The lush temperate rain forests of Olympic National Park are impressive. Averaging an incredible 12 ft/4 m of rainfall per year, these spectacular forests of tall, moss-covered trees surround lakes, rivers and waterfalls. The park also encompasses the Olympic Mountains, which reach heights of 7,000 ft/2,170 m, as well as unspoiled coastline and mist-shrouded old-growth forests.
Because few roads penetrate the rugged interior, most visitors circumnavigate the area on Highway 101. Visitors should plan at least two days to drive around the park and see the highlights. The park experiences some closures from snow.
Beginning on the northern side of the park, near Port Angeles, visitors can make the 40-minute drive up to Hurricane Ridge, where there are magnificent overlook views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the higher mountain peaks farther inside the park. The parking lot at the top of Hurricane Ridge is the starting point for several hiking trails—some short jaunts through alpine meadows, some base areas for multiday backpacking trips. There is often snow alongside the trails, even in the warmer months.
Heading west on Highway 101 from Port Angeles, visitors will wind past beautiful Lake Crescent, which merits a stop for fishing or hiking. The 1916 lakeside lodges welcome overnight visitors. Farther on, a road leaves Highway 101 and runs to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, which offers cabins, a swimming pool and an RV park, in addition to the hot-spring pools.
The Hoh Rain Forest—an area of moss-covered old-growth forest that contains Sitka spruce, Douglas fir and western hemlocks that tower 20 stories high—is a must-see. Short trails loop through the forest, where the tree-filtered sunlight tints everything green. The much longer Hoh River Trail takes backpackers farther into the park.
Highway 101 continues southwest to a separate section of the park on the Pacific Ocean. It contains 57 mi/92 km of pristine shoreline, one of the longest unbroken stretches in the contiguous U.S. In the community of Kalaloch, the park operates the oceanfront Kalaloch Lodge, which offers a nice setting for strolls. The scenery is fantastic: waves, wind and enormous piles of driftwood.
Swinging back to the east, Highway 101 leaves the park and passes through an unattractive area where timber has been clear-cut, some of it on the Quinault Indian Reservation. Approximately 30 mi/45 km down the road, the beauty returns at Lake Quinault.
The park is open daily 24 hours, and the entrance fee is US$25 per vehicle for a seven-day pass. Phone 360-565-3131. http://www.nps.gov/olym.
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