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How To Plan An Amazing Olympic National Park Itinerary

Having grown up in Seattle, it might surprise you to learn that the first time I visited Olympic National Park was in 2020, in my 30’s. It is one of three incredible National Parks in Washington State, and is by far the most diverse and interesting of the three. There are alpine zones, rainforests, dry highlands, coastal beaches, and more.

It’s a gigantic park that deserves several trips to truly take in all that it has to offer. However, you have to start somewhere, right? In this guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know to plan the perfect Olympic National Park Itinerary – the best things to do, where to stay, how to organize your time – to help you plan an unforgettable adventure.

Visiting Olympic National Park requires some careful planning. After all, the park is nearly a million acres in size! We’re going to lay everything out for you so that you can plan your Olympic Peninsula road trip with confidence and ease.

Planning a Trip to Olympic National Park? Make sure to check out our other travel guides for this PNW gem!

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, I would never recommend something to you that I don’t stand behind 100%.

Where Is Olympic National Park?

Olympic National Park covers most of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, and is the furthest west you can go in the state. It totals just under a million acres and features staggeringly diverse landscapes – you’ll find everything from sandy beaches to temperate rainforests, and even jagged snow-covered mountain peaks.

How to Get to Olympic National Park

The park stays open all day, every day, all year round. There are some roads within the park that will close seasonally if there is too much snow, but parts of it is almost always accessible.

From Seattle and SeaTac

There are a couple of easy options if you’re coming from Seattle – drive around, or take the ferry to Bainbridge. Both take roughly the same amount of time, but the ferry costs $22 for a car, drive, and one passenger (it’s another $9 per adult and $4.50 per youth/senior).

First, you can drive around through Tacoma, cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and head north along the Hood Canal. Eventually, you’ll connect with Highway 101, which runs from the northeast side of the park alllll the way down the coast to the southwest edge of the park, and even down to California.

Another choice is to take the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. The Washington State Ferries system has a few routes that allow you to reach the Olympic Peninsula by crossing the Puget Sound. You can take a look at the ferry schedule for all the specific ferry times. 

If you’re planning to come from somewhere farther out, like another state, then flying into SeaTac International Airport is your best choice.

You’ll need to make sure you have a rental car – there’s really no way to explore the Olympic Peninsula without one. I wouldn’t recommend options like the bus because the sheer size of the park will require you to have a car to explore it!

From SeaTac Airport, it’s going to take you two and a half or three hours to drive to your first stop

From Tacoma

If you’re coming from Tacoma, you can take State Route 16 to Bremerton. Then, get onto State route 3 to go north and hop onto State Route 104, which will cross the Hood Canal Bridge and connect you with Highway 101. It’ll take you about two hours to get to Port Angeles, the jumping off point for your trip to Olympic National Park.

What Is the Best Time of the Year to Visit Olympic National Park?

It really depends on what you are looking to explore and how much you want to avoid crowds.

I’ll tell you that from my experience, the summer months are the best time to go. Yes, there are TONS of people, but the weather is warm, dry, and generally pleasant. Overall, most people prefer visiting the park in July and August. This is when the temperature will be at its warmest and most comfortable. Virtually all roads and facilities will be open as well.

In the winter, you’re going to find cooler weather, coastal fog, and even snow at some higher elevations. And more importantly, far fewer people. Some roads are closed, which means you won’t be able to access different parts of the park (see road closures below). 

The Olympic Peninsula would be a perfect romantic weekend getaway from Seattle in the winter, where you can curl up next to the fire on a blustery day and catch up on your reading list, or walk a deserted beach that you have allll to yourself. 

Seasonal Closures

Depending on what time of the year it is that you’re going to visit this beautiful park, there may be some seasonal and temporary closures.

You can find check road closures and the status of different areas of the park here

How Many Days in Olympic National Park?

Meet Homer – the Honda Odyssey we lived in for five months on our Western USA road trip

This park is gigantic, which means there’s a lot of driving between the different regions. For example, if you want to get to the Hoh Rainforest from Port Angeles, it’s going to take you at least two hours. One way.

That’s why I recommend at least three solid days to hike around, camp, and enjoy the park.

If you only have a weekend (Friday night to Sunday evening), I would focus on one area of the park – either Hurricane Ridge & Lake Crescent or the Pacific Beaches and Hoh Rainforest – to avoid spending the whole weekend in a car.

If you want to see the entire park, you’ll need a three-day weekend at the bare minimum. Making the trip four or five days is better, and will prevent you from feeling too rushed.

The itinerary below is written for four days.

If you only have….

  • 1 Day: Focus on Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent, which have plenty of things to do and see to fill a day.

  • 2 Days: Spend the first day at Hurricane Ridge, spend the night in Forks, and do the Hoh Rainforest and Rialto Beach on your second day before heading home.

  • 3 Days: Follow the itinerary below, and skip the fourth day, heading home after the La Push beaches. You could drive home by heading south on 101, which would allow a stop at the Quinault Rainforest.

Camping in Olympic National Park

Our campsite at Deer Lake on our multi-day backpacking trip in Olympic National Park

There are an abundance of campsites in the park. Only three require reservations ahead of time (Kalaloch, Sol Duc, and Mora), while the rest are first-come, first-served. 

If you’re planning on visiting during the summer months, I highly recommend making reservations several months in advance for the campsites that require reservations. They are usually booked months in advance, especially for summer weekends. 

For campsites that are first-come, first-served (I’m going to start using FCFS as an acronym below), the earlier you get there, the wider selection of campsites you will have. If you show up at 4pm on a Friday or Saturday in August, I wouldn’t expect to easily find a site. 

The best campsite for the Hurricane Ridge area is Heart o’ Hills Campground (FCFS), though you could also camp at Fairholme Campground on Lake Crescent (FCFS). 

For the Hoh Rainforest and Pacific Beaches, we camped at Mora and found it to be a great base for exploring the area (plus, the campground is pretty nice). We got lucky and snagged a midweek spot that opened up a few weeks in advance, but I’d recommend making a reservation further out than we did. It was the only site available for that entire week, and it was only available for a single Tuesday night. 

If you want to be closer to the Hoh Rainforest, look at Hoh Campground. I don’t think it’s worth camping out there unless you’re planning on tackling a backpacking trip up the Hoh River. Instead, I’d camp at Mora and make the hour-long journey to the rainforest as a morning trip on your way down the coast. 

For Lake Quinault and the Quinault Rainforest, camp at either Falls Creek or Wallaby Campground (I, for one, am appalled by the false advertising of Wallaby Campground. Be warned, there are not, in fact, any wallabies, to our bitter disappointment). 

The Complete Olympic National Park Itinerary

Rialto Beach was our favorite spot on the Pacific Coast

Now that we got all the logistics out of the way, it’s time to dive into the full itinerary! Here’s a preview of what’s in store for you’re epic adventure:

Day 1: Seattle to Hurricane Ridge

Day 2: Lake Crescent & Sol Duc Falls 

Day 3: Rainforests & Beaches 

Day 4: Kalaloch & the Quinault Rainforest 

Here’s a map of where your trip will take you!



Day 1: Seattle to Hurricane Ridge

On the first day of your adventure, you will be driving from Seattle to Port Angeles. It’s going to take you a little under three hours to get there, so you will probably want to make a few stops along the way. 

Here are three places I highly recommend making pit stops to break up the drive.

If you decide on the ferry, skip the Tacoma stop and make your first stop at Finnriver Farm and Cidery.

Tacoma

Tacoma is the next big city on the way down from Seattle, with some excellent coffee and vegan/gluten-free food. 

Olympia Coffee Company is one of my favorite coffee companies in the country – I get their beans delivered here in San Francisco. Their space in Tacoma is bright and lively, in the hip and walkable Proctor neighborhood. 

Even better, it’s right across the street from a 100% gluten-free and vegan cafe Viva Tacoma. I looooove the cauliflower wings and the chicken and waffles (spoiler alert: It’s tofu)!

Port Townsend

When you find yourself on the Olympic Peninsula, you’ll start to notice more open space and farmland. 

Once you do, veer a few minutes out of the way and make a stop at Finnriver Farm and Cidery. If you love hard cider as much as we do, you’re in the right place. If not, how does relaxing on an orchard sound to you? You’ll get a chance to sample some of the Pacific Northwest’s best cider (their black currant cider basically started my entire obsession with cider almost a decade ago) with a stunning view of the orchard.

Sequim

After you’ve had your fill of delicious cider, you’ll be making your way westward. In about half an hour, you will arrive in the small town of Sequim. At this point, you’ll be pretty close to Port Angeles, which will be your gateway to the park. If you’re in the mood to have some organic and gluten-free farm-to-table eats (where you can literally see the farm from your table), then a stopover at Nourish Sequim (100% gluten free!)  is a must. I highly recommend trying the chicken pot pie and seasonal desserts. This is a great spot to enjoy a gluten free lunch in a beautiful garden setting before you land in Port Angeles.

Port Angeles

If you’re planning to do any overnight backpacking, make sure to stop at the ranger station in Port Angeles to get your backcountry permits, bear canisters (for rent if you need them), and information about the park. If you’re 16 years old or older, it will cost you $8 per night. Any overnight stay in the wilderness will carry this fee, so make sure you get your wilderness permit ahead of time. 

We spent two nights out on the High Divide, which is one of the best backpacking trips on the West Coast and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone interested in backpacking. 

Sunset Hike at Hurricane Hill

Catch a sunset to close out the first day of your trip, over at Hurricane Hill.

You’re going to get stunning 360-degree views of the Olympic Range, Mt. Baker, and even over to Canada (you can see Victoria)!

It’s going to be a 3.2 mi (5.2 km) round trip hike with 650 feet of elevation gain. At the top of the hike, you will be at 5,757 feet above sea level, with breathtaking views.

Make sure to bring a headlamp for the post-sunset journey back to the trailhead.

Where to Spend Your First Night

There are some excellent lodging options in this area of the park. Our recommendation would be to find somewhere between Port Angeles and Lake Crescent. There are some great vacation rentals along the northern coast right on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, some good campgrounds, and some amazing places to stay on the waterfront of Lake Sutherland (which is just east of Lake Crescent).

Here are some of our favorites:

Vacation Rentals in Port Angeles / Lake Crescent

If you’re not up for camping, Vacation Rentals are a great alternative here. There are plenty of places that will put you close to the action at Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent, but give you the comfort of returning to a warm and cozy bed after your day of exploring.

In general, we’d recommend looking for a place that is somewhere between Port Angeles and Lake Crescent. Your best bets are going to be along the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Washington’s northern coast and around Lake Sutherland, which is just east of Lake Crescent and will put you in a perfect position for exploring the area tomorrow morning.

Here are five options we like in the area. 

Image courtesy of VRBO

Captain’s Quarters Cabin on the Water (sleeps 2-5): On the Strait of Juan de Fuca, this is a secluded beachfront cabin that is miles away from the stress of life. It’s literally RIGHT ON the water. Beachfront is not an exaggeration here. If that’s not available, the hosts have two other listings that are the same idea (Halibut Hole Cabin and Codfish Cabin). 

A Unique Treehouse on the Water (Sleeps 2-3): This gorgeous, rustic treehouse is right on the water just east of Port Angeles, and is one of the coolest places to stay in the state of Washington. It’s cozy, but it has a fire pit overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It would make a perfect weekend getaway from Seattle

A Cabin on the Shore of Lake Sutherland

Image courtesy of VRBO

There are multiple options for this one, here are a couple that caught our eye. 

Sunny Lake Sutherland Charmer (sleeps 4-8): Right on the lake with its own dock! Two bedrooms with a variety of other sleeping options, like a murphy bed. 

Lakefront Home with All the Amenities (sleeps 6-8): Amazing wraparound deck with plenty of room for groups and families looking to explore Olympic National Park. 

Hotels in Port Angeles

Port Angeles is full of all sorts of hotels, from the usually chain hotel suspects, to boutique B&B’s and rustic lodges. In general, there are very, very few options out towards the western side of town, which is probably where you want to be for convenience of getting around tomorrow.

Olympic Lodge in Port Angeles is a great option that is close to the road, mid-way between Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent, and super rustic and charming.

Lake Crescent Lodge is a historic lodge built in 1915 with plenty of rustic charm in its own right.

Camping

Heart o’ Hills Campground is just 15 minutes from downtown Port Angeles, and is a first-come, first-served campground surrounded by a towering old-growth forest. 

Sol Duc Campground lies along the Sol Duc River and even features hot spring pools! You can make reservations online. This is where we ended up camping, since we were tackling the High Divide Trail, whose trailhead is nearby.

Our campsite at Sol Duc Campground was nicer than others we saw

Day 2: Lake Crescent & Rialto Beach

On the second day of this itinerary, you’ll be getting to experience the allure of Lake Crescent and two unique waterfalls before hitting the road and heading out to the rugged Pacific Coast for sunset at my favorite beach in Olympic National Park.

Drive Time & Mileage: Today you’ll make your way from the Port Angeles area to Rialto Beach, which will take you an hour and a half (70 miles).

A Morning Hike

Start off your day with one (or two) of these great hikes. The main sights here are Lake Crescent, which has a couple of viewpoints along 101, and a lodge that you can stop at to walk along the lakefront, Sol Duc Falls, and Marymere Falls. All are worth a stop, even if you choose a longer hike.

If you want a long hike, I’d recommend the Lake Angeles Trail. Then, on your way to Rialto Beach, make a quick detour to Marymere Falls.

If you’d prefer to see a couple different waterfalls that are a short stroll from the parking lot, combine the Sol Duc Falls and Marymere Falls trails.

If you’re up for an adventure, climb to Mount Storm King, and hit Marymere Falls on the way back down.

Lake Angeles Trail

The hike to Lake Angeles takes you from just outside of Heart-o-Hills Campground up through the dense forest, and finally to a stunning alpine lake. It’s a tough hike, gaining almost 2,500 feet of elevation over 7.4 miles. You could also hike here from Hurricane Ridge, which is much a much more scenic route where you hike along Klahanie Ridge with amazing views,  but it’s a MUCH longer and harder hike (12+ miles, 4,500 feet of elevation).

Klahhane Ridge

If the views I just mentioned sound like something you’re interested in, but you’re not up for the hike all the way to Lake Angeles, do the 5 mile hike along Klahhane Ridge instead. You’ll gain 1,700 feet along the way, mostly at the beginning in a series of switchbacks through the forest, but once you get up onto the ridge you’ll have sweeping views, including views of Mt. Angeles. 

Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc Falls is a gorgeous waterfall that we stopped by on our way up to backpack the High Divide Trail. From the viewpoint, you get a nice view of the waterfall and the river flowing into it. The hike through the forest will be 1.6 mi (2.6 km) and have an elevation gain of just 200 feet (61 m), so just about everyone can do it.

Marymere Falls

Marymere Falls is a really impressive waterfall that is pretty easy to get to. The hike is 1.8 mi (2.9 km) roundtrip with 500 feet (152 m) of elevation gain.

Feeling Adventurous? Hike Mount Storm King

If you like a challenge, you can hike up to a rock outcropping called Mount Storm King with spectacular views over Lake Crescent. It’s a relatively short and steep climb, and to get to the summit you’ll have to climb some cables and do some scrambling that might be a little much for people afraid of heights.

I suggest only doing this one if the weather is good because it can get pretty ugly up there when it’s not. This hike is 4 mi (6.4 km) roundtrip with an elevation gain of 2,065 feet (629 m). There’s no extra fee to hike Mount Storm King.

Afternoon: The Drive to La Push 

For the afternoon, you will be making the transition from the rugged alpine region of the park to the rainforests and beaches. 

You’ll be driving for around an hour and a half to get from Port Angeles to La Push. It’s all the way out on the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula, past the town of Forks. If you’ve timed it right, you’ll get here in enough time to get ready for the grand finale of the day: sunset at Rialto Beach.

Evening: Sunset on the Beach

The evening is the perfect time to catch that glorious Pacific Ocean sunset that you have to see in person to truly believe.

The sunset at Rialto Beach is one of the top memories of our four month US road trip. The picturesque sea stacks emerging from the ocean add to the breathtaking backdrop of the daily sunset. Plus, we saw multiple bald eagles!

You should know going in that it’s costal, so there’s a pretty high chance that you won’t be able to see a sunset at all because of the fog or clouds that enshroud this part of the world for most of the year. 

However, if it’s a clear day, you’re in for a treat.

If you want to have the best chance of seeing a sunset here, you should come during the summer months. However, it will stay chilly year-round, so bring something warm to wear.

Golden Hour Walk to Hole-in-the-Wall

Late afternoon light at Hole in the Wall on Rialto Beach

You definitely shouldn’t miss the stroll down Rialto Beach to an incredibly gorgeous spot called the Hole-in-the-Wall. Which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, only prettier. To get there, you’ll walk for about an hour down the beach, passing by a couple of incredible sea stacks that tower above you. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where a natural arch has formed in the wall thanks to countless years of erosion.

There are some pretty cool tidepools on either side of Hole in the wall to explore – remember not to touch or disturb the sea life!

Tide Pools on the other side of Hole in the Wall

Top Travel Tip: Make sure to check the tides – you need to do this walk at low tide, otherwise you’ll either not be able to get there, or you’ll get stuck out there and have to do some rock climbing to get back. We used this site to check tides. 

Where to Stay in Forks

The place to stay around these parts is Forks. Yes, that Forks. You know, the one with all the vampires and surprisingly-jacked-and-tan werewolves.

You’ll want to stay here for two nights since Forks will also act as your gateway to the Hoh Rain Forest.

Vacation Rentals in Forks

There are some pretty amazing tiny homes, cottages, and cabins in the area that would make a perfect home base for exploring the Pacific Beaches and Hoh Rainforest.

Tiny House in Forks (sleeps 2): If you want to go a little bit more rustic, then look at these two tiny houses in Forks (Cabin 1 // Cabin 2). It’s a perfect choice for couples, particularly if you’re on a budget. You should know that they ARE, in fact, tiny cabins, so don’t plan on having a ton of space to spread out. There’s a nice outdoor firepit, which is the perfect place to enjoy one of those amazing warm Pacific Northwest summer evenings where the sun sets at like, 11pm. 

Wild West Coast Getaway (sleeps 6): The three bedrooms at this charming house promise plenty of space for groups or families looking to explore the coastal area and Hoh Rainforest. It’s pretty much right in the town of Forks, where you’ll have a few restaurants within walking distance, along with one of the only grocery stores anywhere near the park. Plus, a private hot tub!

Hotels & Lodges in Forks

Hotels in Forks are few and far between. And honestly, there’s only a couple that I’d really consider.

Quillayute River Resort is the best option in the area, and it’s along the same road out to Rialto Beach where you’ll find Mora Campground. The rooms are all suite-style, which means you’ll get a full kitchen. Some rooms have two double beds, some have a single king or queen, some have a river view!

Miller Tree Inn is more of a B&B, and is centrally located in the town of Forks. The rooms are unique, clean, and comfortable, you get free breakfast and coffee. Most have fireplaces and some even have jetted bathtubs! This is a super charming place to stay while you’re in the area, but you’ll pay a little bit more than some of the other options in town.

Manitou Lodge is a charming choice for a classic lodge-style stay. There is plenty of Native American and PNW artistic charm to this place located between Forks and La Push.

Camping Near Forks

Mora Campground is the place I would recommend if you are looking for a camping spot. There are 94 campsites to choose from. We stayed here for a night, and it was perfect for a sunset trip to Rialto Beach because it’s roughly six minutes away. Make sure you make an online reservation in advance.

Day 3: Rainforests & Beaches

Experiencing the rainforests and beaches on the west side of the park is the best thing to do in Olympic National Park, which means this third day is going to be a highoight of your trip.

The vibrant collection of mosses covering ancient old-growth trees amid an enchanting backdrop of natural beauty is something that captivated me from the moment I first saw it.

Combined with the face that, just an hour away, you’ll find towering sea stacks rising out of the ocean waves, this is the day that you’ll realize just how crazy the geography on the Olympic Peninsula is. It’s honestly a little unbelievably.

For the third day, I recommend starting out exploring the rainforest and closing out the day by going to the beaches in the evening.

Drive Time & Mileage: Your only real drive of the day is to the Hoh Rainforest, which is going to be about 45 minutes (31 miles) from Forks. It’s about 15 minutes longer from Mora Campground and the coast.

Early Morning at the Hoh Rainforest

Head STRAIGHT to the magical Hoh Rainforest. I suggest you get there as early as humanly possible. That way, you will get to experience the sublime ambiance of the rays of sunlight streaming in through the dense forest canopy. You may even get to spot some Roosevelt Elk! 

Did you know? Olympic National Park was put on the path to becoming a National Park in part to protect the calving grounds of these elk at the base of Mt. Olympus? Teddy Roosevelt made it a National Monument in 1909, and it became a National Park in 1938 thanks to FDR. 

Also, the early morning is the best time to visit because there won’t be that many people around, making it more of a solitary experience with the rainforest. The ambiance is much more pleasant without hundreds of people talking and kids screaming. Believe me.

Once midday rolls around, there’s tons of people, given how accessible it is to explore. Keep that in mind, so you get to enjoy it to its fullest.

Hall of Mosses

The Hall of Mosses is a short 0.8 mi (1.3 km) loop through lush rainforests where you will see moss-covered trees, banana slugs, elk, and more. There’s also plenty of signage with helpful information about everything you’ll be seeing.

Spruce Nature Trail

The Spruce Nature Trail is a 1.2 mi (1.9 km) roundtrip stroll through the Hoh Rain Forest that takes you through ancient groves and relaxing areas of this exceptional rainforest.

Hoh River Trail: A Longer Hike Option

If these Hoh Rain Forest hikes are too short for your liking, you can also hike part of the Hoh River Trail. Eventually, if you decide to do a multi-day backpacking trip, you will get to Mt. Olympus and see a glacier! This is a 37-mile (59.5 km) backpacking trail, so if you’re following this itinerary you’ll just want to hike in a few miles along the river before heading back to make it to the beaches.

Afternoon / Evening

Give yourself the rest of the day to enjoy all of the beaches near La Push! These are going to be easy-going and mellow hikes. Actually, they’re more like strolls and long walks on the beach, which I have been known to love.

Before you Google it, yes, the names are actually First, Second, and Third Beach.

First Beach

The small coastal village of La Push is your entryway to First Beach. Stroll along a mile-long sandy beach that has views onto sea stack islets and large waves. There is plenty of driftwood to look through and potentially find a souvenir. 

Second Beach

This beach is an unsung jewel of wild beaches. There’s two miles of a sprawling sandy beach here, as well as a lagoon, sea stack islets, tide pools, driftwood, and tons of sea life. There aren’t that many people here, which makes it a very peaceful place. It’s a short hike from the parking lot – nothing too crazy at all for families with kids. 

Third Beach

Third Beach is significantly less visited because of the 2.8 mile hike (round trip) that you’ll need to do to access the beach. The trail takes you through towering trees until it reaches a creek that flows into the Pacific Ocean. The sunsets at this, and the other beaches, are postcard-perfect!

Day 4: Quinault Rainforest

For the last day of your Olympic Peninsula road trip, I suggest visiting the spectacular Quinault Rainforest. You’ll have to drive an hour and a half from Forks to get to this southern region of the Olympic National Park, but I promise you it’s worth it. 

Morning

Start off the morning with one final exploration of the beaches the park has to offer.

Drive Time & Mileage: It’s going to take you an hour and a half to drive the 70 miles from Forks to your final destination of the trip, the Quinault Rainforest.

Ruby Beach
Relaxing at Ruby Beach (“Take a photo of me! Take a photo of me!” -Alysha)

On your way down to the Lake Quinault area, I highly recommend making a stop at Ruby Beach. If you’re up for another beach walk, do at least a part of the 6 mile (9.7 km) round trip hike and look out onto sea stacks and Abbey Island.

If you happen to be here at low tide, you may even see some starfish and other sea life while you’re at it.

Kalaloch

There are four serene beaches at Kalaloch. You’ll get to walk these beaches for 4 mi (6.4 km) and see bluffs, as well as pounding surf.

Afternoon / Evening

After you’ve gotten your fill of the coastal beaches, it’s time to close things out with a trip to the Quinault Rainforest and the serene Lake Quinault. 

Head to the Quinault Rainforest

Just like with the Hoh Rain Forest, the Quinault Rainforest gets packed. I’d actually recommend heading here later in the day when the crowds start to thin. The Quinault Rainforest Nature Loop is a quick 0.5 mi (0.8 km) trail that takes you through an incredibly mossy forest with a dizzying array of fungi and animals.

Lake Quinault

Lake Quinault is a massive glacier-fed lake that is surrounded by mossy old-growth rainforest. It is around this lake that you will find some of the most massive Sitka Spruce trees in the entire world! It’s no wonder it’s called the Valley of the Giants.

There is a 31-mile (49.9 km) loop road that circles the entire lake that is a great place to do some wildlife spotting. Head out around sunset and you might see some elk, black-tail deer, cougars, bald eagles, bobcats, and black bears.

You can also go swimming, boating, and fishing around at the lake if you have some extra time on your hands.

Where to Stay in Lake Quinault

For your last night in the park, you’ll have several options. Here are my favorite places to stay by Lake Quinault.

Note: You could also head home after the Quinault Rainforest. It’s going to take you about two hours to get back to Seattle (slightly shorter from Tacoma).

Kalaloch Lodge

Kalaloch Lodge is right on the cliffs of the southern coast of the Olympic Peninsula. You will enjoy extraordinary views from here. There are coniferous forests all around the lodge, which give you the laid back charm that is fitting for the end of a 4-day excursion into Olympic National Park.

Lake Quinault Lodge

If you want to close out your trip staying disconnected from the modern world, then Lake Quinault Lodge is the go-to choice. This is a rustic lodge that is nearly a century old, and will feel like a home away from home. You’ll even get to enjoy a lakeside view of tranquil Lake Quinault.

This area of the park also has several camping options.

Kalaloch Campground

You can make a reservation at Kalaloch Campground to ensure you’ll get one of the 168 campsites situated on a high bluff by the Pacific Ocean. 

Falls Creek Campground

Another reservable campground is Falls Creek Campground. It’s located right on the shores of Lake Quinault, making it very close to your final day’s excursions. There are only 31 campsites, so make sure you reserve your campsite as soon as you know when you’re coming.

Wallaby Campground

A third reservable campground is Wallaby Campground, also by Lake Quinault. There are even fewer campsites here than at Falls Creek, so if you want to stay somewhere surrounded by evergreen trees in a temperate rainforest, you will need to reserve a campsite fast.


These four days are bound to fly by when you follow this itinerary full of the best things to do in Olympic National Park! I’m sure you’ll fall in love with all of these places just like I have.

I still talk about the sunset on Rialto Beach as one of my fondest memories of our Washington State road trip in the summer of 2020.

I’d love to hear about your experience, so feel free to share it in the comments below!

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21 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this detailed Itinerary! Best one Ive found. I am planning my July Seattle/ Olympic park trip based off all your recommendations 🙂 My Bf and I are from Florida, first time in the PNW.
    We are getting to Port Angeles hotel pretty late in the afternoon (6;30-7;00ish) pm and I’m wondering if the hurricane ridge hike is do-able then. I saw sunset is >8pm in Mid july.

    Thanks in advance ! 🙂

    1. It’s probably going to be too late since the drive up to Hurricane Ridge from Port Angeles takes ~45 minutes. The hike is only a mile and a half, so if you arrive on the early end of that window (closer to 6:30) you MIGHT be able to squeeze it in. It’ll be tight, though.

  2. We are planning to hike and stay in around the Olympic Peninsula later this summer. I love all your tips for hiking. Do you have any recommendations for restaurants that have gluten free (Celiac) options in this area?

    1. Sure do! There’s really nothing in Port Angeles or Forks, so plan on cooking your own meals. BUT, in Sequim, you’ll find Nourish Sequim, a 100% gluten free farm-to-table restaurant with chicken pot pie and amazing desserts. Definitely stop there either on the way there or back (or both). It was our post-backpacking meal last time we were out there.

    1. Since you’re in a national park for most of this, dogs are ONLY allowed in places where you can take your car (e.g. parking lots, campgrounds, etc). The only exception is the first half mile of Rialto Beach, where dogs are allowed. No dogs on hiking trails, beaches, or anywhere else, which means it might be best to leave the pup at home if you really want to do this itinerary.

  3. Hi,
    We are staying in Forks for a few nights and are looking for restuarant suggestions. They do not need to be gluten free but if you have heard of good places there we are up for ideas.

    Thanks for all this info…incredibly helpful!

    Beth

    1. We always pack our own food, so I don’t have any restaurant recommendations in Forks. Sorry! In Sequim (on your way home), definitely stop by Nourish Sequim, which is 100% gluten free!

  4. Hi,
    Any advice for doing this trip in late December? I’ll be heading there from Seattle for 4 days with 6 people. Also, I was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease and was wondering if you have any advice for traveling and eating out gluten free safely (this is first major trip since being diagnosed)? I’m aiming to book an airbnb in Port Angeles so I can cook my own food and mostly avoid eating out.

    Thanks!

    1. Hey Tyler,

      Sorry for the delay on this – we’ve been on the road and missed this comment.

      For the most part, I’d say plan on cooking for yourself. There’s not a whole lot of places to eat gluten free on the Olympic Peninsula.

      BUT, you should stop by Nourish Sequim (https://www.nourishsequim.com/) which is a 100% gluten free restaurant / bakery on the way out to Port Angeles. Highly recommend – we stop there every time we’re going to / from Olympic National Park.

      Cheers,
      Matt

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