Winter is an exhilarating time to explore Olympic National Park and its gateway towns. With fewer visitors during the season, you can find peaceful mountains, crashing waves, and dripping lushness in this winter wonderland.
1. Ski and Snowboard at Hurricane Ridge
One of only three U.S. national parks that has a ski lift, Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area is a wild downhill ride with no marked runs. The best cross-country routes also start here with views of the grand ridge.
2. Watch Winter Storms
Ocean swells toss beach logs like Tinker Toys and you can have a front-row seat at two resorts and a northern lookout. If you’re brave, you can walk the beaches during low tide but we recommend the hot tub window room on First Beach.
3. Hike in a Rainforest
The rainforests come alive during the wet winter season. Once snow starts to melt in late winter, don your raincoat and golashes to walk the forest trails under lush green big-leaf maple trees dripping with moss. It’s much more pleasant than trekking in the hot, buggy humidity of the summer. We recommend the walking trails in the Hoh Rainforest and driving through the Quinault Rainforest (the northern section of road on the Quinault Loop.) A 4wd vehicle is recommended for this partially unpaved road.
4. Snowshoe with a Ranger
If you can walk, and there’s snow, you can snowshoe. Join a ranger on weekends and holiday Mondays to snowshoe a 1-mile trail. No advance planning is necessary. Just check the Hurricane Ridge conditions before you head out, then be at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center by 1:30 p.m. to sign up for the walk.
5. Cozy up at Kalaloch Lodge or Lake Quinault Lodge
Two lodges on the southwest side of Olympic National Park are open year round. On select days, go clamming on Kalaloch Lodge‘s beach, or watch the ocean anytime from the dining room. At night, gather around Kalaloch’s outdoor fire circle overlooking the ocean and share stories. The lakeside option, Lake Quinault Lodge, is a rustic, grand resort built in 1926 with indoor pool and sauna. Choose a fireplace room with heated bathroom floors, or stay in the boathouse for 360-degree views of the lake and forest.
Need an Olympic National Park map? Buy the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Olympic National Park map at REI.com. The map includes clearly marked trails and points of interest such as scenic views, campgrounds, trailheads, boat launches, picnic sites, ranger stations and more printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.