Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Hikes in Olympic National Park - Travel for Your Life

Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Hikes in Olympic National Park

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Far away from the red-rock cliffs of Zion National Park and sandstone arches of Arches National Park, Washington’s Olympic National Park feels like a different universe. Its temperate rainforests are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in America, and its rugged coastline mimics the end of the world. And its snowy mountains and glacial lakes transport you to an alpine paradise. To put it simply, Olympic National Park is a hiker’s dream.

When planning to hike around Olympic National Park, prepare for anything. Expect showers in lush rainforests, chilly weather at high altitudes, and sun-kissed beaches guarded by gargantuan sea stacks. With a versatility that’s hard to match anywhere else, Olympic is among my favorite American national parks.

From the mountains to the sea and the forests in between, I’ve gathered my favorite Olympic National Park hikes. Whether you’re looking for short seaside national  or multi-day trekking expeditions, this guide will help you plan the ultimate Olympic hiking trip.

 

Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Hikes in Olympic National Park

 About Olympic National Park | Top Trails in Olympic National Park | Hoh River Trail | Hurricane Hill via Hurricane Ridge | Ozette Triangle Loop | Rialto Beach Trail | Sol Duc Falls Trail | Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail | Enchanted Valley Chalet via East Fork Quinault River Trail | Klahhane Ridge Trail to Lake Angeles | Mount Storm King | Marymere Falls Trail | Putvin Trail to Lake of the Angels | Ruby Beach |

 

About Olympic National Park

Located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park highlights the jaw-dropping scenery of the Pacific Northwest. With snow-capped peaks, temperate rainforests, and rocky coastlines, the park has incredible landscape diversity. Olympic National Park boasts a playground of outdoor exploration for avid hikers.

The extensive ecosystems sprawl over an area of around 922,000 acres and contain distinct regions to explore. Whether you prefer hiking around its alpine zones, lush forests, or rugged coast, there’s something for everyone. And the park’s extensive sections of Sitka spruce, western red cedar, and other ancient trees are among the most well-preserved in America.

Human settlements have existed on the Olympic Peninsula for thousands of years, and you’ll see evidence hiking around the park. If you look closely, you’ll find remnants of Native American cultures like artefacts and petroglyphs. When visiting Olympic National Park, it’s easy to understand why some people have fought passionately to preserve its sacred ecosystems.


 

Top Trails in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park has a little of everything for hikers to have an unforgettable adventure. You can spend days wandering temperate rainforests and listening to the enchanting sounds of the ocean. If you prefer dramatic snowy-peak vistas, then Olympic doesn’t disappoint. And the park’s ecological diversity means there is a fantastic chance to find tons of wildlife

Whatever type of scenery you’re into, I’ve covered trails in each region. From forest strolls to coastal treks, these 12 Olympic National Park hikes will feed your adventurous spirit.

 


 

1. Hoh River Trail

  • Length: 35.3 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Hard

The Hoh Rain Forest is the highlight for many Olympic National Park visitors, and the Hoh River Trail is the park’s signature hiking route. Following the Hoh River, the path stretches for miles through temperate rainforest rarely found in the United States.

Located in the western section of the park, the Hoh Rain Forest presents unbelievable plant life. The fertile landscape receives around 140 inches of rainfall, and the result is a jungle-like ecosystem that feels worlds apart from modern life. You’ll see everything from mosses and ferns to western red cedars, Douglas firs, western hemlocks, and Sitka spruces.

The best thing about the Hoh River Trail is its versatility to satisfy every kind of hiker. If you’re only up for a day hike, the first portion of the trail is mostly flat and easy for most hikers. Five Mile Island is a popular rest spot for its stunning views of the glacial-fed river, dense foliage, and distant peaks.

But for those hardy trekkers, you can keep trudging until your reach the mighty Mount Olympus and Blue Glacier. Just know that for a multi-day hike along the Hoh River, you’ll make serious elevation gain and need permits.

best-hikes-olympic-temperate-rainforest


 

2. Hurricane Hill via Hurricane Ridge

  • Length: 3.4 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is the best starting point to explore Olympic National Park’s alpine beauty. Lots of trails begin near the visitor center, but I’d recommend Hurricane Hill as the perfect starter for hikers. The Hurricane Hill trek isn’t long enough to push your limits but has exceptional vistas the entire way. With an elevation gain of around 800 feet, the trail gives you a stunning vantage overlooking subalpine forests and craggy peaks.

On sunny days, you can often spot Vancouver Island across the water and cross-country ferries. And the snow-covered Baily Range rising before you provide dramatic images of the overlapping landscapes. The trail includes a series of switchbacks for a moderate burn before reaching the summit of Hurricane Hill. For a bonus, tackle the path during spring to witness colorful wildflowers carpeting the hillside.

best-hikes-olympic-hurricane-hill


 

3. Ozette Triangle Loop

  • Length: 9.4 miles
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Ozette Triangle Loop is the premier coastal route inside Olympic National Park. Forming a triangle, the path contains three distinct sections that explore the raw beauty of Olympic’s temperate rainforests and rugged coastline. Starting from the Ozette Campground, you have two options through the forest towards the shoreline.

The Cape Alava Trail and North Sand Point Trail roam through old-growth forests to end at different coastal viewpoints. The enchanting forests contain a rich diversity of flora that includes Sitka spruce, western redcedar, and swamp lanterns. As you’re trekking through the forests, I’d recommend having a rain jacket handy due to the extensive number of showers here.

Most hikers choose to reach the coast via the Cape Alava Trail and head south from the Cape Alava Campground. It’s around three miles down the rocky shoreline, and you’ll see vast images of the Pacific Ocean, sea stacks, and extensive wildlife. Depending on the tide, it may be possible to explore more of the coastline and get closer to the offshore islands.

From the winding Sand Point, you’ll turn inward to make your return to the Ozette Campground. Since this is a lengthy hike, many choose to spend the night listening to the sounds of the ocean. But if you forego doing this as a day hike, permits are required.


 

4. Rialto Beach Trail

  • Length: 13.4 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

If you ventured to Olympic National Park solely to explore the Pacific Coast, Rialto Beach is your spot. Gigantic sea stacks, crashing waves, tide pooling, and lush forests make this an enticing coastal adventure. The trailhead starts at the parking area off Mora Road, where the Quillayute River flows into the Pacific Ocean. As you trek along the beach, you’ll cross craggy cliffs, rocky headlands, and pebbles scattered on the shoreline.

Hole-in-the-Wall is the most interesting spot on the coastal trail, with its tide pools filling the crevices of immense sea stacks. For the best experience, you must visit the area during low tide to view its array of sea creatures. You’ll see everything from sea stars and anemone to small fish near the shore. When you continue the journey beside the sea, watch for sea lions, otters, and other marine life.

The remainder of the hike is nothing short of spectacular as you climb over driftwood logs and find more interesting rock formations. With permits, you can turn this into a camping adventure and spend several days exploring the coastal wilderness.

best-hikes-olympic-wildlife


 

5. Sol Duc Falls Trail

  • Length: 1.6 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Easy

For a quick hike suitable for all skill levels, the Sol Duc Falls Trail is right up your alley. The trailhead sits along the roadway near the Sol Duc Campground and Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. Delving into lush forests and around cascading waterfalls, the trail mimics a nature fairytale. With the help of boardwalks and handrails, it’s easy navigating the dense forests and rocky terrain.

Before arriving at the 50 ft Sol Duc Falls, you’ll cross tumbling streams and get close glimpses of diverse foliage. And the view from high above the narrow slot canyon is spectacular as the falls cascade against jagged rocks. If you want a more dramatic experience, take this trail in the spring or fall.


 

6. Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail

  • Length: 0.9 miles
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Easy

For a brief intro to Olympic’s temperate rainforests, the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail suits all nature lovers. Accessible to all skill levels, the trail includes interpretive signs that educate visitors about the park’s ecological diversity. The trailhead is near Willaby Creek Campground and courses along the tumbling stream.

Large portions of the path are packed-gravel, making the short excursion suitable for those with health impairments. Although it’s tame for adventurous hikers, standing face-to-face with these ancient trees is a must-see inside Olympic National Park. And for extra stunning images, venture across South Shore Road to witness the sparkling shores of Lake Quinault.

best-hikes-olympic-temperate-rainforest


 

7. Enchanted Valley Chalet via East Fork Quinault River Trail

  • Length: 30.6 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Hard

Starting near Graves Creek Campground, the East Fork Quinault River Trail goes deep into the Olympic wilderness. As you follow the crystal-clear river, the old-growth forest meanders toward the Enchanted Valley. This thick section of rainforest contains many western hemlocks and Douglas firs adorned by moss and ferns.

While it’s easy getting mesmerized by the magical forests, you should keep your wits about wildlife. Bears, elk, and other potentially dangerous animals inhabit the area, and you should be aware of your surroundings. The trail also has several steep sections and stream crossings before reaching the Enchanted Valley.

One of the trail’s most beautiful sights is a historic chalet that sits beside the river and beneath a wall of snow-capped peaks. Although the building doesn’t offer hikers refuge like its former days, it still makes an epic snapshot.

As you ascend into higher elevations, it feels like your head is amongst the clouds of the misty forest. Spring is an extra magical time for this trail as snowmelt cascades down the rocky walls around you.


 

8. Klahhane Ridge Trail to Lake Angeles

  • Length: 12.6 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Hard

Starting near the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, the Klahhane Ridge Trail will surely get your blood pumping. With steep ascents, rock scrambles, and narrow passes, it’s not a route suitable for novice trekkers. But the epic vistas overlooking subalpine forests, verdant hills, and snowy peaks are worth the climb.

The early portion of the trek allows you to make a slight detour to Sunrise Point for sensational views above the winding Hurricane Ridge Road. Follow the ridgeline towards Mount Angeles for more glimpses of the enormous peaks and wildflowers adorning the landscape. The trail gets tricky as you approach Mount Angeles due to the lack of signage and steep ascents.

Past Mount Angeles, the trail courses around narrow, exposed cliffsides as you meander towards Lake Angeles. The lake’s emerald waters and its small island are a worthy reward after your challenging hike.

best-hikes-olympic-hurricane-ridge


 

9. Mount Storm King

  • Length: 5.3 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Hard

At about five miles round trip, it may surprise you that Mount Storm King is considered the toughest hike in Olympic National Park. But the intense elevation gain of around 2,000 feet and challenging rock scrambles make this a struggle. For patient hikers nimble enough to scour the craggy ascent, your reward is a breathtaking vantage of Lake Crescent.

The hike starts at the Marymere Falls trailhead near the Storm King Ranger Station. Don’t be fooled by the first portion of flat terrain since the path soon becomes way tougher. You’ll have to work for those spectacular vistas via steep climbs through old-growth forests. Pace yourself and watch out for tree roots that often protrude onto the path.

Save your strength for the final portion since it’s a test of fortitude to make the steep ascent. The ground can be unstable, and you’ll find ropes to provide an extra boost to reach the top. After the struggle, Lake Crescent stands before you capped by forested slopes. Be extra careful on your descent since the steep terrain is hard to navigate.

best-hikes-olympic-crescent-lake


 

10. Marymere Falls Trail

  • Length: 1.7 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Easy

If you’ve already conquered Mount Storm King, Marymere Falls is a short, scenic route to tack on. Return to the same trailhead near the Storm King Ranger Station and venture into the dense forest. The trail is flat and easy to navigate but offers serenity amidst the beautiful flora. Ferns and moss cover the trees as the path makes multiple creek crossings.

As you arrive at the waterfall, two viewpoints give you completely different vantages of the cascade. After watching the falls from above, head to the lower viewpoint at its base. Surrounded by old-growth forests and rocky cliffs, the 90 ft Marymere Falls is among Olympic’s most alluring images.


 

11. Putvin Trail to Lake of the Angels

  • Length: 7.8 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Hard

For the ultimate seclusion in Olympic National Park, nothing beats the Valley of Heaven. The otherworldly Lake of the Angels is a fitting reward for hikers willing to go the distance. And that’s what it will take to reach this sparkling alpine lake. Following the Hamma Hamma River, the path makes an unfathomable ascent of 3,800+ feet. As you soar from the woodlands to alpine terrain, it feels like you’re ascending into the heavens.

After a relentless climb through forests and meadows, you’ll encounter a headwall that poses a challenge. Your scrambling skills will be tested scouring the jagged rocks just before Lake of the False Prophet. Many hikers become disappointed seeing the small pond thinking it’s the grand prize. But if you push through one more fierce climb, you’ll arrive at the turquoise waters of Lake of the Angels. With craggy peaks rising directly above, it’s one of Olympic National Park’s grandest natural wonders.

best-hikes-olympic-ruby-beach


 

12. Ruby Beach

  • Length: 1.4 miles
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Easy

For a relaxed coastal hike, Ruby Beach condenses the beauty of the Pacific Coast into one spectacular beach. With towering sea stacks, driftwood, and tide pools, Ruby Beach has jaw-dropping sights at every turn. You can explore for however many miles you wish, but the loop starting from the parking lot covers several breathtaking images.

Cedar Creek flows into the Pacific Ocean, and pebbles lay strewn across the sandy shores near the trailhead. The sea stacks hugging the shoreline appear as stone skyscrapers, while Abbey Island lies just offshore. If you visit during low tide, you’ll see lots of sea creatures in the tide pools. And for another Olympic National Park icon, hike a few miles north to see the Hoh River empties into the ocean.

 

 

Which ones are your best hikes in Olympic national park? Let us know in the comments below.

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