Olympic National Park

Washington, United States North America icon North America

Olympic National Park is located in the western part of the United States in the northwestern part of the state of Washington. It is located on the Olympic Peninsula along the pacific coast. The park boundaries encompass an area of 1,441.6 square miles (3,733.8 sq km).

The park offers visitors three unique ecosystems through four distinct regions of the national park. The park features the Pacific coastline, alpine areas, temperate rainforest, and drier forests.

The coastal region of Olympic stretches a distance of 60 miles (97 km), however, it is only a few miles deep. The beach terrain changes from sandy to wilderness to areas covered in rocks and boulders. Hiking the area is challenging because of slippery footing, vegetation, and rain forest weather.

The driftwood, sea stack boulders, forested and rugged coastline is quite picturesque. It offers photographers and artists a myriad of inspirational scenes.

The alpine areas are captivated through the Olympic Mountains toward the center of the national park. Hurricane Ridge is one of the most aesthetically majestic views of mountains. The Olympic range and mountain ridges are usually snow-capped and topped with large glaciers.  

The national park is not part of the Cascade Range which gives way to neighboring Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park.  It is common to visit two if not all three of these parks during a visit to Washington.

Mount Olympus reaches a summit of 7,965 feet (2,428 m). Hoh Glacier measuring 3.06 miles (4.93 km) is the largest of several glaciers atop Mount Olympus. The range away from the coastal side experiences less rain and becomes drier and displays rugged ridges. Mount Deception at 7,788 feet (2,374 m) is the highest peak in this part of the mountains.

The temperate rainforest is located in the western side of the national park, but inland from the coastal region. Hoh Rainforest and Quinault Rainforest account for this region and collectively get about 150 inches (380 cm) of rain a year.

Hoh and Quinault Rainforests are different from the traditional rainforest comprised of coniferous trees. These trees include Coast Douglas-fir, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, and Western redcedar. Almost every tree is covered in some type of moss.

Wildlife includes many beloved species from the cute and cuddly to larger mammals and an abundance of predator species. The fun small wildlife includes chipmunks, muskrat, river otters, skunks, snowshoe hares, squirrel, and weasels.

Larger mammals include black-tailed deer, elk, and mountain goats on the land side with dolphins, seals, sea lions, sea otters, whales on and along the coastal part of the park. Predators include black bear, bobcat, cougar, fox, and lynx. There is a large variety of bird species occupying the different parts of the park.

Olympic Highlights

The peninsula creates a variety of unique landscapes and ecosystems that make up the Olympic National Park. This makes the park a highlight for those who want to experience a variety all in one outing.

Without question taking the drive-through Hurricane Ridge and capturing the various views of the majestic snow-capped and glacier topped mountains is a must. The Hoh Rainforest is also one of the most intriguing encounters with nature. It is imperative that you like the natural colors of green because the abundance of rain has created one of the greenest places on earth.

The tranquil trails through the Hoh Rainforest are truly the best way to turn off the world and escape back in time. The towering trees, fields of ferns, nurse trees, and abundance of mosses create the epitome of serenity in nature.

Trails in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park has at least 175 different trails that allow visitors to hike and explore the rainforest, the mountains, and the varied ecosystems in the park.  The trails range from short to long and from easy to difficult providing something for everyone.

Hoh Rain Forest Hall of Moss: This trail is an easy 1.1-mile (1.77 km) loop trail that circles around the Hoh Rainforest with an abundance of ferns, green moss, and spectacular trees.  An early morning visit as the sun begins to pierce through the trees is one of the best times to explore. There are chances to see wildlife but the endless shades of green are the highlight of the endeavor.

Sol Duc Falls Nature Trail: This is an easy 1.6-mile (2.57 km) trail that meanders through the rainforest, along the cascading river, and features a view of a waterfall.  There are chances to see wildlife, wildflowers, wilderness, and waterfalls.  This is an incredibly serene hike through rainforest paradise.

Ruby Beach Trail: This is an easy trail along the coastal part of Olympic. This 1.4-mile (2.25 km) loop trail provides picturesque views of the coastal landscape which includes rock formations, a rugged coastline, driftwood, forests that meet the sandy beach, and blue skies.

Hurricane Hill Trail: This is a 3.1 mile (4.99 km) trail that ascends 797 feet (242.9 m) while providing panoramic views of Hurrican Ridge and the surrounding Olympic mountains. The trail is rated moderate but the views are rated captivating. There are chances to see wildlife and wildflowers across the tundra.

Hoh River Trail: This is a longer multi-day adventure along the Hoh River covering a distance of 32.8 miles (52.78 km) while experiencing an elevation gain of 5,114 feet (1,558.7 m).  Although the outing is as long as it is and the elevation gain is that high, the trail is quite manageable giving it a moderate rating.

 

Olympic Highlights

  • Hurricane Ridge
  • Hoh Rainforest
  • The rugged Pacific coastline

Map

Photo Gallery

Sources