Exploring the beauty of Olympic National Park
Pacific Northwesters have a passion for the outdoors. Olympic National Park seems to have it all with lush rainforests, snow capped mountains, and a stunning coastline. While one could live their entire lives and barely scratch the surface of all the park has to offer, we’ve compiled a list of some of the park’s best natural attractions for the weekend warriors and day trippers.
Take a peek at some of Olympic National Park’s offerings that can be enjoyed in one day. With over 1,400 square miles of nature just beckoning to be explored, narrowing down our favorites was not an easy task.
Enjoy some of the best trails Olympic National Park has to offer
Hoh Rain Forest
The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the United States and is home to the lush Hall of Mosses hike. This easy 0.8 mile hike is perfect for families with small children. The trailhead to the Hall of Mosses is located near the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. The trail features moss-laden trees that arch and bend to form a canopy over the trail. As a result, the Hall of Mosses Hike resembles something you would come across in a Tolkien novel.
Quinault Rain Forest
If you like big trees (and you cannot lie), the Quinault rainforest is the spot for you. Due to its resident Douglas firs, Sitka spruces, and Western Red cedars, the Quinault Valley is aptly referred to as “The Valley of Giants.” Walk underneath these moss-covered leviathans on one of the rain forest’s many day hikes.
We would suggest the easy 1.3 mile loop that will take you to the old Kestner homestead. Sunlight trickles through the dense forest as you make your way to the wooden structures that remain from the Anton Kestner family. Most noteworthy are the elk that also like to frequent the trail.
Sol Duc Falls
There are many trails that will take you to Sol Duc Falls. Lover’s Lane Loop is our personal favorite. The trailhead to the six-mile day hike is located behind the Sol Duc Falls Resort. This hike takes you through old forest growth, beside the Sol Duc river, and then over a misty crossing of the wooden bridge at Sol Duc Falls.
After a day of hiking, we would suggest rewarding yourself with a soak in the Sol Duc hot springs. The Sol Duc Resort offers three mineral hot spring soaking pools ranging in temperature from 99 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Take a walk on the wild side by keeping a lookout for nature
With mountains, rainforests, and oceans, the biodiversity of Olympic National Park allows visitors to spot an array of wildlife. Cougars, elk, black bear, mountain goats, and beavers all call the park their home. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a few endemic species to the park like the Olympic snow mole, Olympic marmot, and the Olympic torrent salamander.
Dawn and dusk are the best times to spot native wildlife as the animals emerge to hunt and eat. In addition to your sense of adventure, consider packing binoculars and a camera to sneak an up close peek of what wildlife the park has to offer.
Olympic National Park boasts two popular tide pool areas. One is located at Mora’s Hole in the Wall and the other at Kalaloch Beach 4. Grab you waterproof shoes and carefully walk along the beach to spot the natural colors of the rainbow. Our personal favorites are the Giant Green Anemones and pink Coralline algae.
Viewfinder Tip: Be sure to check the tide calendar for the lowest tide of the day. It will be much easier to spot marine life in low tide.
While at the tide pools, be sure to keep an eye on the horizon. Larger marine life can be spotted frolicking the in the water. The Pacific Ocean is home to dolphins, seals, otters, and whales that like to frequent the shores of the park. Fall visitors might even be able to spot orca, mink, and humpback whales as they hunt along the coast.
One shouldn’t be put off by the colder months. Hurricane Ridge is typically covered in fresh snow due to its elevation (5,242 feet). Visitors can enjoy a variety of cold weather activities like snowshoeing, skiing, and tubing. The Hurricane Ridge Snack Bar and Rental Shop has everything you’ll need to enjoy the great outdoors. Additionally, you can warm those rosy cheeks with a comforting cup of hot cocoa.
In conclusion, Olympic National Park has something for everyone. Regardless of what season you visit, there are a plethora of hikes and wildlife that will welcome you to the park.
What is your favorite national park and what activities do you enjoy doing there?
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Chris and Tawny have had articles and videos published on USA TODAY TRAVEL, BBC Travel, Matador Network, as well as appeared as guest stars on TLC Asia's Fun Taiwan television series. When not on the road, you can find Chris and Tawny nestled in their home in Tacoma, Washington fueling up on coffee and cat cuddles while planning their future adventures. You can follow their travels on their blog, Instagram, and YouTube