A Perfect Day in Olympic National Park

Got 24 hours? Get the most out of them with this guide.
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Wake up in the High Country

Hurricane Ridge Road.

Hurricane Ridge Road. 

Start your perfect day with a mountain sunrise. Pick up an early coffee in Port Angeles and head up to Hurricane Ridge before dawn to catch the morning rays lighting up the park. Linger and enjoy the view from the visitor center observation deck, or hike the 5.2-mile (round-trip) trail to the aptly named Sunrise Ridge for even better vistas.

Learn About the Park

Drive back to sea level to the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles. There, you can pick up park information, chat with rangers, peruse exhibits on flora and fauna in the park, shop at the bookstore and watch the 25-minute park movie, “Mosaic of Discovery.”

See a Waterfall

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

Bridge over Sol Duc Waterfall on Olympic National Park. 

Head west to walk within spray range of one of the park’s cascades. Marymere Falls is an easy, 1.8-mile round-trip hike from the Storm King Ranger Station; the 200-foot-tall waterfall falls in a lacy ribbon down a lush ravine. Or go on to Sol Duc Falls, a raging, 50-foot cascade that plunges into a narrow chasm about a mile from the Sol Duc trailhead.

Paddle Lake Crescent

Kayaking on lake in Olympic National Park.

Kayaking on lake in Olympic National Park. 

Bright, clear Lake Crescent is a gorgeous place to spend a sunny day (or a rainy one!). Rent a kayak or canoe from Lake Crescent Lodge and paddle out to explore the shoreline. Fishing is also popular here; look out for two distinct subspecies of trout swimming these waters. After your paddle, stop for lunch at the lodge restaurant (ask for seats on the screened-in porch for lake views).

Marvel at the Rainforest

Tree in Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park

Tree in Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park

Continue west and south to the Hoh Rain Forest, a primeval destination dominated by enormous trees and the verdant, open canopy beneath them. Stop by the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center to learn about the area’s plants and animals, then walk a trail to crane your neck at the giant trees. If time is short, hike the .8-mile Hall of Mosses Trail or the 1.2-mile Spruce Nature Trail for a sampler. If you have more time, take the Hoh River Trail, which extends 17 miles into the forest.

Catch a Coastal Sunset

Sunset on Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park

Sunset on Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park

Nothing ends the day like a classic Pacific sunset. Catch the continent’s last rays on your pick of Olympic’s beaches. Rialto Beach is a drive-up and offers huge driftwood logs for seats; if the tides are favorable, you can also walk north 2 miles to Hole-in-the-Wall Arch. Or take the .7-mile trail through the forest to Second Beach for a more remote, wilder sunset framed by sea stacks.

Hole-in-the-Wall rock arch. Photo by David Fulmer

Hole-in-the-Wall rock arch. 

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.

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Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park's Sol Duc Valley

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Waterfall in Olympic National Park in autumn

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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.

Black Bear. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

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