Olympic National Park
Guide

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Introduction

Set in the Pacific Northwest, Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is home to many great wonders, from the coast to the mountain top. Much of the beautiful wilderness is accessible by way of Olympic National Park. If you simply cannot decide between heading to the beach to relax or escaping to the mountains to get away, Olympic National Park may be just the place for your next RV adventure. Experience the best of what the region has to offer including moss covered temperate rain forests, rocky coastline, sandy beaches, serene lakes and, of course, the stunning mountains. No matter who is traveling with you, everyone will agree that this destination checks a lot of boxes.

Not far from Seattle, 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 and find some solitude.

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

Park Alerts (3)

[Park Closure] Foot Bridge Closed at Sol Duc Falls (May 15-22, 2019) [+ Info]

The foot bridge over Sol Duc Falls will be closed for replacement May 15-22, 2019. The only bypass beyond that point will be the 3-mile Lover's Lane Trail, which begins at the Sol Duc Resort.

[Park Closure] Hurricane Hill Trail Project - Check project page for open/closed dates [+ Info]

Hurricane Hill Trail will be open on a rotating basis during periods when crews are not working. Click 'more' for open/close dates and project information

[Park Closure] 4-Hour Delays on Hwy 101 at Lake Crescent Beginning 5/20; Mondays-Thursdays from 9am-1pm [+ Info]

To avoid the 4-hour delays, drivers should travel through the area prior to 9am or after 1pm. There will be no road work Mon May 27 for Memorial Day holiday. The delays will last for several weeks. Visit the project webpage for details by clicking

RV Rentals in Olympic National Park

Transportation in Olympic National Park

Driving

Olympic National Park is completely encircled by Highway 101, and there are 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. Due to storms and rain throughout the year, it is highly recommended that you check road closures and information regularly. Some roads are closed and inaccessible throughout the winter as well. 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 at each of the visitor’s centers. Most of these are accessible if you are in an RV that is under 35 feet in length, as some of the RV sites throughout the park accommodate that length rig. However, during peak summer months, parking can be hard to find no matter what size RV or vehicle you are driving--and parking is only permitted in parking lots and posted areas. 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. There are a few private bus and transit companies that do offer shuttles from several local towns to popular National Park destinations along HWY 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 HWY 101 are RV friendly, you may not want to drive your RV to get to distant locations from your base camp. Of course, 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 somewhat 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 is the Kalaloch Campground. Although the campground is open year-round, reservations are only available during the busiest season, summer, while all sites are first-come, first-serve the rest of the year. Boasting 166 sites, this location offers fantastic coastal views with all the must have amenities including fire pits with grates, picnic tables, animal-proof food storage, potable water and restrooms. 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. Kalaloch Campground is also one of the few locations offering a dump station as well.

Sol Duc Campground

The second reservable campground is not open year-round but is typically available from mid-March through the end of October each year. Setting up your RV base camp at Sol Duc will envelop your camping experience in old-growth forest, a contrast to the coast found at Kalaloch. Sol Duc Campground has 82 sites, and again most of these will only accommodate up to 21-foot-long RVs, with very few accommodating larger rigs 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. Restrooms, potable water and an RV dump station are all easily accessible as well.

First-come first-served

Fairholme Campground

Offering easy access to a nearby boat launch, and several lakeside sites on the western bank of Lake Crescent, Fairholme Campground is quite popular, especially if you have a shorter RV or travel trailer under 21-feet long. The campground is open from late-April through the beginning of October and all sites are first-come, first-served. There is a total of 87 sites, each featuring fire pits with grates but no other site amenities. There are picnic tables and animal-proof food storage lockers as well. Restrooms are available with potable water nearby, and this campground features an RV dump station.

Hoh Campground

Giant conifers and lush moss make for the perfect backdrop at Hoh Campground. During the summer, the campground offers ranger led programs for those looking to venture into the temperate rainforest, although the campground is open year-round. All 88 sites have fire pits with grates and are first-come, first served. 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. On the downside, there is no longer a dump station available at Hoh Campground. Potable water, picnic tables and restrooms are a few of the available amenities at this location.

South Beach Campground

During the summer months, position your RV base camp on a bluff with a view of the Pacific Ocean at South Beach Campground. There are only 55 sites in total, most of which accommodate RV’s between 21 and 35 feet in length. There is no potable water or dump station available at South Beach, although facilities do include flush toilets and campers can use the dump station at Kalaloch Campground as needed.

Staircase Campground

If setting up your camp riverside is more your flow, check out Staircase Campground. Open year-round, this location is considered primitive in the winter months, as there is no water and only pit toilets due to the freezing temperatures. In the summer months, sleep along the Skokomish River and cool off in Lake Cushman after a day of hiking through old-growth forests. Flush toilets and water are also available in the summer months, with the sites accommodating 21 to 35-foot RVs. There is no dump station at this location, however, fire rings, picnic tables and animal-proof food lockers are some of the amenities available.

Alternate camping

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. 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 are not drawn to your camp.

Park Lodges

If the amenities of a lodge sound appealing, there is always the option to stay at one of the cozy lodges located in the park. Although not all of them are open year-round, your options include Lake Crescent Lodge, Log Cabin Resort, and Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. The only lodge available year-round is at Kalaloch Lodge.

Seasonal activities in Olympic National Park

Spring

Paddle the Elwha River

The best season to drop your canoe or kayak into the Elwha River is Spring, when the river is full of snow melt and spring rains. There are several locations where you can start your river journey including 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.

Upper Lake Lena

One of the most overlooked jewels of Olympic is Upper Lena Lake. The hike is not for the faint of heart, but it is achievable and makes for a great day hike. Views from the lake are beautiful and provide excellent vantage points of Mount Bretherton and Mount Lena. Visitors in late spring may decide to take a dip in the chilly waters, which likely have huge chunks of ice still floating at the surface. The hike to and from the lake is difficult, but the inspiration and majesty are rewarding.

Freshwater Fishing

There are many opportunities to cast a line with 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. 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. Failure to follow the regulations can result in penalties and/or fines.

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.

Sol Duc Valley

Featuring old-growth forests decorated with moss as well as the unique Sol Duc Falls, Sol Duc Valley is a great destination in the Spring. There are a variety of hiking and nature trails, many of which are leisurely strolls, where you can simply relax and experience the entire valley coming back to life. Visitors can sometimes spot salmon swimming up the Sol Duc River Overlook and a variety of other wildlife throughout the valley.

Summer

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, and access to multiple trails nearby as well, so pack a lunch and spend a day here. 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, lake life can be relaxing and rewarding.

Hall of Mosses

There are only a few trails available in the Hoh Rainforest, but a leisurely stroll through the Hall of Mosses is a must do. Short and relatively easy at .8 miles long, there is much to see, especially in the Summertime. Travel to another realm surrounded by lush green rainforest, with moss cloaking everything from tree trunks to the forest floor. You may see wildlife in the early mornings or just before sunset.

Ruby Beach Tidepools

While wildlife can be found all throughout the park, there are some special discoveries waiting to be made at Ruby Beach. During the low tides, tidepools are left all along Ruby Beach, 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.

Hurricane Ridge Astronomy Program

Summer nights are often warm and much drier than any other time of year. The clear skies offer amazing nighttime views of celestial bodies. Because there is very little light pollution in or around the park, it makes a great place to envelop yourself in the natural darkness and gaze upwards. The Astronomy Program allows visitors to join a Master Observer and use telescopes to view the innumerous stars, constellations, nebulae, and our neighboring planets. There are also featured Full Moon Hikes to the top of Hurricane Hill offering you a special glimpse of the moon, and the wilderness lit up in the moon’s soft glow.

Elwha River Valley

The site of one of largest ecosystem restoration projects ever taken on by the National Parks Service is also found in the park, in the Elwha River Valley. For decades, dams altered the natural flow of the entire ecosystem here. However, thanks to a law passed in 1992 by Congress, both dams had been removed by 2014, and for the first time in years salmon are spawning in the park again. There are a variety of picnic areas and hiking trails, as well as the beautiful Madison Falls.

Fall

Salmon Cascades

While the Elwha River Valley is beautiful, if you want to see salmon, the best time and place during fall is at the Salmon Cascades of Sol Duc Valley. With the restoration efforts the ecosystem is booming, and salmon species are expected to swell up to 300,000 in number. Nature lovers who want to witness the salmon migration and fisherman looking for a truly memorable fishing trip simply cannot pass up the opportunity offered in this area of the park.

Staircase Loop Trail

Beautiful Douglas-firs dominate the southeast section of the park. 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. There are a multitude of wilderness destinations in the Staircase area as well, but you will need a permit for any overnight hikes or camping. While there is no staircase still standing, the legend of the first explorers and the staircase they built still remains evident today.

Ozette Triangle

The Ozette area of the 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 tidepools are full of starfish and seashells. Fall storms are the highlight in this area during the fall, and you can see the ocean swells a few days before the storms makes it to shore. Definitely a fall favorite.

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 sure to inspire awe. There are few other locations in the park offering views of the Gray Wolf River Valley and ridge lines to leave you speechless. If you find the road has been closed for the winter season, perhaps check out the views from Hurricane Ridge.

Royal Basin

Few places are as beautiful as the Royal Basin is in the Fall. A classic trip for visitors to Olympic, hiking, swimming and, of course, viewing scenic vistas are just a few of the reasons to visit the region. 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.

Winter

Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Area

Enjoy the best of downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding and tubing on the slopes in Olympic. One of only two ski locations situated inside of a National Park, Hurricane Ridge is also the farthest west in the contiguous United States. With the vast amounts of snowfall many of the park areas are inaccessible, and the road to Hurricane Ridge is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the winter season.

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 this time of year. Watch for grazing elk in the mild temperatures of the forest, particularly where ferns and mosses thrive. Hike the Spruce Nature Trail to Hoh River and if the rain holds off, have a picnic.

Morse Creek

Perhaps one of the most passed-over opportunities during the winter months at Olympic is scoping out the salmon spawning site at Morse Creek. Hidden behind a small cabin located just a few minutes from Domaine Madeleine. A variety of wild trout and two different species of salmon use this location as a primary spawning location. As populations in the park have been rising, the spectacle is sure to impress.

Madison Creek Falls Trail

Thanks to winter snow melt from the Olympics, Madison Creek Falls flourishes during the winter. The walk to the falls from the parking lot is quite easy and only takes about 5 minutes or so to arrive at the falls. Enjoy spotting wildlife and greenery all along the way, and because there are fewer crowds during this time of year, enjoy the pure sounds of the forest.

Glines Canyon Spillway Overlook

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 thriving here in ways it has not been able to in decades. There are also interpretive exhibits displaying the history of the dams and their eventual removal as well.

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