The Olympic National Park is a magical wonderland nestled within the Olympic Peninsula cradled by the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. And planning the perfect Olympic National Park itinerary is a priority for many who visit Washington state.
Within its borders, you’ll find some of the most well-preserved undeveloped swaths of forest and coastal land in the United States, as well as miles upon miles of magnificent natural riches, from snowy-peaked mountains to old-growth rainforests and idyllic wildflower valleys to dramatic coastlines.
There’s so much to see within this wild expanse that it could be challenging to come up with an Olympic National Park itinerary if it’s your first time visiting. But we’ve got you covered. Here is your guide to spending 2 days in Olympic National and up to 3 days in Olympic National Park.
How Many Days in Olympic National Park?
Like most national parks, this is not a one-and-done deal. To make the most of your trip and really enjoy all the park has to offer, I recommend two to three days for a couple of reasons.
The first is the weather. The Northwest is not exactly known for its year-round sunshine, and it is pretty likely you’ll have at least one rainy day. That shouldn’t stop you from exploring and having a great time. But it’s still nice to have a little wiggle room just in case the weather is particularly gnarly at some point during your trip.
Moreover, you’ll want to spend at least 2 days in Olympic National Park and ideally three days because there is truly just so much to see and do. When spending time in nature, it’s always best to take time to soak up the atmosphere and allow some leeway for impromptu adventures off the beaten path.
Plus, there are logistics. The park has limited opening hours, and you will probably be staying at a campground, resort, or hotel in a nearby town. While it doesn’t take long to drive around (more on that below), you’ll still want to factor that into your timeline.
Getting To and Around Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is just across the water from Seattle on the other side of Puget Sound. Highway 101 hugs the Olympic Peninsula and the Park, making it easy to get to the Park from Seattle via Olympia or Port Angeles. Either way, the trip will take about two hours (possibly closer to three if you’re travelling during rush hour).
If you haven’t been, Olympia, the state capitol, might be worth a stop on the way. In this case, just follow the 101 from Seattle through Olympia and onward to the Park. But if you’d prefer to go straight there, I recommend taking the ferry via Bainbridge Island to Port Angeles.
Whichever route you choose, keep in mind that Seattle and King County are generally notorious for rush hour traffic, so it’s best to get going as early as possible. Try to get in the ferry line by 7 a.m. as queues can get crazy long, especially in summer. I know it’s rough, but you’ll pass at least half a dozen coffee stands on the way; that’s what they’re there for!
You can technically avoid the ferry and still go through Port Angeles by driving over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. But besides sidestepping the traffic, the ferry also allows you to glimpse the Emerald City from a new and enchanting perspective as the boat slips out of the harbor. To get the best view, deactivate your car alarm (the boat’s vibration as it departs tends to set them off) and head up to the deck.
Once you arrive on Bainbridge Island, you can drive from Bainbridge to Port Angeles in about 90 minutes. Then, turn up the hill to the park entrance. The Park entrance closes to incoming cars at 4 p.m. and shuts down completely at 5 p.m., so this is another major incentive to get an early start.
While private companies offer tours of the Park, it’s best enjoyed independently so you can set your own pace and enjoy some peace and serenity in this majestic space.
Olympic National Park is almost big enough to be its own small nation, so a car is really necessary. There’s no public transportation within the Park and limited service to nearby stops and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make your way around hitchhiking.
If you don’t have a car or camper, renting a car is the best way to go – you can find a selection of options by browsing RentalCars.com which aggregates prices across major companies. If you prefer a campervan, Outdoorsy offers a selection of options to suit all budgets. It’ll be well worth it to ensure you can make the most of your time.
2-3 Days in Olympic National Park Itinerary
Even the most active travellers could easily spend a week in Olympic National Park without getting bored. But if you don’t have quite that much time, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Here’s how to hit all the best sites within two to three days.
Day 1 – Hurricane Ridge & Lake Crescent
The first stop on any Olympic National Park itinerary has got to be Hurricane Ridge. Located about an hour south of Port Angeles on Hurricane Ridge Road, this iconic spot was created to give visitors a breath-taking panoramic view of the mountains and valley.
Beyond meadows teeming with wildlife and, depending on the season, seas of brightly colored wildflowers or pristine white snow, you’ll see the Straight of Juan de Fuca to the north and Mt. Olympus to the south. On a clear day, you can even see all the way to the
Stop at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center to learn about the area. Then hike one of the trails (Meadow Loop, Hurricane Hill, or Klahhane Ridge), or, in the winter, ski or snowboard. The Park, especially tourist hotspots like this, can be crowded in spring and summer, so try to get an early start.
Next up, head to Lake Crescent, a glacial lake with pristine blue waters surrounded by evergreens and wildflower meadows. Have a picnic at Bovee’s Meadow or grab some food at the Log Cabin Resort on a nice day. Any supplies you need you can find at Fairholme General Store.
Besides taking at least a dozen photos for the ‘gram, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy at the Lake. Rent a paddleboard, kayak, or canoe, or take a guided boat tour.
There are also hiking trails, including a route to Marymere Falls or The Moments in Time Nature Trail.
Day 2 – Watefalls, Hot Springs & Hoh Rainforest
Sol Duc Falls & Hot Springs
If you’re travelling between late April and the end of October and have time, head to Sol Duc Falls and the Hot Springs Resort. Here, you can take a short hike to the cascades before heading to the Resort to take a dip in the mineral-rich hot springs and fresh-water swimming pool.
The resort is family-friendly and includes changing rooms, restaurants, cabins, and lodge rooms if you’d like to stop for the night.
The next essential stop on your Olympic National Park itinerary is the Hoh Rainforest. I know you wouldn’t think snow-capped mountains and rainforests could co-exist within one national park, but the Upper Left USA is just special like that.
This temperate forest is about two hours from Port Angeles, though you can break up the drive with a visit to Forks, home to equal numbers of lumberjacks and vampires, and take part in the town’s Twilight Tour if you’re into that.
Once you arrive in the park, you can take your pick of hiking trails to get an immersive experience of this unique and mesmerizing forest.
Near the Visitor Center, you will find the trailheads for the Hall of Mosses and Spruce Nature Trail, .8 miles and 1.2 miles, respectively. The Hoh River Trail and Hoh Lake Trail are longer, 17.3 miles and 6.4 miles, respectively, and require a bit more advanced preparation (and time). Whichever you choose, you’ll be entranced by the old-growth, moss-laden trees, wildflowers, ponds, and various woodland creatures.
If, after 24-36 hours you decide you want to spend more than 2 days in Olympic National Park, you can take a multi-day hike to Mount Olympus from the Hoh Rainforest and ascend the Park’s highest summit.
Day 3 – Rialto Beach & Lake Quinault
If you have three days in Olympic National Park, the next stop on your itinerary should be the Olympic Coast. After all, no Pacific Northwest road trip would be complete without some time at the beach.
The park encompasses 73 miles of undeveloped coastline, a stretch unmatched by any outside of Alaska.
Like much of Washington state’s coastline, it’s stunning but at times deceptive and dangerous. The tides can be fierce and fluctuate significantly. Just approach the Washington coastline as you might a bear (you may see some of those too). Tread lightly, and don’t try anything crazy, and you should be just fine. To be extra safe, I recommend consulting a tide chart and visiting the beach at low tide.
Rialto Beach is the park’s most accessible and popular, and from here, you can hike about two miles to a picturesque rock formation known as Hole-in-the-Wall. Pause for a while to breathe in the salty sea air and meditate on the vastness of the ocean as the waves lick the shore. Then spend some time exploring the tide pools brimming with life.
If you feel like beach-hopping, hike or drive a little further to First, Second, and Third Beach, all of which are just a little ways out of La Push. Many travelers say Second Beach is their favorite. Second is the best, and all.
Ruby Beach is about 27 miles south of Forks but well worth it if you have the time. While it might not be as scenic as Rialto, it still provides some beautiful coastal views. Plus, it may be a bit quieter, a rare treat in the peak tourist season.
Next up in your Olympic National Park itinerary is Lake Quinault and the Quinault Valley. This is an easy stop to hit before heading back to Seattle or onward to your next destination. Here, the Olympic National Park meets the Olympic National Forest on the border of the Quinault Reservation.
Pop into the general store (Quinault Mercantile) for some supplies. Then pick a trail to hike through the forest and take in the serene experience of trekking around the lake through a vast expanse of spruce and cedar trees draped in moss, the lush forest floor divided here and there by sparkling streams and waterfalls.
There are a few options, though most trekkers start at the Ranger Station. From here, you can take the Falls Creek – South Shore Trail, Quinault Trail, or Quinault Lodge Trail. Journey further south, and you’ll find the Lake Lane Trailhead, Quinault Lake Shore Trailhead West, and Quinault Rain Forest Trail Head.
Have More Time in Olympic National Park?
The Olympic National Park is one of the region’s most phenomenal locations. Stepping into the lush Hoh rainforest, you might forget you’re even in Washington state at all, while nothing could be more Northwest than climbing Hurricane Ridge or taking in the stark ocean views at Rialto Beach. From kayaking and hot-spring soaking to hiking through the old-growth, two to three days in Olympic National Park can be a reinvigorating adventure.
If you have some spare time in your Olympic National Park itinerary from Seattle, consider spending a bit more time in Port Angeles beforehand or venturing to one of the area’s other beautiful and quintessentially Northwest locales.
During summer, a must-visit is the lavender farms in Sequim, where you can traipse through fields of fragrant, gorgeous blossoms and pick up an assortment of locally-made artisanal lavender products.
Sequim (pronounced ‘skwɪm/) is also home to the Olympic Game Farm, home to hundreds of creatures, including bears, big cats, elk, and more. Unlike in a zoo, the animals are free to roam expansive areas in a natural habitat; the Farm offers drive-through tours.
If you fancy venturing a little further afield, you can easily get to Canada from the Olympic Peninsula. Just hop a ferry for Vancouver, B.C., to spend a day (or a few) in of the west coast’s other most lively metropolises.
Where to Stay Near Olympic National Park
The best place to base yourself for exploring Olympic National Park would be in the towns of Port Angeles or Sequim. Both are easily accessible to get into the park, there are lots of things to see and do in the towns themselves. If you’re wondering where to stay, check out these suggestions:
Olympic Lodge — Located in Port Angeles, this is a perfect place to stay if you’re looking for a bit of luxury when exploring the National Park. They have a number of cosy rooms available, a beautiful location, a swimming pool and even a restaurant on site. Click here to see their availability
Emerald Valley Inn — Situated in Port Angeles within easy access to the park entrance, this cosy inn makes for a fantastic base near Olympic National Park. They have a range of quaint rooms available, provide free parking for guests, and there is a restaurant on site. Click here to see their availability
Greenhouse Inn by the Bay — Located in the town of Sequim, this convivial bed and breakfast is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for something cosy and comfortable near Olympic National Park. They have a number of lovely rooms available, an inviting garden to relax in and a great breakfast is included in the nightly rate. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental — Another great accommodation option near Olympic National Park is a private rental. There are countless great options near the park to choose from that will suit any personality, budget or travel style. For instance, this charming cottage in Port Angeles is an excellent option for a base! Click here to find the best private rentals near Olympic National Park!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other places to stay in Olympic National Park!
Planning the perfect Olympic National Park itinerary can be difficult when you consider just how much ground there is to see in this beautiful corner of Washington state. If you follow these tips, however, you will be sure to have an unforgettable 2-3 days in this beautiful park.
Are you planning an Olympic National Park itinerary? Have you been before? Let us know in the comments!