Visitors flock to Olympic National Park in Washington state to enjoy a rare rainforest in North America. The Olympic Mountains receive 12 to 14 feet of rain every year, and that yields towering Douglas firs, moss-covered cedars, and lush vegetation. Combine intense greenery with snow-capped mountains, 70 miles of coastline, and a dozen pristine rivers, and you have a natural treat that spans several different ecosystems for you to explore. Nearby vacation rentals make it easy to stow your hiking gear and raincoats after your adventure-filled day, so get out and discover eight best day hikes in Olympic National Park.
1. Hurricane Ridge
Head to Hurricane Hill for a 360-degree view that encompasses the Olympic Mountains, Elwha River Valley and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Summertime hikes mean colorful wildflowers and maybe even a mountain goat crossing your path. This 3-mile hike starts at the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center where you prep for your hike, and it’s about 1.5 miles to the top of the ridge and back. Trails are even, and the rise in elevation is 700 feet from start to finish. The first half mile is paved and wheelchair accessible. This day hike is the one you don’t want to miss, so leave two to three hours for plenty of photo opportunities and breathing in the fresh air.
2. Enchanted Valley
For a more adventurous time, get your hiking boots muddy with a 5-mile journey through Enchanted Valley. Begin your hike at Graves Creek bridge crossing in the southwest part of Olympic National Park. The trail mostly follows an old road, so it’s clearly marked and relatively easy to hike. Both sides of the trail harbor gargantuan stands of Sitka spruce, Douglas firs and western hemlocks you won’t see anywhere else. Your hike descends to Pony Bridge where you gaze down into a beautiful box canyon and its deep blue waters. At this point, you turn around and head back to where you started. Prepare to get wet and muddy on this hike, so be careful about slipping on wet rocks. Black bears call this place home, which means bring your bear spray (especially in the spring during mating season). Despite the muddy and wet terrain, this day hike is worth every step when you take an entire afternoon to explore this verdant landscape.
3. Quinault National Forest
The Quinault Rainforest Nature Loop hosts a 1/2-mile paved trail through giant moss-covered trees. Continue onward for another 1.5 miles into the Quinault Valley to view more huge trees as part of the Quinault National Recreation Trail System. The Cedar Loop trail is a total of 4 miles, there-and-back, that travels along the shores of Lake Quinault along with bogs, crystal clear creeks, and two tumbling waterfalls. Even though there’s a lot of water, it’s the vegetation that naturalists love. Towering trees provide plenty of shade in the summer, while moss-covered ground creates a blanket of emerald-colored beauty. There’s a boardwalk trail through much of this hike, but it stays wet all of the time so be careful when walking. Find the trailhead at Lake Quinault Lodge on the shores of the lake in the southwestern part of the park.
4. Sol Duc Falls
A family-friendly day hike to Sol Duc Falls lasts for 1.6 miles, and this day hike is one of the most popular in Olympic National Park. The trailhead starts just upriver of Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and continues along a well-maintained trail. Before you reach the falls, you come across the Canyon Creek Shelter, a historic structure built in 1939 as part of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps. The 50-foot falls form three or four separate streams of water, depending on the flow, and the towering trees overhead filter sunlight to form picturesque rays of sunlight bouncing off the mists. This popular spot is a winner for romantic couples, retirees, and families alike. Spend two hours along this greenery-filled hike.
5. Klahhane Ridge
The hike to Klahhane Ridge begins at the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center and lasts for 5.6 miles. Because the hike is longer, it isn’t as popular as the trek to Hurricane Ridge, and that means you have more of the trail to yourself. In about a 1/2 mile, you reach Sunrise Point and its stunning, 360-degree panoramas of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Vancouver Island, Port Angeles, and the Olympic peaks. Continue on this ridge trail to see even more impressive views. Hike 2 miles more along the base of Mount Angeles where you pass Heather Park and Heart O’ the Hills trailhead. Turn around before the trail heads down to Lake Angeles, which is a much more strenuous walk. This hike is a perfect starting point from several vacation rentals in Port Angeles.
6. Lena Lake
Lena Lake is a popular hike due to the impressive views surrounding this pristine habitat. Massive trees surround the shoreline, and hillsides rise up on all sides. This pet-friendly and family-friendly hike lasts 6 miles there and back, so leave plenty of time and pack some trail food for snacks along the way. Access the trailhead just off the paved road, and continue along the well-maintained path that features numerous footbridges, switchbacks, and trees. At the end of this day hike, sit on a ridge 100 feet above the 55-acre lake surrounded by hills.
7. Mount Storm King Trail
Start at the ranger station just off Highway 101 to begin your ascent of Mount Storm King. The steep grade and 2,000-foot gain in elevation along the 4.4-mile hike are well worth the views. Once at the ranger station, the ascent begins in earnest at a steep grade. As you near the peak of Mount Storm King, a rope system helps you get to the top. Once there, Mother Nature treats you to gorgeous views of Pyramid Peak, an old World War II-era lookout post, and Lake Crescent’s deep blue waters below. Along the way, see plenty of trees and scraggly growth as you keep getting higher. This trail is only open during the summer months. The trail is relatively short at 2.2 miles one way, but leave plenty of time to sit and reflect at the summit to truly enjoy this day hike.
8. Ozette Triangle Loop
This 9.5-mile hike offers you a chance to discover the coastal region of Olympic National Park. Begin at Ozette Campground and head out on either the North Sand Point Trail or the Cape Alava Trail. Both trails lead to the Pacific coastline, and you traverse the shoreline for 3 miles to reach other trail for your return trip. Be wary of the tides and muddy area along the coast. At the end of the Cape Alava Trail, you reach the westernmost point in the contiguous 48 states and the vast horizon that is the Pacific Ocean. The shoreline at Cape Alava heads south to Wedding Rocks, where 400-year-old petroglyphs remind you of the native cultures that once inhabited this lush environment. At Sand Point, explore a sandy beach and its beautiful landscape before heading back towards Ozette Campground. Bring a sack lunch for this all-day hike, and make sure you have a good map in case you need to move away from the shoreline due to the tides.
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