Olympic National Park, Washington

It’s hard to believe that this was our first visit to Olympic National Park even though we spend a lot of time in the Pacific Northwest—David is a native Oregonian and I went to a college in Oregon. But that’s sometimes how things go.

With its main features including glaciated peaks, temperate rain forests, and wild coastline, Olympic National Park is by far the most diverse U.S. national park we have visited. The park is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Despite being less than 3-hour drive from the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area, the park seems quite remote, particularly when you head away from the Port Angeles area. 

Olympic National Park is a big park. If you want to visit several parts of the park (and you should), it’s best to find accommodation in different areas to avoid hours and hours of driving. Since there is no road that goes through the park, all the park interior is accessed from Hwy 101. We spent nine days on the Olympic Peninsula splitting our base between Salt Creek Recreation Area campground outside of Port Angeles and Quileute Oceanside Resort in La Push.

Hurricane Ridge

The first few days after arriving on the Olympic Peninsula, there was smoke from forest fires in the area. Fortunately, the day we drove up the Hurricane Ridge Road the smoke stayed pretty much at lower elevation and in valleys. The air at the Hurricane Ridge was clear and the sky was blue. A lovely day to enjoy the mountain

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A panoramic view from the Hurricane Ridge with glaciated mountains in the background
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We walked by her while she was enjoying her snacks on the trail. We had to wait until she decided to move on before continuing our walk.
From Hurricane Ridge, we drove to Obstruction Point. Obstruction Point Road is an 8-mile, well-maintained unpaved road. It’s narrow in some spots and goes along some vertigo-inducing drop-off. It’s not suitable for RVs and trailers.
View from the Obstruction Point Road
Another picture of Ren on the Obstruction Point Road
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There was a little bit of snow left on the mountains in late August.
Above the cloud. The east side of the Obstruction Point Road

Hoh Rain Forest

Having lived in Oregon, we have seen plenty of temperate rain forest along Oregon’s coastal range. But we wanted to check out the west side of the park’s interior anyhow. There are a few short nature trails that start from the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. The loop trails go through old-growth firs, cedars, and hemlocks. Even in late summer, the forest was quite lush with ferns and mosses. It was an enjoyable walk.

The sunlight illuminating underwater plants
Trees growing on a decomposing nurse log
The forest floor is covered with ferns, lots of ferns.
Dramatic draperies of clubmoss on maple trees on Hall of Mosses Trail
Shelf fungi
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The forest was beautiful in the afternoon light.
The forest trail in Hoh Rain Forest was sublime, but photographing it was challenging.

The Coast

There are over 70 miles of remote coastlines in Olympic National Park. We spent several days in the town of La Push inside the Quileute Indian Reservation. From there, it’s easy access to several beaches—First Beach (in La Push), Rialto Beach, Second Beach, and Third Beach.

If you’re not familiar with beaches in the Pacific Northwest, these are not the places where you go sunbathing. It’s a put-on-your-jacket-and-go-explore-rock-and-tide-pool kind of places. So, come prepare even in the middle of the summer.

Rialto Beach on a foggy day
Rocks and pebbles on Rialto Beach
Interesting tree on the trail to Second Beach
Trail descending to Second Beach
Huge driftwoods on Second Beach
Kelp’s bladder on the beach
Second Beach
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A beached jellyfish. David took it back to the ocean afterward.
This guy wasn’t so lucky.

Salt Creek Recreation Area

For the visit to the northern part of the national park, we camped at Salt Creek Recreation Area, about 20-minute drive from Port Angeles. From the campground, it’s an easy walk to Tongue Point where you can explore tide pools.

Salt Creek Recreation Area, Washington
Tongue Point

La Push

La Push is a small beachside town in the Quileute Indian Reservation. There aren’t much services in terms of gas and grocery. However, the town of Forks on Hwy 101 has most services you would need while on this side of the peninsula. We stayed at Quileute Oceanside Resort. It was foggy most days that we were there. Luckily, on our last evening the fog lifted enough for a spectacular sunset we had been missing.

Enormous roots of a driftwood on First Beach
Gorgeous sunset in La Push

12 thoughts on “Olympic National Park, Washington

  1. Looks like a great place to visit, I’ve never spent any significant time in Washington. Been through Oregon and up to Vancouver, and through BC and Alberta… never Washington state (other than Seattle). Gives me an idea! 😉 Thanks, guys!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful sunset photo!

    I’ve been to Hurricane Ridge but it was cloudy and there was still snow blocking the road, so I had no clue it looked like that! Guess I need to go back so I can experience some actual views up there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t have much expectation about the Hurricane Ridge based on pictures I had seen before the visit. Pictures are not good at capture the awe-inspiring scenes like that. I wish we had more time hiking and exploring around the Obstruction Point Area.

      Liked by 1 person

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