Olympic National Park
Guide

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Introduction

Located in the Pacific Northwest, Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is home to many great wonders, including the beautiful Olympic National Park. Olympic National Park is a fantastic RV getaway destination and is popular with travelers thanks to the wide range of recreational and camping facilities available within the park.

The history of the park dates back to when Native Americans used areas of the park (in particular the subalpine meadows) for fishing and hunting before European settlers arrived in North America. Once Europeans found the area it was a very popular logging location, however, resistance by locals to the industry led to the first efforts to protect this wonderful area. The park was originally designated as Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909 before becoming a national park in 1938 and finally a world heritage site in 1988.

One of the great things about Olympic National Park is that you are able to experience the best of what the Pacific Northwest region has to offer. There are four different regions in the park so you will be able to explore diverse areas, including moss-covered temperate rain forests, rocky coastline, sandy beaches, serene lakes and, of course, the stunning mountains. The western half of the park is covered with the breathtaking Olympic Mountains. Mount Olympus is the tallest of the range, towering at almost 8,000 feet high. No matter who is traveling with you, everyone will agree that this destination ticks a lot of boxes.

The park is not far from Seattle, so you may not be surprised to hear that weather in the park is typically mild, and the area receives high amounts of rainfall throughout the year. In fact, the Hoh Rainforest located within the park has been known to receive up to 12 feet of rain per year. If you are hoping to avoid some of the rains, the dry season usually falls between July and September, but you should still expect to see some precipitation, so pack accordingly. These months are also the most popular for visitors to the park. You can enjoy much of the park during the winter, spring, and fall as well if you prefer to park your rig among thinner crowds.

While much of the park is a vast wilderness, there are several areas of the park with some development, including 12 year-round campgrounds and multiple visitors’ centers. You should also be aware that the park is huge, covering almost one million acres and is 1,441 square miles in size. The park is also divided into two primary sections: the Olympic Mountains and the coastline. Please note that there are no roads that cross over the park, so you should always consider driving times when planning activities for your trip.

Speaking of activities you will have plenty to choose from, including boating, fishing, hiking, hiking, wildlife viewing, and winter recreation. If you are considering staying the night there are plenty of RV friendly campgrounds available either by reservations or on a first-come, first-served basis.

Park Alerts (1)

[Park Closure] Emergency Fishing Closure to protect wild Coho salmon

The Quillayute, Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Dickey, and Calawah Rivers within Olympic National Park will be closed from November 4 to 22 to protect wild Coho salmon.

RV Rentals in Olympic National Park

Transportation in Olympic National Park

Driving

Getting to and from Olympic National Park is quite easy as it is completely encircled by Highway 101. There are also several state roads, as well as I-5, that can connect you to Highway 101, making the Olympic Peninsula easy to navigate in your RV. Much of the central area of the park is inaccessible by road, meaning you may have to drive long distances around the park to get to your desired destination.

Due to storms and rain throughout the year, it is highly recommended that you check road closures and information regularly. Please note that some roads are closed and inaccessible throughout the winter as they are not cleared of snow. In some areas, all vehicles are required to carry tire chains during the winter months, so be aware of the requirements prior to heading out for a drive.

Parking

There are a variety of parking lots throughout the park, as well as parking available at each of the visitor centers. Most of these are lots are accessible if you are in an RV that is under 35 feet in length. During peak summer months, parking can be hard to find no matter what size RV or vehicle you are driving. For this reason, you might want to reserve a campsite in advance and park your RV there one you arrive at the park. Parking is not allowed along the park roads or trailheads. Most trailheads accessible by car will have a designated parking area for your convenience.

Public Transport

There is currently no free public transportation available in or around the park. Despite this, there are a few private bus and transit companies that do offer shuttles from several local towns to popular National Park destinations along Highway 101. Because much of the park is spread out, having a vehicle is a crucial part of experiencing everything the area has to offer on your trip. Although many of the park roads and Highway 101 are RV-friendly, you may not want to drive your RV to get to distant locations from your base camp so towing a car might be a good idea. If the season permits, hiking around the park and occasionally heading into town for supplies may also be an option if you are on a longer getaway.

Campgrounds and parking in Olympic National Park

Campsites in Olympic National Park

Reservations camping

Kalaloch Campground

One of only two campgrounds that accept reservations at Olympic National Park, Kalaloch Campground is a great choice if you are looking to stay at a campground with amazing coastal views. Kalaloch Campground has a total of 168 sites, and all of the sites are equipped with fire pits with grates, a picnic table, and animal-proof food storage. Most of the RV sites here accommodate rigs less than 21 feet, although there are a few that have space for lengths up to 35 feet.

Please be aware that none of the sites at Kalaloch Campground have electrical, water or sewer hookups. Despite this, there are some other amenities within the campground, including water collection points, restrooms, and a dump station.

Although the campground is open year-round, reservations are only available during the busiest season, which is the summertime. During the other months, all of the sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis only.

Sol Duc Campground

Sol Duc Campground is one of two reservable campgrounds within Olympic State Park that is RV friendly. The campground is located in a lovely old-growth forest, which is a contrast to the Kalaloch campground that features a coastal area. Sol Duc Campground has 82 sites, most of which are suited to RVs under 21 feet long. If you do have a rig larger than this, there are some sites that support RVs up to 35 feet long.

The sites at Sol Duc are rustic, however, there are picnic tables available for use, as well as fire pits with grates. Other amenities at the campground include restrooms, potable water, and an RV dump station. The campground is also pet-friendly so feel free to bring your critters.

Sol Duc Campground is not open year-round but is typically available from mid-March through the end of October each year. Reservations can be made up to one year in advance.

Olympic Peninsula / Port Angeles KOA

Central to the Olympic Peninsula, the Olympic Peninsula/Port Angeles KOA is a great campground choice if you are looking to stay outside of the park. The campground is surrounded by forests, glaciers, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls and features dozens of sites that vary from being electrical or primitive. Other amenities within the campground include a pool and hot tub, a pavilion, a playground, a dog park, bike rentals, a convenience store and souvenir shop, and a dump station.

The location of the park also means that you can easily explore the Olympic Game Farm, the Marine Life Center, Port Angeles’ historic downtown boutiques, or the Twilight Saga’s real-life setting in Forks, Washington.

First-come first-served

Hoh Campground

Giant conifers and lush moss make for the perfect backdrop at Hoh Campground. Here you will find three loops that contain 88 RV friendly sites for you to enjoy all year round. While most of the available RV sites accommodate rigs up to 21 feet, there are a few more spacious sites for rigs up to 35 feet. None of the sites at Hoh Campground feature any hookups, but they do come equipped with a fire pit and grate. Other amenities available at the campground include water collection points, picnic tables, and restrooms.

During the summer the campground hosts some great activities, including ranger-led programs for those looking to venture into the temperate rainforest. All sites at Hoh Campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis only, so it's best to arrive early to snag a spot. If you are new to RV travel you might want to call the park office to see if they have any special instructions for Hoh Campground.

Fairholme Campground

If you are looking for a campground that has great lake access than you should consider staying at Fairholme Campground. There is a total of 87 sites available at Fairholme and each has its own fire pit with grates. All of the sites are primitive so there will be no water, electrical or sewer hookups if you choose to stay here. Despite this, there are some other nice campground wide amenities, including picnic tables, animal-proof food storage lockers, restrooms, water collection points, and a dump station. Fairholme Campground is quite a popular spot, especially if you have a shorter RV or travel trailer under 21 feet long.

Those who stay at Fairholme Campground are usually look for each lake and boat ramp access. The campground is open from late-April through the beginning of October, and all sites are first-come, first-served.

Staircase Campground

If setting up your camp by the riverside is more your flow, check out Staircase Campground. Open year-round, Staircase Campground has a total of 47 RV-friendly sites for you to call home during your visit to the park. All of the sites within the campground are primitive so there will be no way for you to connect to water, electric, or sewer services if you choose to stay here. The campground can house RVs up to 35 feet in length. Each site comes equipped with a fire ring, picnic table, and animal-proof food locker. There are also some great general campground amenities, including flush toilets and water.

Staircase Campground operates are a total primitive campground during the wintertime with no water and only pit toilets available due to the freezing temperatures. These sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis only and are usually taken quickly due to the small number of sites that are available.

South Beach Campground

Located on a bluff that offers amazing views to the Pacific Ocean, South Beach Campground is a great choice for RV campers looking to stay within Olympic National Park. There are 55 sites for you to choose from, and all of them have views to the ocean, a concrete picnic table, and fire pit. Most sites can accommodate a rig up to 21 feet long, while others are open to RVs up to 35 feet long.

South Beach Campground doesn't have a whole lot of amenities, but there are flush toilets. Please note that there is no potable water or dump station available but can use the dump station at Kalaloch Campground as needed.

All of the 55 sites at South Beach Campground are available on a first-come, first-served only basis and can be used between mid-May and mid-September each year.

Alternate camping

Park Lodges

If the amenities of a lodge sound appealing and you are looking for something different to RV camping, you can stay at one of the cozy lodges located in the park. Although not all of them are open year-round, there are many options for you to choose from that are within the park or located very close by.

The lodges that are run by the National Parks Service include Lake Crescent Lodge, Log Cabin Resort, and Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. The only lodge available year-round is at Kalaloch Lodge so this is a great choice if you are traveling to the park during the off-season.

Wilderness Camping

Although you cannot take your RV into the backcountry, you can obtain a permit for overnight camping in the more secluded areas of the park if you are wanting to get away from it all. Wilderness camping is very different from the cozy environment of the RV. Even spending one night in the wilderness is an amazing experience, especially if you have planned a trip for a week or more. Sleep under the stars, or pack a tent, just be certain that your food and supplies are stored in such a way that wildlife is not drawn to your camp.

Seasonal activities in Olympic National Park

Spring

Freshwater Fishing

There are many opportunities to cast a line at Olympic National Park thanks to the many lakes, rivers, and streams flowing throughout the park. Salmon, trout, and char are just a few of the wild fish thriving in the local waters that are popular to catch. Visitors should be aware of the regulations regarding fish and shellfish and be aware of any regulation changes. Depending on the season, you may be required to obtain a license or a catch record card as well.

Hurricane Ridge

Some of the greatest views of the Olympics are available at Hurricane Ridge. Pack a lunch and drive up to the upper parking lot to take in scenic vistas of Mount Olympus, the Bailey Range, as well as a variety of terrains and wildlife below. Visitors can also hike up Hurricane Hill to catch of glimpse of Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca on clear days. Be sure to check road conditions, especially in early spring when snow conditions sometimes require vehicles to carry snow chains for tires.

Paddle the Elwha River

The best season to drop your canoe or kayak into the Elwha River is during the spring when the river is full of snowmelt and spring rains. There are several locations where you can start your river journey, including the Altair Campground or Glines Canyon. Be sure to check in with the ranger station to verify that the river is clear of debris or log jams. They will have the most current information available to help you steer clear of any affected routes, so remember to do so.

Upper Lake Lena Hike

One of the most overlooked jewels of Olympic National Park is Upper Lena Lake. The hike is not for the faint of heart, but it is achievable and makes for a great day out in nature. You will love the beautiful lake views and the excellent vantage points of Mount Bretherton and Mount Lena that you will have. Visitors in late spring may also decide to take a dip in the chilly waters, but be aware that there are likely to be chunks of ice still floating at the surface.

Exploring Sol Duc Valley

Featuring old-growth forests decorated with moss and the unique Sol Duc Falls, Sol Duc Valley is a great destination in the Spring. There are a variety of hiking and nature trails for you to explore, many of which are leisurely strolls. Visitors can sometimes also spot salmon swimming up the Sol Duc River Overlook and a variety of other wildlife throughout the valley.

Summer

Hall of Mosses

While there are only a few trails available in the Hoh Rainforest, the Hall of Mosses is a must-do. This short, leisurely and relatively easy trail is around a mile long and will give you the chance to see there lush green rainforest, with moss cloaking everything from tree trunks to the forest floor. If you are lucky you may also see wildlife in the early mornings or just before sunset.

Elwha River Valley Restoration

The Elwha River Valley site of one of largest ecosystem restoration projects ever taken on by the National Parks Service. For decades, dams altered the natural flow of the entire ecosystem here, however, thanks to a law passed in 1992 by Congress, both dams have now been removed. This has resulted in salmon are spawning in the park again for the first time in years. The newly beautiful area also has a variety of picnic areas, hiking trails, as well as views of the beautiful Madison Falls.

Hurricane Ridge Astronomy Program

Summer nights are often warm and much drier than any other time of year at Olympic National Park. This environment means there are clear skies that offer amazing nighttime views of celestial bodies. Another reason why stargazing is great is because there is very little light pollution in or around the park. The Astronomy Program allows visitors to join a Master Observer and use telescopes to view the various stars, constellations, nebulae, and our neighboring planets. There are also featured full moon hikes to the top of Hurricane Hill that offer you a special glimpse of the moon and the wilderness lit up in the moon’s soft glow.

Ruby Beach Tidepools

While wildlife can be found all throughout the park, there are some special discoveries waiting for you to make at Ruby Beach. During the low tides, tidepools are left all along Ruby Beach that are full of amazing life forms. From pink algae and green anemones to starfish and seashells, you are certain to be amazed and entertained. Be sure to check the tide times during your visit, as the pools are covered during high tide. The park also suggests bringing a container for any garbage or litter you may find along the way so you can help to keep the beach beautiful.

Hanging Out at Lake Crescent

Carved by glaciers thousands of years ago, Lake Crescent is deep, cool, and full of clear blue waters. Visitors can enjoy several beaches and picnic areas around the lake, along with access to multiple trails nearby as well. You can also paddle a canoe or kayak across the reflective surface of the lake to enjoy scenic views all around. Whether you are hiking, swimming, fishing, or paddling, spending a day at Lake Crescent will be very enjoyable.

Fall

Ozette Triangle

The Ozette area of Olympic National Park is simply sensational. Although you may not find a multitude of fall colors, there is much to admire when visiting one of the most remote locations in Washington. Sea stacks can be seen along several areas of coastline, and the tidepools are full of starfish and seashells. Fall storms are the highlight in this area, and, if you are lucky, you can see the ocean swells a few days before the storms make it to shore.

Royal Basin

Few places are as beautiful as the Royal Basin is during the Fall. A classic trip for visitors to Olympic National Park, there are many activities that you can enjoy, including hiking, swimming and, of course, viewing scenic vistas. If you make your way along the Dungeness River and past Royal Creek, you will reach Royal Lake where the bright orange and reds from the leaves reflect of the clear calm water. You can also check out nearby waterfalls or head farther along the main trail to the Upper Royal Basin for even more views of glaciated mountains.

Staircase Loop Trail

The Staircase Loop Trail is a great way to take in the magnificence of the old forests, spotting wildlife and various colors during the fall months. One of the main attractions to this trail is observing the beautiful Douglas-firs that dominate the southeast section of the park. There are a multitude of wilderness destinations in the Staircase area as well, but if you are thinking about a longer trip in this area you will need a permit for any overnight hikes or camping.

Sol Duc Valley Salmon Cascades

If you are interested in seeing some salmon action during your trip to Olympic National Park you should check out the Salmon Cascades of Sol Duc Valley during the fall. With the restoration efforts, the ecosystem is booming, salmon species are expected to swell up to 300,000 in the future. The area is suited to nature lovers who want to witness the salmon migration and fisherman looking for a truly memorable fishing trip.

Visiting Deer Park

As long as you visit prior to the first snow in late fall, Deer Park is the perfect location for views of the Olympic Mountains and the Salish Sea. The beautiful fall colors of high alpine plants in both the forests and meadows are simply awe-inspiring. There are few other locations in the park offering views of the Gray Wolf River Valley, so if this is on your to-do list you really should go to Deer Park. If you find the road has been closed for the winter season an alternative plan is to check out the views from Hurricane Ridge.

Winter

Exploring the Hoh Rainforest

While Hurricane Ridge is covered in a blanket of white, the Hoh Rainforest is lush and green from the massive amounts of rainfall the region receives throughout this time of year. Keep an eye out for grazing elk in the mild temperatures of the forest, particularly where ferns and mosses thrive. Wanting to see more of the forest? Hike the Spruce Nature Trail to Hoh River and if the rain holds off it is also a wonderful place to have a picnic.

Fish Spawning At Morse Creek

Perhaps one of the most passed-over opportunities during the winter months at Olympic National Park is scoping out the salmon spawning site at Morse Creek. The site is hidden behind a small cabin located just a few minutes from Domaine Madeleine and is mostly unknown to the average visitor to the park. At Morse Creek, there is a variety of wild trout and two different species of salmon that use it as a primary spawning location. As fish populations in the park have been rising, the spectacle will only get better.

Madison Creek Falls Trail

Thanks to winter snow melt from the Olympics, Madison Creek Falls flourishes during the late winter to early spring months. The walk to the falls from the parking lot is quite easy and only takes around five minutes or so to arrive at the falls. Here you can enjoy spotting wildlife and greenery all along the way, and because there are fewer crowds during this time of year you can enjoy the pure sounds of the forest in seclusion.

Glines Canyon Spillway Overlook

The Glines Canyon Spillway Overlook is a very interesting way to check out the large valley that was once Lake Mills, prior to the removal of the Elwha and Glines Dams. Thanks to the ecosystem restoration of the Elwha River Valley, wildlife is now thriving here in ways it has not been able to in decades. If you are interested in learning more about the history of the area, there are also interpretive exhibits displaying the history of the dams and their eventual removal as well.

Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Area

Enjoy the best of downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding and tubing on the slopes at Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Area. One of only two ski locations situated inside of a National Park, Hurricane Ridge is also the farthest west in the United States. Please note that with vast amounts of snowfall many of the park areas will be inaccessible to cars, and the road to Hurricane Ridge is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the winter season.

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