Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is one of the most amazing places to explore in the United States. Encompassing a large portion of the Olympic Peninsula, there are opportunities to visit three different ecosystems within the park: sub alpine forest where the Olympic mountains were sculpted by glaciers and streams into their current profile, temperate rain forest, and the rugged Pacific coastline.
The main access point is Highway 101, which surrounds three sides of the park. There are a multitude of other roads that traverse into wilderness areas. With so many areas to explore, we opted to cover as much square footage as possible within a week. Since we were there during spring, most routes through the mountains were still snow covered, which is optimal for winter camping!
After picking up our permits at the visitor center in Port Angeles, we continued into the park and then along Sol Duc road for a multi-day hike of the Seven Lakes Basin. Because the High Divide was snow covered, we stopped at Heart Lake overnight then backtracked our route. From there we continued on to Deer Lake, spending a gorgeous afternoon in sunshine surrounded by snow cover. Those are the days!
We left the rugged mountain landscapes driving Southwest towards the Hoh Rain Forest. The drive inland along the Upper Hoh Road is stunning, surrounded by old Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and red cedar. The Hall of Mosses and Spruce nature trails are short but well worth the hike to see club moss and licorice fern drape the massive trees, surrounded by the monstrous root systems. An even more stunning area of the Olympic wilderness is the hike along the Quinault river into the Enchanted Valley. The area is remote and peaceful with long-distance trails.
Finally, no trip to Olympic is complete without exploring the Pacific ocean. From Queets north to Ruby Beach, there are a number of easy access points to the ocean off the main highway. And yet you can walk kms of coastline without seeing another person. Wilderness camping is available north of Ruby Beach to the tip of the Olympic Peninsula. The coastline and hiking is very similar to Canada’s West Coast Trail with options to walk on the beaches or move interior depending on the tides, with amazing oceanfront camping. Regardless of the time of year, the park’s unspoiled wilderness areas and incredible scenery makes it a bucket list location.