Entering Olympic National Park on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is akin to stepping foot onto the surface of another planet.
The only temperate rainforest in North America, the peninsula’s dense terrain and near-constant downpours call to mind a South American tropical jungle.
Only the temperatures and seasonal snow give away its North American location.
Olympic National Park Photos
Beautiful Olympic National Park
Most of the Olympic National Park rain forest interior is accessible only by foot or bike, but if you didn’t come prepared to backpack or cycle, the coastal boundary is easily traversed by car along windy Highway 101.
Multiple days are needed to properly see the whole park, but if you only have 24-48 hours, I suggest touring the lush southern section far removed from the busier visitor centers of Port Angeles and harder-to-access Hurricane Ridge.
From Highway 101 past Neilton, you’ll first be greeted by the stately Lake Quinault Lodge, where you’ll want to stop and book a room for the night.
Not only is this historic lodge an Olympic National Park institution, it participates in the Green Thread Environmental Program (as does its sister lodges in the park).
Be sure to stop and get a National Park Pass! Get an annual one and visit National Parks around the country.
Side note: There is a special program going on now where 4th graders get a free annual pass.
We took my son to get his at the Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona and were shocked to learn that if he is with us, our entire family gets in free.
What a fantastic new program!
If the weather is nice and you’re visiting in the summer season, rent kayaks on the lake, or brave a chilly swim to the floating dock.
If the peninsula is producing its typical drizzle, opt for a seat by the fireplace or swim in the indoor pool instead.
In the afternoon, cross the street to take a hike through the Quinault Rain Forest, where a network of easy to moderate trails wind through maple glades, cedars, and ferns.
The next morning, drive the 30 miles along Hwy 101 from the lake to the coast at Kalaloch, where, in addition to Kalaloch Lodge, the vast, windswept Olympic National Park beaches yield piles of weather-hewn driftwood and wide vistas.
Kids and kids at heart will also find the most impressive tree climbing you’ll likely see anywhere.
Hoh Rain Forest
Further north, take the Hoh Valley Road inland to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, where the easy mile loop trail of the Hall of Mosses awaits.
Note: visitor center is closed in the off-season, but trails are open year round.
Be careful, or you might just turn into moss yourself:
Pop culture étiquette dictates I mention the proximity of Forks, Washington and La Push, but if you’re not a Twilight fan, I suggest skipping it.
As we drove by, we paused to do our best vampire impressions.
A return to Quinault Lodge or Kalaloch Lodge ensures another night’s rest before leaving this enchanted park the following day.
It’s always fun to explore and no better place to do it than one of our esteemed national parks.
These Olympic National Park photos will hopefully inspire you to plan a visit. Jasper National Park ~ A Place to See Incredible Wildlife
It will be worth your time as you explore this wondrous part of our country.
As always in our national parks, bring your camera and leave everything as you find it.