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).