Seattle to Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Park Road Trip

Author:
Publish date:
Wildflower explosion at Mt. Rainier National Park

Wildflower explosion at Mt. Rainier National Park

Trip Duration: 7 Days

Visit two of Washington State’s premier national parks on this scenery-packed trip also passing through Seattle and Olympia.

Map

Start: Seattle

Fuel up on local cuisine before you travel to the parks. Seattle’s diversity is part of what makes it so exciting. Head to the International District to get a taste of this city’s varied culture. Stop in at Uwajimaya, an Asian grocery and department store. Peruse their bakery, food stalls and impressive stationary collection. Make a pilgrimage to Maneki, the oldest Japanese restaurant in Seattle, and one of the oldest in the country. Opened in 1904, this restaurant has rooms with traditional tatami (bamboo) mats. 

Rent an RV with Outdoorsy
Do this road trip in an RV to stay close to nature. Or check out Destination Delivery: have an RV delivered directly to a campground or parking site to camp in style without having to get behind the wheel. www.outdoorsy.com/rv-rental/washington/olympic-national-park

Make sure to read our tips on navigating Olympic National Park with an RV

Mt. Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier reflection

Mount Rainier reflection

From Seattle, head southeast through Enumclaw (a small town with great views of Mt. Rainier) and on to the White River Entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park.

Spend at least a few days exploring the park; highlights include seeing the views at Paradise and Sunrise, hiking the Tatoosh Range, and watching waterfalls in the Carbon River area. Stay at one of the park campgrounds or the Paradise Inn.

Mt. Rainier's Paradise Inn at sunrise

Mt. Rainier's Paradise Inn at sunrise

Olympic National Park Staircase Area and Hood Canal

Colorful Hoodsport Businesses

Colorful Hoodsport Businesses

A tiny burb along the shore of Hood Canal, Hoodsport is the place to fuel up and grab a bite to eat before heading to Olympic National Park's Staircase area. The 30-minute drive to the park takes you into the forest where cell phone service and GPS are hard to find, so know where you are headed before you embark. Follow directions to Lake Cushman, a 4,000-acre reservoir with picnic areas and a narrow gravel road skirting its steep banks.

Lake Cushman near Hoodsport in Autumn

Lake Cushman near Hoodsport in Autumn

After the lake, the road becomes paved and enters Olympic National Park with a campground, ranger station and trailheads being your first stops. For a leisurely day hike, take the 2.1-mile Staircase Rapids Loop Trail that follows the Skokomish River and crosses two bridges before taking you back to the Staircase Ranger Station.

View from the suspension bridge on the Staircase Rapids Loop Trail

View from the suspension bridge on the Staircase Rapids Loop Trail

Make your way back to Hoodsport and head north, eating hyper-local at Hamma Hamma Oyster Saloon. On the shores of Hood Canal north of Hoodsport, where Washington’s best oysters grow, you’ll see signs on the side of the highway marketing oysters, clams and crab. Pullover.

Hama Hama Oyster Company near Hoodsport, Washington

Hama Hama Oyster Company

Hamma Hamma farms their bivalves right there in the canal. Peruse the farm store for seafood and local products to take home, or take a seat at the Oyster Saloon. Open air, the oyster saloon is about as close to your food as you can get. Their menu is subject to change based on what’s in season, but one thing’s for sure: there will be oysters. Order them cooked in butter sauce, baked with pimento cheese or raw on the half shell. Local beer and wine is also served. On summer weekends, you’ll find live music in the afternoons and in the winter, you can hear sea lions as you watch the tide roll off the oyster beds.

Point your tires north and follow the water making a gradual crescent left sweep from Hood Canal to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Port Angeles and Olympic National Park's Hurricane Ridge

The ferry docking at sunset at Port Angeles Pier in Washington

The Black Ball Ferry arriving from Victoria at sunset at Port Angeles Pier

By far the largest city on the Olympic Peninsula with 19,000 residents, Port Angeles, Wash., is home to one of the deepest harbors in the world. Walk along the 8-mile paved Olympic Discovery Trail and climb the harbor tower for views of the docks and boats arriving at the harbor.

The view from Hurricane Hill in Olympic National Park.

The view from Hurricane Hill in Olympic National Park.

Port Angeles also serves as the gateway to Olympic National Park with a visitors center just outside the park entrance. It’s a mere 17-mile drive from town to Hurricane Ridge inside the park, an area that offers beautiful wildflower hikes during the summer as well as peaceful snowshoe and ski trails in winter.

After a full day of exploring, we know what you’re in the mood for. Something fast and something greasy. Head to Frugal’s, a shiny chrome burger drive-thru that locals swear is better than In-N-Out. See for yourself. Pro-tip, order fry sauce on your burger and don’t skip the milkshake.

Olympic National Park Lakes, Waterfalls and Hot Springs

From Port Angeles, head west on Highway 101 for your third taste of Olympic National Park’s beauty.

Sunrise at Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park

Sunrise at Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park

Take the turnoff for Lake Crescent Lodge to explore one of the park’s most beautiful lakes. Strikingly clear due to the lack of nitrogen in the water, this crescent-shaped lake is extremely deep – 624 feet at its depths. In the evenings, the sun paints the water gold. In the mornings, mist hovers over the water. Surrounded by temperate rainforests, it’s a little slice of paradise.

Kayaking on Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park

Kayaking on Lake Crescent 

Book a room or a cabin at the charming Lake Crescent Lodge to experience all of the lake’s many angles. Make sure to order a drink at the bar and enjoy the lodge’s sun room, or Adirondack chairs, right on the lake’s shore. To really get a taste for the lake’s beauty, rent a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard at the lodge. Rentals fill up quickly when the weather’s nice, so for the most solitude, get there when they open at 7 a.m. Paddle along the shoreline and look deep into the blue green water. You might even spot a nearly century-old car wreck.

Continue heading west on Highway 101 to the turn off for Sol Duc Valley. Start your tour of the Valley with a hike to Sol Duc Falls. This beautiful hike takes you 1.6 miles roundtrip through a temperate rainforest to an overlook where you can watch the beautiful falls tumble 50 feet into the slot canyon below. In the autumn rainy season and early spring runoff these falls can be spectacular as they boom beneath your feet.

Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park

After exploring, head to the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort to soak in natural mineral pools ranging from 50-degrees to 104-degrees. The resort also offers a restaurant, gift shop and lodging options.

Three hot springs pools of varying temperatures at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort in Olympic National Park.

Three hot springs pools of varying temperatures at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort in Olympic National Park

End: Seattle via the Bainbridge Island Ferry

From the peninsula, you have two choices to get back to Seattle. Either take the Bainbridge Ferry, possibly cutting off an hour or so of travel time, or drive south through Tacoma. The ferry may be faster, and is the more exciting route, but it costs $28.60 per standard car, as well as $8.50 per person.

Related