Autumn in Olympic National Park

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Waterfall in Olympic National Park during autumn

The big leaf maples of the rainforest turn color and drop

The sound of elk bugling to show off to their harems.
Huge colored maple leaves twice as big as your hand.
Eagles, otters, and bobcats feeding on spawning salmon.

These are the sights and sounds your will witness in Olympic National in autumn - usually without another person in view.

October through June is the rainy season in this northwest corner of Washington State so many people stay away. But, not wanting to get rained on in a rainforest is simply an oxymoron. The forests come alive in fall.

Elk Rutting Season

Roosevelt elk during the autumn rut in Olympic National Park

Roosevelt elk during the autumn rut

Olympic National Park was founded by Teddy Roosevelt to protect the native elk. Today the Roosevelt elk are the largest herds of unmanaged elk in the Pacific Northwest. Fall is the mating season for elk and the bulls have odd behavior rituals to show their dominance. You’ll hear them wail –called bugling. They’ll roll around in the mud and adorn their antlers with strings of moss. And they run themselves 24-hours a day to keep their harems in a tight group. It’s quite a sight. The best places to see elk are the Quinault and Hoh River Valleys at twilight.

Leaves Turn Color and Mushrooms Pop Up

Mushrooms and moss on the forest floor

If you want to see autumn colors, head for the rainforests. Olympic National Park’s rainforests have bigleaf and vine maples interspersed among deep green hemlock and spruce trees. Most of the year, the trees wear a lush green moss coat. But in fall, these coats are speckled with red, orange, and yellow leaves. It’s more of a subtle scene compared to east coast color shows, until a breeze causes giant colored leaves to drop around you. You should also look down at your feet. The wetter weather brings colorful mushrooms and other water-loving plants to the forest floors.

Here are our picks for top color views in the park

  • Hoh Rainforest on one of the Hall of Mosses trails
  • Along the Quinault River through the Quinault Rainforest
  • Hurricane Ridge Road (Call 360-565-3131 for road status)
  • Highway 101 between Forks and Lake Crescent

Salmon Spawning Season

Viewing platform over the Salmon Cascades along the Sol Duc River

Viewing platform over the Salmon Cascades along the Sol Duc River

In late September through early October, coho salmon from the Pacific enter the Sol Duc River by means of the Quillayute River and leap, with great determination, over the cascades en route to their spawning grounds. Stop at the Sol Duc River overlook to view the salmon jumping up the Salmon Cascades. With any luck, you’ll also see opportunist eagles, otters, and even bobcats snacking on the easy prey.

Photo Gallery: Autumn in Olympic National Park

The rainforests in Olympic National Park come alive in autumn with colored leaves twice as big as your hand.

Autumn in the Olympic rainforest

Autumn in the Olympic rainforest

A maple tree in the Olympic rainforest during autumn

A maple tree in the Olympic rainforest during autumn

Sunset on the Quinault River

Sunset on the Quinault River

A drive through the rainforest in autumn

A drive through the rainforest in autumn

Tree arch on Hall of Mosses Trail in Olympic National Park's Hoh Rain Forest

Tree arch on Hall of Mosses Trail in autumn

Related

Rainbow over Hood Canal

Rainfall and Tides in Olympic National Park

Olympic has a reputation for rain—and true, parts of the peninsula receive 12 feet of rain every year, but summer brings warm, dry weather.

Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park Ecosystem Zones

Olympic National Park contains four distinct and remarkable ecosystems—and even better, it’s possible to see all four in one day.

Cross-country skiing on Hurricane Ridge. Photo by NPS

Winter in Olympic National Park

The park is open 24-hours year round. Some roads, campgrounds and other facilities close during the winter season, but the park itself is always open!

Roosevelt elk in Olympic National Park

Roosevelt Elk in Olympic National Park

The largest wild herd of Roosevelt elk in the Pacific Northwest lives in Olympic, so your chances of spotting one are good.

Rainbow over Hood Canal

Average Weather for Olympic National Park

In summer, highs are around 65 to 75°F; weather is often sunny from July through September. In winter, heavy snow accumulates in the mountains.

Storm waves on the Pacific Ocean at the beach

Winter Storm Watching on Olympic Coast

73 miles of coastline turn into a wave crashing show in the winter. From Nov through Feb, storms coming in from the Pacific have wind gusts up to 60 mph.

The sun breaks through storm clouds on Second Beach in Olympic National Park.

Mules Help With Weather Experiment in Olympic National Park

The Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) measures precipitation and help NASA fine-tune new weather satellites. Mules get the equipment into remote areas.

A girl sitting on stump in front of an RV in Olympic National Park

RV Camping at Olympic National Park

Ready to take your home away from home into the park? Olympic NP is an excellent place for RV camping, with options ranging from oceanfront to rainforest.

Bridge over Sol Duc Waterfall on Olympic National Park. Photo by Justin Bailie

Sol Duc Valley in Olympic National Park

Beyond the beauty of the Sol Duc River running through old-growth forest, there's a hot springs resort, a three-legged waterfall, and a salmon cascade.