As one of the most visited national parks in America, Olympic National Park should definitely go on your “must-see” list. And thanks to select paved interior roads and a number of very easy walking trails, there’s no good excuse for giving this one a miss. Yes, thousands of acres of wilderness far inside the park may have to await the day you decide to tackle a multi-day backpacking foray, but in the meantime, you can enjoy an awfully attractive teaser.
For most travelers, the first point of entry is the Olympic National Park Visitor Center, located in Port Angeles. From here, you can steer your circuitous way up the winding path which leads to Hurricane Ridge. Enjoy the views, hold court with the very friendly chipmunks, assorted birds and deer (who you just might find looking over your shoulder), and if you’re up to it, hike to the top of Hurricane Hill. This is about as high as you can get with minimal effort in the mountainous stretch of Olympic National Park. For access to the big peaks, like Mount Olympus and Mount Deception, you’ll want the proper equipment, a bit of climbing experience and a full day or more to invest.
If you’re interested in seeing one of the wettest places in the United States, head for Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center (those coming north from Aberdeen will find Quinalt Rain Forest more accessible). There are two short trails here good for a damp introduction to temperate rain forest and a closer look at giant Sitka spruce; if you don’t fancy the footwork, you’ll have to be content with the views from Upper Hoh Road.
More a Pacific Coast person at heart? The oceanside stretch of Olympic National Park is separate physically from the rainforest and mountains but not by much. Drive still farther west and find that though you might get a peek at the sea from your car, the only way to really get a feel for the drama is down on the beach. There are several designated walks to consider, ranging in length from a short .3 mile loop to longer, 8 mile efforts. Keep an eye on the tide and keep your camera ready.