Olympic National Park Essentials: 11 Basic Things You Need to Know
Read this before you plan your visit to the park.
Olympic National Park covers nearly a million acres of stunning wilderness in Washington State. Snow-capped peaks rise above meadows carpeted with wildflowers. Salmon leap over waterfalls in temperate rainforests. Tide pools teem with life along moody beaches. Visit this lesser-known gem to find amazing trails, abundant wildlife and views that will take your breath away. Get prepared for your trip with a few basic Olympic essentials that you’ll want to know.
Olympic National Park encompasses most of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula and is accessed mainly by Hwy. 101. West of Port Angeles services like gas stations and restaurants are limited, so plan ahead.
You can buy a $30 7-day pass at a park entrance station, or use your America the Beautiful or other interagency annual pass to get into the national park.
Respect the tides.
The park’s rugged coastline makes for some incredible hiking opportunities, but it’s important to always check the tides before heading out. Know how to use and carry a map and a tide chart to ensure you don’t get stranded by high or low water levels. Use caution when exploring tide pools as the rocks surrounding them can be sharp and slippery. Keep an eye out for rogue waves and respect the tidal wildlife.
Afternoon thunderstorms are common in Olympic National Park in the summer months at high elevation and lightning can pose a real danger to hikers. Hike in the morning and plan to be back at the trailhead by early afternoon. If you hear thunder or see dark and building clouds, turn back immediately.
Stay on the trail.
Walking off-trail damages plants, erodes the landscape and can lead to dangerous drop-offs. Stick to the park’s 600-plus miles of trails.
Dress the part.
Closed-toed shoes with good tread like hiking boots or tennis shoes will protect your feet and give you a good grip on park trails. Avoid cotton, which doesn’t wick moisture like sweat or rain, and pack waterproof layers when you hit the trails. Olympic National Park’s weather is often rainy.
Keep it beautiful.
With 2.4 million visitors in 2022, every piece of trash adds up. Skip the plastic water bottle and refill your reusable at the park’s filtered filling stations. Pack out everything you pack in when you hit the trails. Yes, that means everything, including TP.
Olympic is one of the more pet-friendly national parks in the system, but traveling with your furry friend can still be a headache. Dogs are only allowed on-leash on a handful of trails and beaches in the park, in parking lots and in campgrounds. If you’d like to explore more of the park, opt to leave your pet at home. Never leave your pet in the car as temperatures can become dangerous, even on a mild day.
Only you can prevent forest fires.
Did you know that 89% of wildfires are human caused? (Source: Congressional Research Service) Be sure to check for fire bans before you go camping and adhere to them. S’mores taste just as good cooked on the camp stove as they do over the fire, promise.
Much of the Olympic Peninsula, including the Hot Rain Forest and much of the coast have spotty cell-service and limited public Wi-Fi. Download maps, directions and reservations ahead of time and then take in the scenery. You can always post a Latergram from home.
Where to Stay?
The park has four lodging options located inside the park: Kalaloch Lodge, Lake Crescent Lodge, Log Cabin Resort and Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. Quinault Lodge is located just past the park border in the Olympic National Forest. Park lodging can fill up quickly, so many visitors stay in outside the park where a variety of rental accommodations can be found, or in nearby towns like Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend.
Campers will find fifteen campgrounds—some with first-come, first-served sites—in the park. It’s best to make advanced reservations. Camping is only allowed in designated campgrounds, or in the backcountry with a permit.