Olympic National Park is located in the Pacific Northwest corner of the U.S. in the state of Washington. This park is special because of the diversity of the terrain found within it. Of the four regions mentioned above, there are also three different ecosystems within the regions. The sub-alpine forest, temperate rainforest, and the Pacific shore make it appear as if you have stepped from one world into another, and all within the same park! President Theodore Roosevelt designated this area as a national park in 1938. It is listed as one of the top ten most visited national parks in the U.S. and has some amazing hiking trails to experience the unique beauty of the different regions of the park.
Coastal Hiking Trails
The coastal hiking trails are split into two parts, trails along the South Olympic Coast or trails along the North Olympic Coast. The park website has tide charts available as the incoming tides can affect some of the trail access and safety. Stop by the visitor center to get more information on which trials are the best for you to experience.
South Olympic Coast
The Second Beach Trail along the South Olympic Coast is an easy, short walk along flat ground. This trail has excellent ocean views, and fantastic opportunities to see bald eagles and seals along the way. Watch for whales out in the ocean from March and October when they migrate. The Third Beach Trail is a little over a mile long and is another easy trail for visitors to take to see those ocean views and sea stacks. The trail is well maintained and can be done in a short amount of time.
The South Coast Beach Route is a more difficult trail that has some steep overland trails and ladders. The trail can last 17 miles from the Third Beach trailhead to the Oil City Trailhead. Hikers can see sea stacks, ocean views, birds, eagles, seals, whales, and coastal forests along this lengthy trail. The Oil City trail is less than a mile long and is considered an easy trail for hikers. This is another great trail to see the beach, ocean, offshore sea stacks, and wildlife that thrive in the area.
North Olympic Coast
The Ozette Loop is a nicely maintained boardwalk that cuts through a lush forest. It has an approximate distance of about 9 miles, and hikers can see the wilderness off the coast as well as some of the ocean and beaches. This is considered an easy trail and combines two different landscapes for a unique trail. The Shi Shi Beach trail also has some boardwalks and even crosses over Petroleum Creek. It is an easy trail lasting about 4 miles along the coast and forested areas. Rialto Beach is an easy hike that can be used to reach some great camping areas. Hikers can walk along the beach and see the rock formations off the coastline as wave’s crash into them. Watch for high and low tides as you cross along the sandy beaches of the trail.
The valleys of Olympic National Park are numerous and beautiful. Cross over creeks, see rivers, hike to waterfalls, and see the lush green landscape of this amazing park. There are over 20 trails to choose from in the valley areas, but all will impress you no matter which you choose. The Elwha River trail hikes through lowland forests and river valleys and is a moderately difficult trail. Cut through the stunning forests and see the rushing waters of the Elwha River which must be crossed at Chicago Camp if you’re hiking to the Low Divide.
The Dosewallips River Trail passes through tropical forestlands of Olympic. This is also a moderately difficult trail that can last up to 19 miles if you do the entire thing. Enjoy a stroll through the shade of the canopy of all the amazing trees through a beautiful forested area.
The Sol Duc River Trail walks through the forest, meadows, and tropical forests for a unique experience in the park. It is about 7 miles long, and hikers will climb at least a couple of thousand feet in elevation. The beautiful Sol Duc Falls can be seen and heard along this trail, so don’t miss out. The Queets River Trail takes guests through the old-growth rainforest and to the Queets River that must be crossed at the trailhead. The trail can last for up to 15 miles and is for the more experienced hikers. Enjoy a rainforest setting like you’ve never experienced before!
Your hiking experience wouldn’t be complete without trying one of the many mountain paths offered. There are over 30 mountain trails to choose from, including some around the famous Mt. Olympus. The Highway Divide Loop is 18 miles long and offers scenic views of Mount Olympus and other mountain peaks. Visitors have reported seeing elk and bear along the way too so keep your eyes open for wildlife. There are lakes along the way as well for even more spectacular views of the park.
Climb up above the world on the Six Ridge trail. It is about 10 miles long and is steep and difficult so it is not a trail for beginners. Hikers can climb up past 4,000 feet in elevation changes so use caution and enjoy your time up with the peaks of the mountains of the park. There are dozens of more mountain trails to experience in the park for some of the most amazing scenery of the northwest.
Weather of the Pacific Northwest
Hiking in Olympic National Park is best done in the warmer months of summer. Even then, snowfall may still be present, especially in the high peaks of the mountains and in some mountain passes along the trails. Winter consists of large blankets of snow, particularly in the mountains. Snow will be present on all the trails and hiking may be more dangerous during this time. Hike the easier trails or ask the park staff where to go to experience the beautiful white world of winter safely.
Rain is a constant factor in the ark, so when visiting bring waterproof gear and clothing just in case. This will allow you to continue your hike and have a more enjoyable experience of you are prepared for the rainfall that might occur. Whatever season you decide to visit, some amazing hikes are waiting for you at one of America’s most popular parks, Olympic National Park.