Learn about the plight of salmon caused by dams and the protection of wildlife such as elk and mountain goat in the national park and surrounding forests.
Tucked on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park is unique among the 415-plus national park sites. Not only is it home to four of the world’s few remaining intact temperate rainforests, but it has a breathtaking coastline and craggy alpine peaks. Elevations range from sea level to 7,983 feet at Mt. Olympus.
Explore some of its 73 miles of the wild Washington coast where you will find tide pools filled with sea creatures, towering sea stacks and rock arches. You also may spot whales, seals, sea lions, otters and eagles.
East of the coast, you’ll discover huge trees older than 200 years growing in the park’s lower elevations, accentuated by big rivers and scenic lakes. Species like Douglas fir and western hemlock provide a canopy over huckleberries, salal and trillium and wildlife, such as owls and rare fishers, rest in branches.
You’ll also discover four separate rainforests scattered throughout the park. The best-known rainforest to visit is the Hoh, but Bogachiel, Quinault and Queets are equally as stunning with more solitude. Walk among Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, western hemlock and western redcedar, some of which grow higher than 250 feet and are hundreds of years old. The largest Sitka spruce in the nation is 191 feet tall and lives in Quinault. The largest western redcedar is 159 feet high and can be found along the Quinault Big Cedar Trail. The largest Douglas fir stretches 281 feet in the sky in Quinault.
But get some altitude while you are here and head to the alpine zone in the park where peaks almost reach 8,000 feet and wildflower-dotted meadows are frequented by mountain goats and marmots. The easiest way to get into the mountains quickly is to drive up to Hurricane Ridge. From the visitor center, you can choose from a number of hiking trails.