Olympic National Park

  • Olympic National Park  - © Jason Pratt flickr user
  • Dramatic Sunset at Second Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington  - © myheimu flickr user
  • © daveynin flickr user
  • High Divide Overlook - ©  daveynin flickr user
  • Lake Crescent - Olympic National Park  - © Dave Lichterman flickr user
  • Second Beach, Olympic National Park  - © Esther Lee flickr user
  • Lake Crescent  - © Scott Smithson flickr user
  • Mount Olympus in the Olympic National Park  - © Frank Kovalchek flickr user

Key information: Olympic National Park

  • This is the largest coastal wilderness in the lower 48 states, with commensurately superb walking on the coast in forested valleys and in the eastern high country.
  • The area is popular, and fragile, so take care. But, with over 600 miles of trail, you can get out on your own.
  • Huge rainfall creates superb temperature rainforest and low-altitude glaciers. Bring a waterproof!
  • A big selection of day hikes as well as multi-dayers.
  • This can be tough walking in remote mountains, on which you will have to be self-sufficient and the weather is often bad here. Come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating80
  • Beauty33
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest0
  • Charisma32
  • Negative points2
  • Total rating80
  • Note: Neg: likely bad weather; heavy loads to carry

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Your choice
  • Maximum Altitude: 7,829ft
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable

This walk description page is at an early stage of development, and will be expanded over time. Your comments on this walk, your experiences and tips, and your photos are very welcome.

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Dramatic Sunset at Second Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington  - © myheimu flickr user

WALK SUMMARY

The fascinating World's Most Amazing Places, a compendium of World Heritage Sites, says:

"Renowned for the diversity of its ecosystems, Olympic National Park contains glacier-clad peaks interspersed with alpine meadows surrounded by temperate rainforest. The park is divided into two segments: a mountainous core and a separate coastal strip. The mountains contain about sixty active glaciers; the area is unique because it is the lowest latitude in the world at which glaciers begin, at an elevation lower than 2,000m. The 80-km coastal strip of wilderness beach is characterized by rocky headlands and a wealth of intertidal life, and the arches, caves and buttresses are evidence of the continuous battering of the waves."

This is the largest coastal wilderness in the lower 48 states, and has commensurately superb coastal and other walking.

While the eastern high country reaches a 'mere' 7,829ft at Mount Olympus, it is magnificant landscape which beckons the walker.

The area is popular, and fragile, so take care. But, with over 600 miles of trail, you can get out on your own.

One reason for the low-altitude glaciers is the huge rainfall, said to be 14ft a year in the Hoh Rainforest. Bring a waterproof!

Animals to look out for include huge Roosevelt elk-watch; salmon leaping in the Autumn. 

Coastal:

-          Shipwreck Coast: astounding Olympic Peninsula coastline, and still very wild in all senses ̶  wild pounding sea, wildlife, wild weather. Fantastic tidal pools. Walk the North Coast Trail from Rialto Beach to Lake Ozette Ranger Station (20 miles multi-day), then on another 15 miles to Shi Shi Beach. You can get a shuttle back 

-           Second Beach, south of Rialto Beach. 1km a so to a dramatic beach, with sea caves, stacks and arches as well as wild sea seals and bald eagles. And possibly grey whales. Nearby (but not conjoining) is also lovely Third Beach, 1.2 miles from the roadhead.

-          Olympic Discovery Trail: This 193 km trail-in-the-making (60km+ finished as of 2015) traverses the northern flank of the Olympic NP, starting in the north-east and parralleling the Juan de Fuca sound before heading into the hills to make the crossing (currently on road) to the wild west coast. It is an easy hike through very varied, lovely and interesting landscape. Good beach stretch, fine distant mountain views. It is easy to have several day walks here.

Valley and Forest:

-          The Hoh River Trail runs near the eponymous river, through the heart of the superb Hoh Rainforest on the western side of the park, among huge and ancient maple, spruce, Douglas fir and hemlock and giant ferns. Just under 9km round trip, or you can continue on to Glacier Meadows. A place further on is claimed to be the quietest spot in the U.S. Hmm.

-          Quinault River Valley: another western valley with huge and ancient rainforest making for fascinating and inspiring walking. Suggestions welcome! 

-          Queets River Valley: another western valley with huge and ancient rainforest making for fascinating and inspiring walking. The Queets River Trail is a 25.5km hike into fantastically pristine landscape. Not hard, except that a waist-deep fording of the big Queets River will be needed (beware getting stuck the wrong side by rising water levels!) Camping only.

-          Bogachiel River Valley: another western valley with huge and ancient rainforest making for fascinating and inspiring walking. The Bogachiel Trail follows the rivers up into the high range, where you have a choice of linking to the Sol Duc or Hoh Valleys.

-          Sol Duc River Valley: another western valley with huge and ancient rainforest making for interesting and inspiring walking. Can be combined with the Hoh River for a superb hike into the heart of the wilderness, taking in Deer Lake, Bogachiel Peak and Hoh Lake, then back out through the Hoh Rainforest. There are good shorter hikes (see the page), as well as longer trails, both lower-level valley walks and The High Divide Loop.

-          Lake Crescent area: Good walking in the area of this deep and beautiful glacially-scoured lake near(ish) to Port Angeles. The Spruce Railroad Trail follows an old lakeside railway, so it is easy walking. The Pyramid Mountain Trail and Barnes Creek Trail (to Marymere Falls) are also worth looking at.

Mountains: The high country has some amazing walks, and you can climb Mount Olympus itself.

-The High Divide Loop is a very good 2-3 day tramp across higher ground in the north-west of the Olympic NP, The Seven Lakes Basin, with superb views when (!) the weather is good. See more information here. This, joined with a valley walk such as Sol Duc, would be Walkopedia's back-country choice.

Fifty Places to Hike before you Die has a lovely chapter on the Olympic NP.

Getting there is tortuous: long drives or air shuttle to Sea Tac (still 3 hour drive away from Seatle.

With huge rainfall, prepare for bad weather. July, August  and September are the best months.

Few places to stay, and camping is your only option once out on the trails.

Good websites for further reading include:

http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/queets-river-trail.htm

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/second-beach

http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/east-fork-quinault-river-trail.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinault_River

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shipwreck_Coast

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/hoh-river

http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/hoh-river-trail.htm

http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/visiting-the-sol-duc-valley.htm

Have a look at the dreaded TripAdvisor . You should get current views on this walk/area.

This page is at an early stage of development. Please help us by recommending your best walks/making suggestions and sending photos! Thank you!

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

Lake Crescent  - © Scott Smithson flickr user

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Second Beach, Olympic National Park  - © Esther Lee flickr user ...
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