As much as we love hiking, hiking holidays can get a little dull if you’re walking through the same old scenery day after day… and that’s why Olympic National Park has to be hands-down one of our favorite spots for a hiking trip.
The park itself is located in Washington State, and not only is it enormous – it covers almost one million acres – but it’s also incredibly varied. The park is home to not one, not two, not three, but FOUR distinct regions. With nearly 100 km of rugged coastline, temperate rainforests full of moss-covered trees, drier forests on the eastern side, and alpine regions featuring glaciated peaks to choose from, you can be sure that no two hikes here will be quite the same. In fact, this diversity has earned Olympic National Park destination as a World Heritage Site as well as an International Biosphere Reserve.
Unsurprisingly, the park receives millions of visitors each year, with the summer and fall being the busiest months. There are several campgrounds and wilderness areas dotted throughout the park, as well as various lodges and other forms of accommodation in and just outside the park.
Wherever you chose to set up base, we definitely recommend spending at least a long weekend exploring the many sights that this beautiful park has to offer. With stretches of hiking trails covering more than 600 miles, there really is a hike for everyone in Olympic NP. Read on for a sneak peek of our personal favorites.
We’re starting off with a nice and easy, family-friendly hike to ease you into the world of hiking in Olympic National Park.
This linear hike begins at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, and even from here, you’ll be awestruck by the views of the skyline. The path from here is nice and wide, and you don’t have to worry about loose stones underfoot.
As you ascend for 1.6 miles, you’ll make your way through open pine forests, with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains greeting you from behind the trees.
Although you’ll climb 650 feet in total, it’s a lot easier than you might imagine thanks to the numerous switchbacks o the trail that lessen the slope. When you finally reach the top of Hurricane Hill and have left those forests behind you, you’ll be able to take in the 360-degree views of the area, which include sights of the Strait of Juan de Fuca as well as glimpses of the imposing Mount Baker and various other peaks.
To return to the visitors center, simply head back down the way you came, making sure not to end up on one of the longer hikes that end up here!
This route is especially spectacular during the summer months when you’ll pass through meadows dotted with vibrant wildflowers. Wildlife-lovers will also be happy to know that deer are commonly encountered in this area, as well as goats and other mammals.
The simplicity of this hike in terms of easy logistics and a clear, stead route have unsurprisingly made this a very well-trodden path. Despite that, it really is a must-do for any trip to Olympic National Park. Even if crowds aren’t you’re thing – you can always whizz up there first thing in the morning and be off by the afternoon – after all, it seems a shame to miss out on such a rewarding hike.
Okay, so now it’s time to hit up those rainforests. The Sol Duc Falls is an excellent hike for families with young children due to its short length, its fairly flat nature, and the quality of the path itself.
The trailhead is located just behind the Sol Duc Hot Springs Hotel (which might be up your street if you feel like some pampering), and you’ll immediately head into the forest where you’ll be engulfed in a luscious green canopy featuring mossy logs tonnes, and never-ending towers of wise Sitka spruce trees.
After a short, flat stroll (and no worries of getting lost), you’ll reach the falls themselves. The network of waterfalls really is a sight to behold, and the sound of the water tumbling down almost 50 feet into the awaiting canyon below is quite magical.
Although the environment is fairly humid, there’s a boardwalk that offers great views of the falls so you don’t have to do any dangerous scrambling. To get back to the starting point, simply do a U-turn and head back the way you came – simple right?
This track does get fairly busy during the summer months, but it’s a great way to stick your toe into the temperate tropical forests of Olympic without dragging your kids on a (very sweaty) never-ending hike.
If you’re after a hike that will really get those legs going, then we definitely recommend the hike from Klahhane Ridge to Lake Angeles.
Although both the Klahhane Ridge and Lake Angeles can be explored in its own rights, we think it’s definitely worth adding on a trip to the lake to make for one very versatile walk overall.
The hike begins at the Hurricane Ridge Trailhead, not far from the Hurricane Ridge visitor center. To make your way onto the ridge, you’re going to ascend 1,500 ft in under 2 miles – so brace yourself! As you climb, you’ll work your way through a spectacular sub-alpine forest via various switchbacks. If you’re there in summer, which most people are, after the forest you’ll pass through meadows littered with thousands of wildflowers – and make sure you take your binoculars with you too, as goats, chipmunks, and bears might all be frolicking in the meadows.
Up here, you’ll find the turn-off for the Lake Angeles trail, which will bring you to the lake via a montane forest. Bear in mind that this trail is often frozen over during the winter months, so we really do recommend saving this one for summer or fall. plus, even in summer, the descent can be slippy, so make sure you’re wearing proper footwear.
Lake Angeles itself is a fine example of an alpine lake, and it sits cradled by mountains filled with greenery. the lake makes a great swimming spot for weary hikers, so remember to pack your swimming gear! When you’re ready to head back, simply return the way you came for a different perspective of the landscapes you’ve just witnessed.
This hike is the most strenuous on our list so far, and it requires a good level of physical fitness. However, if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll certainly be rewarded by a medley of mountains, forests, meadows, and lakes.
How could we not include a trip through an enchanted valley on our list of the best hikes in Olympic?!
The Enchanted Valley Trail To Pony Bridge is a 5-mile roundtrip that will take you through a dense rainforest smothered in moss and ferns that is, quite simply, enchanting. The walls of the valley consist of towering mountainsides, formed by glaciers from times gone by.
The trail begins at the Graves Creek bridge trailhead and ascends slowly through the magical forest up onto a ridge. The many berries lining the shrubberies host a range of birds and insects, making the whole area feel very alive. In fact, bears are frequently sighted around here, so make sure that you’re up to speed with how to handle any encounters with these four-legged creatures before getting out on this hike.
From the top of the ridge, you’ll head down towards Pony Bridge itself, walking alongside an exquisite river for most of the journey. the greens, turquoise, and emeralds of the river and the surrounding scenery make for an excellent picnic spot and, when you’re finished, head back the same way that you came to get back to your car.
There are some steep sections, and the path isn’t paved, so make sure that you’re wearing decent footwear for this one.
If you find yourself in need of some vitamin sea while you’re in Olympic, then you should definitely check out the hike from Rialto Beach to the hole-in-the-wall.
The 4-mile roundtrip begins, as the name suggests, at Rialto Beach, which has its own parking lot (winning). From there, the route hugs the coastline as you head towards the famed hole-in-the-wall. ‘But what is the hole-in-the-wall?’, I hear you ask. Well, it’s a unique rock formation featuring an arch structure right by the seashore.
This laid-back hike is entirely flat, and as you wander along the oceanfront make sure you keep your eyes open for the various marine creatures you might be lucky enough to spot – whales, sealines, and otters are our personal favorites. The rock pools, driftwood, and abundant wildlife really do make this hike a feast for the eyes and, although it isn’t particularly long or strenuous, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to explore your surroundings.
This hike is teeming with wildlife, which makes it a great option for anyone with curious kids in tow. We recommended taking your binoculars with you too, not only for the marine mammals but also the range of seabirds you’ll spot whizzing above your head as you hike.
One thing to think about is the tide – if you make the journey at low tide, crossing Ellens creek will be easier and you can get up close and personal with the creatures lying in the rock pools. Other than that, there’s very little planning to do. This is definitely a good hike to do if you feel like just relaxing and soaking it all in.