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What to do in Olympic National Park in 1 Day: The Ultimate Itinerary

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Olympic National Park in Washington State USA is absolutely beautiful but there is SO much to see and do. There are wild beaches, cute towns, lush, mossy forests, pristine lakes, some really great hikes and incredible towering mountains.

Do you only have 1 day in Olympic National Park and are wondering if it is even possible to see Olympic National Park in 1 day?

I can tell you that it is 100% possible to see a good portion of Olympic National Park in 1 day, however you won’t be able to see it all and will need to choose a section of the park to explore.

If you can, I recommend staying overnight in the park to give you more time to explore because the drive there and back from Seattle is quite long, especially if you want to go all of the way to the Hoh Rainforest.

You will be provided with 2 different Olympic National Park itineraries each based in our favourite things to do in the park.

In this blog post, I have created two detailed itineraries on how to spend 1 day in Olympic National Park so that you can choose which one you would prefer to do. These itineraries include the best beaches, the most beautiful waterfalls and the best viewpoints in Olympic National Park.

I will also touch on the best places to stay overnight depending on which itinerary you choose and where to eat and get your morning coffee from.

Couple standing at top of Mount Storm King at sunset

Everything You Need to Know to Plan a Day Trip to Olympic National Park From Seattle

💁‍♀️ Quick Tips

  • Purchase a National Parks Pass before you go such the America the Beautiful Pass. This pass will last you a whole year and allow you entry to loads of national parks in the USA.
  • Olympic National Park is very big. Use one of the 1 day itineraries in this guide to see as much as possible while cutting down on the amount of driving.
  • Leave no trace – Follow the LNT principles to leave the park the way you found it.
  • Pack layers (even in Summer) – Make sure you bring a raincoat and a good jacket. Parts of the park are in high elevation such as Hurricane Ridge and others are deep in the middle of the forest so can get extremely cold whilst other parts of the park are warmer.
  • Wildlife in Olympic National Park includes, black bears, marmots, deer and mountain lions.

⁉ Is it Worth it to Visit Olympic National Park in 1 Day

Although it is not ideal because of how far away the park is from the rest of Washington State, including Seattle, if you only have 1 day to spare to see Olympic National Park then yes, in my opinion it is worth it. You will need to start early and have an itinerary ready to go to ensure that you can see as much as possible.

Alternatively, if you do have more time, the perfect number of days to spend in Olympic National Park would be 4 or 5 days.

👉 Not wanting to drive? Why not JOIN A TOUR

Some of the best day tours from Seattle to Olympic National Park are:

From Seattle: Olympic National Park Full-Day Tour – This tour takes you from Seattle to Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent and Marymere Falls.

From Seattle: Twilight Forks Washington Tour – If you are a fan of Twilight this tour to Forks is for you! You will get to visit places that the book is set in AND see Lake Crescent and Marymere Falls.

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📆 What time of the year to visit Olympic National Park

For Itinerary Option 1, you could easily do all of the activities during any time of the year.

For Itinerary Option 2, you are going to want to make sure that the road to Hurricane Ridge is open. This means visiting outside of Winter when the snow has pretty much all melted. Late Spring is a great time to go, before the Summer crowds and the weather gets too hot. Spring is also when the waterfalls will be at their best due to the snow melt and amount of rain.

The Ultimate 1 Day Olympic National Park Itinerary

Below I have provided 2 different 1 day Olympic National Park Itineraries. The park is so large and it is impossible to see all of it in only 1 day, but if I was to visited again for the first time, I would use one of the following itineraries to see the best parts of the park.

I recommend staying overnight in Olympic National Park to cut down on the amount of driving in one day. I have included options of where to stay in each itinerary.

Olympic National Park 1 Day Itinerary – Option 1 (Hoh Rainforest, Beaches and the Tree of Life)

🚗 Where to start your trip from (directions)

Assuming that you will be starting your day trip from Seattle, this itinerary includes 6 hours of straight driving and that’s without getting back to Seattle. The drive back to Seattle at the end will bring the total driving time up to 9.5 hours. Now you probably understand why I am pushing so much for you to spend a night in the park. The driving is a lot.

The Option 2 Itinerary is a bit less driving as you don’t have to go quite as far towards the coastline.

Morning – Kalaloch Beach & The Hoh Rainforest

Seattle International Airport to Kalaloch Beach (3 hours driving time) – Kalaloch Beach is home to the crazy looking Tree of Life.

To find a place to park, drive along the road towards the camping registration area. You can access the beach from the parking lot and a picnic table but no bathrooms. There are bathrooms a little further down the road once you reach the next campground.

Take the stairs down to the beach. The beach is massive but to find the Tree of Life you are going to want to turn left once you reach the sand.

Tree of Life on Kalaloch Beach
Tree of Life

Walk along the beach for about 5 minutes and look out for the tree on your right-hand-side. There is loads of driftwood leading up to the tree so it might be hard to spot from a distance. Look out for a hole in the sandstone where a crazy tree has grown over the top of. It is literally suspended in the air by the other 2 sides of the sandstone with its roots are spiralling down to the beach and through the cave.

Kalaloch Beach to the Hoh Rainforest (50 minutes driving time)The Hoh Rainforest is a huge old growth, super mossy and beautiful rainforest which looks like it could be the set of Stranger Things! When you get to the Hoh Rainforest, this will be the first time you officially enter Olympic National Park so you will need to purchase a National Parks Pass either in advance online or at the gate when you get there.

Once you have arrived at the visitors centre, try out one of the Hoh Trails to see the incredible trees and the bright green moss that covers them. The Hoh is a great spot for photos! We got some great snaps on the Hall of Mosses trail.

Midday – Lunch

If you haven’t brought a packed lunch, you can get lunch from Creekside Restaurant or Kalaloch Mercantile back on the coast near the ocean.

Afternoon – Beach hopping & hike along Rialto Beach

Hoh Rainforest to Ruby Beach (50 minutes driving time) – Ruby Beach is absolutely stunning. We visited at sunset and it was very worth it but I know with only 1 day in the park, you probably won’t have time for that. Park in the Ruby Beach Parking Lot and use the walkway to get down to the beach.

Girl walking along Ruby Beach at sunset

Watch out for seals (we saw one bobbing in the water) and enjoy the views of the enormous rocks jutting out of the sand.

Ruby Beach to Second Beach (50 minutes driving time) – The hike to get to Second Beach from the parking lot is 2.3km / 1.4 miles return and will take you about an hour in total. Second Beach is quite small but really beautiful, however, if you want to skip Second Beach and save your energy for the Rialto Beach hike I don’t blame you because it is quite a long walk along the sand.

couple standing on driftwood on Second Beach - one of the best beaches in Olympic National Park

Second Beach to First Beach (3 minutes driving time) – First Beach is a great place to chill out and get a snack or a coffee from Native Grounds if you feel like you need it.

First Beach to Rialto Beach (20 minutes driving time) – Rialto Beach is most famous for its view of a large rock jutting out from the water from a high cliffside. This is where you will be hiking to and you will also be hiking to The Hole in the Wall which is just on the other side of the headland which the photos are taken from.

Rialto Beach from the lookout

The total walk along the sandy beach to the Hole in the Wall and back to the Rialto Beach parking lot is 5.3km / 3.4 miles. It will take you about 1 – 2 hours.

🛌 Where to stay overnight

The best place to stay overnight would be Forks, which is not too far from Rialto Beach and Second Beach so if you run out of time, you could always head back the next day to finish your adventure.

Some great options to stay at are:

Alternatively, you could stay closer to the coast and stay at:

  • James Island Rv & campsite – This RV Park is located near Rialto Beach and First Beach
  • Prior Homestead camping and rv – not too far from the La Push Beaches

Olympic National Park 1 Day Itinerary – Option 2 (Hurricane Ridge, Crescent Lake, Hiking and Waterfalls)

🚗 Where to start your trip from (directions)

Just like option 1, this itinerary assumes that you will be starting your trip from Seattle. The driving time for this itinerary is a little less as you do not have to drive as far or close to the coastline.

Morning – Hurricane Ridge

Seattle International Airport to Hurricane Ridge (3 hours driving time) The drive up to Hurricane Ridge from Port Angeles is up a huge mountain. The awesome thing about Hurricane Ridge is that you don’t need to hike anywhere to see the most incredible views! you can simply see them from the parking lot.

Hurricane Ridge Parking Lot
views from the Hurricane Ridge Parking Lot
Hurricane Ridge

If you would prefer to do a hike, I recommend Hurricane Hill, which is 3.4 miles / 5.5km with an elevation gain of 826ft / 252m. The views from Hurricane Hill are also incredible and there are lots of deer around on the trail and all over the mountain!

We also came across a black bear on the trail. He was preoccupied in eating grass just off the trail and eventually scampered off so that we could pass. Make sure you have some bear spray with you and know what to do if you come across one.

On your way back down from Hurricane Ridge, don’t forget to stop for a photo with the Olympic National Park sign!

Note: The road to Hurricane Ridge is closed in the Winter and until the snow is cleared.

Midday – Lunch at Lake Crescent or in Port Angeles, Big Awesome Tree, Madison Falls,

Hurricane Ridge to Port Angeles (35minutes driving time) – If you didn’t bring along your own lunch, grab something from Port Angeles. You could try The Roosevelt which is a pizza place or Next Door Gastro Pub. Once you have finished your lunch, head over to Madison Falls to continue your day in Olympic National Park.

or;

Hurricane Ridge to Madison Falls (50 minutes driving time) – If you brought your own lunch, you could either eat it on the go or wait until the next stop after Madison Falls. The hike to Madison Falls is super short and easy at only 984ft / 300m from the parking lot. Madison Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Olympic National Park so it is well worth a visit.

Girl standing looking up at waterfall - Madison Falls in Olympic National Park

Madison Falls to Fairholme Campground at Lake Crescent (30 minutes driving time) – If you have brought your own lunch with you, I recommend eating it down at Lake Crescent at the boat ramp. To get there, direct yourself to the Fairholme Campground. There is day parking at the boat ramp parking lot.

Lake Crescent
Girl staring up at old growth tree in Olympic National Park Washington
Big Tree in Olympic National Park

While you are there, be sure to check out the massive old growth tree that will be on your right-hand-side as you walk down to the lake from the parking lot. It’s absolutely incredible! So incredible in fact, that there was a guy taking photos of it for location scouting for a potential movie last time we were there!

Afternoon – Marymere Falls + Bonus hike

Fairholme Campground to Marymere Falls and Mount Storm King Trailhead (12 minute drive) -Marymere Falls is another one of the best waterfalls in Olympic National Park. It is located along the same trailhead as a really beautiful, yet adventure hiking trail called Mount Storm King.

Depending on how you are feeling energy-wise and how much time you have left, you could choose to just hike to Marymere Falls, which is only 1.7 miles / 2.7km with an elevation gain of 315 ft / 96m. Alternatively, you could do the entire Mount Storm King hike, which is 6.6km / 4.1miles with an elevation gain of 642m / 2,106ft. The hike could take you anywhere from 2.5 – 4 hours in total.

Mount Storm King was a harder hike than we expected so do your research before you decide to do it. There are LOADS (way too many switchbacks) followed by a number of rope sections and a scramble to the top.

Mount Storm King is however, well known for being one of the best hikes in Olympic National Park.

🛌 Where to stay overnight

The best town to stay in for this itinerary is Port Angeles.

A couple of great options are:

Camping option: Fairholme Campground (Lake Crescent)
Hotel Option: Olympic Lodge by Ayres

💭 Our Thoughts

If you stay a night in or near the park to cut back on the amount of driving you need to do in one day, you can definitely make the most of Olympic National Park and see and do a lot!

Olympic National Park is a stunning part of the world and I highly recommend making the trip out there if you can. If you are on the fence, trying to decide whether or not 1 day will be worth it, get prepared for an exhausting, long, adventure packed day of being in the outdoors and then just do it. You won’t regret it. 😉

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