Things to Do in the Water at Olympic National Park

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Kayaking on Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park

Kayaking on Crescent Lake in Olympic National Park

With crystal-clear lakes, cobalt rivers, and the Pacific Ocean all within a few miles of each other, Olympic National Park offers plenty of opportunities for water fun. Here are the top ways to get wet in the park—and we’re not talking about the rain.

Kayaking, Canoeing & Paddleboarding in Olympic National Park

Olympic’s serene lakes are ideal for paddling; explore wilderness shores, look for wildlife, and drink in the quiet. Lake Crescent, a very clear glacial lake on the park’s north side, is a beautiful spot for a day paddle (rent kayaks, canoes, rowboats, and paddleboards from Lake Crescent Lodge and Log Cabin Resort). Lake Ozette, the third-largest lake in Washington, is a challenging (read: waves and very cold water) but rewarding place to explore, with boat-in wilderness campsites along its shores. Lake Quinault (boat rentals available at Lake Quinault Lodge) and Lake Cushman, both on the park’s south side, provide lovely paddles under forested peaks. Prefer salt water? Slip a kayak into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a more sheltered waterway just north of the park, for a chance to paddle alongside sea stars and seals.

Rafting in Olympic National Park

Wide, swift rivers pour from the mountains on all sides of the park, and some make for excellent rafting trips. Outfitters run guided trips on parts of the Sol Duc (Class II-III; winter and spring) and Hoh Rivers (Class I-II; winter through summer). And now that the Elwha Dam has been removed, travelers can also raft the newly free-flowing Elwha River for a Class II-III adventure, with some trips including one Class IV rapid (fall through spring).

Trout and Salmon Fishing in Olympic National Park

Cast a line for native cutthroat trout, steelhead trout, and Chinook salmon in Olympic’s prime fishing waters. Fishing for wild species is catch and release only, but anglers can keep some hatchery trout or salmon during the fall season (make sure to check park regulations). Head to the Queets River for several salmon species or to the Hoh, Bogachiel, and Ozette Rivers for hatchery trout; fishing from boats is allowed in the lower portions of some rivers, including the Hoh, Ozette, and Queets. Marine anglers can also look for species like herring, lingcod, and surfperch in the ocean. And how many other national parks put shellfish on the menu? During the season, visitors can harvest clams, mussels, barnacles, and crabs from the Pacific beaches. No license is required for river fishing, but you’ll need a Washington State fishing license for fishing in the Pacific and a shellfish license for harvesting shellfish.

Surfing in Olympic National Park

It’s not exactly Hawaii—wetsuits, not swim trunks, are the uniform of choice—but the Pacific serves up fun, ridable waves on the Olympic Coast for cold-water surfers. The tiny town of La Push, located on the Quileute Indian Reservation between the park’s Rialto Beach and First Beach, is surf central (First Beach is also a great spot). Farther north, some surfers hike the 4 miles to Shi Shi Beach to catch the waves off this sandy backcountry destination.

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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