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.
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Roosevelt elk in Olympic National Park

Roosevelt elk relaxing in the rainforest

Olympic National Park was originally organized to protect the Roosevelt elk and provides both summer and winter habitat for them. The park houses the largest wild herd of Roosevelt elk left in the Pacific Northwest, which is probably the reason they are also called "Olympic elk." No trip is complete without observing these iconic animals, and your chances of spotting them are good.

Named for President Theodore Roosevelt, these dark brown ungulates are the largest subspecies of elk in North America, with bulls sometimes reaching 1,100 pounds and cows more than 600 pounds. Small herds of about 30 cows and calves band together and browse on ferns, lichens, and meadow grasses year-round, while bulls tend to live alone.

In September, listen for the eerie bugling of bulls during the rut (mating season).

Bull elk battling during the autumn rut in Olympic National Park

The bull elk battle to prove their superiority during the autumn rut

Where to See Roosevelt Elk in Olympic

Everywhere from alpine meadows to low-elevation rainforests on the park’s west side, but the Hoh Rainforest is a prime viewing spot. These non-migratory herds stay in the Hoh area throughout the year, banding together in herds of around 20 and consisting of females and their calves. Male elk, or bulls, can be seen singly or in pairs.

Bull elk in the Hoh Rainforest

Give the right of way to elk. 


Mountain Lion. Photo by Jeff Vanuga

Mountain Lions in Olympic National Park

Count yourself very lucky if you spot one of these elusive big cats—shy and wide-ranging, the park’s mountain lions are rarely seen.

Bald Eagle. Photo by Jeff Vanuga

Bald Eagles in Olympic National Park

These huge birds of prey—they can weigh more than 14 pounds, with a nearly 7-foot wingspan—are most frequently spotted roosting in trees along the Olympic coast.

Breaching gray whale

6 Wild Animals for your Olympic National Park Watch List

Look for these animals as you explore Olympic National Park including elk, whales, eagle plus three more.

Black Bear. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

Black Bears in Olympic National Park

Black bears (but not grizzlies) live throughout Olympic, roaming far and wide in search of ripe berries, spawning salmon, tree bark, and insects.

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.

Waterfall in Olympic National Park in autumn

Autumn in Olympic National Park

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.

Kayaking on Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park

Things to Do in the Water at Olympic National Park

With crystal-clear lakes, cobalt rivers, and the Pacific Ocean all within a few miles of each other, Olympic NP offers plenty of opportunities for water fun.

Olympic Coast Sea Stacks. Photo by Justin Bailie

10 Best Things to Do on an Olympic National Park Vacation

Olympic National Park and the surrounding areas are a Things to Do Mecca! You’ll be hard-pressed to fit it all in a single vacation.

Humpback whale breaking the water at sunset

Whale Watching at Olympic National Park

Whale watching cruises are one way to spot large marine mammals, but there are also many locations near the park where you can watch right from the shore.