From Mountaintop to Shining Sea: Exploring all of Olympic National Park
Located just about a two hour drive from the bustling downtown of Seattle, pulling up to the entrance to Olympic National Park is just about as opposite from the city as you can get. Port Angeles is tucked into a cove surrounded by incredible nature, and is a short drive from both the main entrance to the park and a popular ferry boat depot to places like Vancouver and Victoria.
What really separates Olympic National Park from others is the incredible number of regions is has in one place. Exploring the park you can find mountains with glaciers, coastline, temperate rainforest and dry forest all in one place.
One of the biggest attractions to Olympic, especially those who are on day trips or want to stick to more vehicle accessible areas is Hurricane Ridge. Take the drive up the curvy 17 mile mountain road, it’s not for the faint of heart, and you will rise from sea level to over 5,000 feet. In the mornings, it’s not unusual for you to rise through a thick layer of fog as you approach the peak, talk about special!
At the top of the Hurricane Ridge you’ll find a bunch of hiking trails as well as a large ranger station that has restrooms, a cafe, a gift shop and an information center. The views in and around the ranger station are nothing short of spectacular, and provide a great base to get higher up the range.
If you want to head back down to sea level, try exploring the Ozette Loop, it provides a 9 mile trail that starts as a boardwalk and passes through the dunes out to the Pacific Ocean. There are plenty of spots for photo opportunities, exploring tide pools, and relaxing for a picnic lunch with an absolutely stunning backdrop around you. This is one of the more accessible hikes along the water within the park, and it’s perfect for beginners.
Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of recreation opportunities to be enjoyed inside Olympic National Park, especially if you want to really get out and explore the interior. This area is not accessible by car, so be prepared to hike in and out with all of your gear and supplies.
Besides hiking, the rivers that run through the park, Hoh and Elwah also offer rafting, kayaking and canoeing opportunities as well for the water enthusiast. And, in the winter, there are spots to ski, snowboard and snowshoe along the trails in and around Hurricane Ridge.
Olympic National Park is expansive to be sure, but within a short drive of a major metropolitan area and offering so many different opportunities to get out and explore, it is one National Park you can consistently visit again and again.
Have you been to the Olympic Peninsula? What are some of your favorite places?