can help you narrow down where you want to go and help you figure out what safety measures to take. If you are just looking at possible wilderness routes within the park, then we suggest checking out this Wilderness Camping Map.
You can learn more about backpacking in Olympic National Park here.
CAMPING OUTSIDE OF OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
There is a KOA campground located on the outskirts of Port Angeles near Sequim. This KOA includes plenty of RV sites, tent sites and a couple of cabins. Similarly, it also includes hook-ups for RVs, a pool (open in the summer), social events, bike rentals, a dog park and wi-fi.
You can learn more about the campground and make your reservation here.
VAN LIFING NEAR OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
If you are hoping to van life near Olympic National Park, then your best bet for finding free boondocking sites is going to be up on one of the many forest roads. This includes dirt roads close to Lake Crescent (especially on the north and east side), Lake Quinault and down south near the town of Skykomish.
Remember to always follow Leave No Trace Principles when van lifing and to only camp in legal areas (like in National Forests). We always use the apps iOverlander and FreeRoam when searching for places to camp.
\\ What to Bring With You to Olympic National Park
Because it rains a lot in Olympic National Park - especially in the temperate rain forests (like Hoh and Quinault), you will want to come prepared with plenty of rainy weather clothing. We recommend at the very least a good wicking jacket that is light and breathable as well as some hiking boots that easily repel water.
Below are some more of our favorite outdoor gear.
You will want to wear a pair of sturdy boots that can handle all kinds of terrain: from steep rocky scree fields to slick river crossings to just miles upon miles of trail pounding. These hiking boots by Vasque seem to be a jack of all trades and therefore should be able to handle whatever the trail throws at you. Recommended hiking boots.
Another good option is these Columbia Newton Ridge Plus hiking boots. They have a nice durable sole, plenty of ankle support and are super water-repellent. Recommended waterproof hiking boot.
These socks can easily go from hitting the forest or coastal trails to hanging out at basecamp due to their moisture-wicking properties and slightly elastic stretch. Plus, they are made partially of recycled materials - meaning they are good for you and the planet. Recommended hiking socks from Smartwool.
MOISTURE-WICKING SUN SHIRT
No matter what month you are planning to hike in Olympic National Park (including even during the cloudy winter season), you will want to wear a nice lightweight long-sleeved shirt on the trail. This one by Backcountry works great as your base layer for it is lightweight and breathable enough for those hotter days but also insulated enough to be great under a warmer rain jacket during those (common) wetter days. Recommended long-sleeve shirt.
This lightweight fleece jacket works great as both a mid-layer for winter hiking adventures or as a solo jacket once the season starts to warm up. Plus, the raglan-style sleeves provide seam-free comfort when you are carrying a backpack - no matter the size or weight. Finally, the fleece jacket is made of recycled fabrics and is Bluesign approved (its sewing was also Fair Trade Certified). Recommended hiking jacket.
While a nice cozy jacket will help keep you nice and warm on those chilly mornings or late-season days, usually the best jacket to have with you while hiking - especially in Olympic National Park where rain is always possible - is an easy-to-pack rain jacket. This one by Patagonia checks all of the boxes: it is super lightweight and can pack down into its own little pouch, it has underarm zips that let you vent air even when hiking, it has an adjustable elastic draw cord hem that allows fine-tuning for the perfect fit, and finally, it is also Bluesign approved and its sewing is Fair Trade Certified. Recommended rain jacket.
When it's a nice warm day, we usually reach for some easy, breathable, and comfortable shorts. This pair by Mountain Hardwear is simple but gets the job done. Plus, they are made of a nice breathable ripstop fabric that resists wear and tear (even when hiking through dense rainforests) and has nice hand and thigh pockets that allow you to stash small essentials like snacks, your phone and some Chapstick. Recommended hiking shorts.
Or you might instead gravitate towards wearing hiking pants while exploring Olympic National Park (definitely not a bad idea). We personally tend to veer more towards wearing light pants while hiking unless it is absolutely scorching out - just for the sun protection and less likelihood of getting scratches and cuts from plants. These pants by Black Diamond are durable enough for all kinds of trails, including trails in the high mountains, in the dense forests and along the rocky Pacific coast. Recommended hiking pants here.
Even if it isn't exactly "sunny" out, you can still get burned - especially at higher elevations. Therefore it is still important to give your skin that extra bit of protection - especially your shoulders, feet and hands. These sunscreens not only protect you against the sun but are also environmentally safe.
A handy headlamp is a true adventure necessity. We tend to have about 5 headlamps scattered around our van and bags just in case we lose one or the batteries die (which somehow happens quite often...). This headlamp by Black Diamond is a personal favorite because it is relatively affordable, it has multiple light settings and it is rechargeable. Recommended headlamp.
HIKING DAY PACK
By far one of the most important items in your hiking repertoire is going to be your backpack. Because you will be carrying this bag all day on the trail - including sometimes up and down some steep and sketchy sections - you will want to make sure it is really comfortable. This bag by Osprey holds 24 liters of gear, while still having plenty of straps to allow it to fit perfectly to your body. Plus, it is made of a nice durable nylon construction that can withstand tons of trail abuse. It also has a specific place to attach your trekking poles or ice ax - which will help you free up your hands when out adventuring. Recommended day pack.
For longer trips on the trails - including adventures that last multiple days at a time - you will want a bag that not only carries all of your gear but is also comfortable to wear for hours and miles on end. This large 65-liter backpacking bag also by Osprey does just that. Its anti-gravity suspension is well-ventilated and has plenty of cushions, while its shoulder straps adjust up and down the back panel for a totally custom fit. The bag also comes with a built-in sleeve for a 3-liter hydration bladder and bottom straps for securing a sleeping pad. Recommended backpacking bag.
One of the best ways to cut back on your hiking load is to bring along a water filter and just filter water as you hike. This is especially true in places as wet as Olympic National Park. This super easy one by Grayl combines a water filter inside an actual water bottle - meaning less gear to carry and less time actually filtering. A true win-win. Recommended water filter.
Or if you want to get an actual water filter system that allows you to filter lots of water at once, we recommend a top-notch Katadyn water filter. This filter has been our go-to for all hiking and backpacking adventures for years. Plus, it takes up very little space in your bag, is easy to clean and works pretty darn fast. Recommended Katadyn water filter.
HIKING FIRST AID KIT
This is one of those items that you don't realize you need until it is too late. Luckily, this lightweight pack comes with (almost) everything you could need if an accident does unfortunately occur on the trail. Recommended hiking first aid kit.
We personally have never been the type of hikers to use trekking poles but we have friends who absolutely swear by them. This set by Black Diamond can handle all kinds of terrain, are super lightweight and pack down small enough to be stored easily on the side of your backpack. Recommended trekking poles.
Once you make it back to your basecamp (your car, your tent, your house) make sure to take off those boots, stretch out your arches and let your feet breathe. Seriously, this might be one of the best feelings ever. After you do that, slip on a pair of these comfortable Teva sandals (we won’t judge if you add socks too). Recommended post-hike sandals.
POST-HIKE COZY SHIRT
Likewise, there are few things nicer than taking off your sweaty shirt and putting on a nice cozy (clean) one after a long hike. This one by the Parks Project is made of a nice soft cotton fabric and is cut in a fun vintage style. Recommend post-hike shirt.
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