Olympic National Park Road Trip Guide
Olympic National Park is located in Washington State, USA and has everything from lush mossy rainforests and gorgeous waterfalls to beautiful beaches and mountains.
You could easily spend 1 day to 7 days road tripping around Olympic National Park as there is so much beauty to see and lots of fun hikes! 4 days is the perfect sweet spot to be able to see loads but not feel too stretched for time.
This blog post has everything you need to spend an incredible 4 days in Olympic National Park, including how to visit the Hoh Rainforest, which beaches you should watch the sunset and sunrise from, how to hike the famous Mount Storm King and more!
Fun Fact: The town of Forks is located on the outskirts of Olympic National Park and is the town that the novel “Twilight” by Stephanie Myer was set in. If you are a Twilight fan, you will love it there as you will recognise names from the books such as La Push and the Quillette Tribe which I was surprised to discover are a real tribe and they own a lot of the land around the La Push area. Please note that the movies were not actually filmed here.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links that may earn us a small commission should you decide to click through and make a valid purchase (at no extra cost to you). Thanks so much for your support!
📆 Best Time to Visit Olympic National Park
There is no wrong time to visit Olympic National Park, however there are some “best times to visit Olympic National Park” through the year.
Summer is of course the hottest and also the driest time of the year to visit Olympic National Park and the ocean and lake temperatures are usually still “just” warm enough to swim. Still cold, but warmer than Spring and Winter.
It gets a little rainy during Fall in Olympic National Park, however it is a beautiful time to visit as the rainforests show the changing colours. You can get a get view of the Fall colours from the top of Mount Storm King!
It snows in Olympic National Park in the mountains during the Winter so this will limit what you can and can’t do. A lot of the hikes will not be accessible and the road to Hurricane Ridge sometimes closes if conditions get bad enough.
However, the Winter months do really bring out the moodiness of the park which is just beautiful and the coast does not get much snow (if any). A popular Winter activity on the Olympic coast is to go storm watching.
Spring is a great time to visit Olympic National Park. While places like Mount Rainier will still be closed due to the amount of snow that they get, Olympic National Park is an amazing side-season trip.
The park gets quite a bit of rain in Spring, however the mossy forests are really thriving around this time and a lot more of the hikes are accessible by this time.
We visited Olympic National Park in Spring and while it rained a little, we still got loads of sun which was amazing!
❓ How Many Days Should you Spend in Olympic National Park
4 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Olympic National Park to allow you enough time to see the main stunning sights without being stressed out of your mind because you are short on time.
If you really want to fully explore the entire park, you could easily spend up to 7 days road tripping around the park.
Is it Possible to See Olympic National Park in One Day?
If you only have one day to spare on your Washington State trip, but are dying to see Olympic National Park then yes! It is still worth the drive.
In one day, you wouldn’t have time to “see it all,” but you could pick a couple of bucket list locations such as the Hoh Rainforest which is just an unreal part of the world and totally worth checking out and the Tree of Life which is not too far from the Hoh.
Alternatively, you could visit the other end of the park and hike Mount Storm King, visit Marymere Falls and stop by Lake Crescent.
The best way to see Olympic National Park in one day is to join a tour from Seattle. This way you don’t have to worry about ferry bookings and traffic.
You can just sit back, relax and let the tour take guide you to the beauty that is Olympic National Park.
How long does it take to drive around Olympic National Park
If you were to drive around the entire park, hitting all of the main spots, the drive itself would take you almost 11 hours. However, this time will depend a lot on which stops you choose to do.
🚗 Do You Need a 4×4 Car for Olympic National Park
You can drive around Olympic National Park without a 4×4 vehicle. The roads that you will be taking are pretty well maintained.
Can I See Olympic National Park Without a Car?
Good news! You do not need your own car to visit Olympic National Park from Seattle. Although having your own car will give you loads more freedom to explore how you wish, you can also join a tour!
🎟 National Parks Pass
To visit Olympic National Park, you will need a National Parks Pass. You can purchase an America the Beautiful pass from the REI website here which covers loads of national parks in the USA for a year.
🐶 Are Dogs Allowed in Olympic National Park?
Dogs are allowed in some areas of the national park, but not all. The reason for this is to keep the dogs safe and also protect the local wildlife and vegetation. For the most updated rules on dogs in Olympic National Park, check the National Parks Service Website.
🌲 Leave No Trace
The 7 Leave No Trace principles are important to be aware of to help keep places like the Olympic National Park beautiful.
Nature is there for us to enjoy but also respect and leave the way we found it but as well as respecting nature, we should also be treating each other with nothing but kindness. To remind yourself of the 7 Leave No Trace principles, check out the LNT website.
🎒 What to Pack
This is a list of a few items that you should not begin your Olympic National Park road trip without.
- A Raincoat – This is one of the wettest corners of the world so bring a raincoat! You won’t regret it!
- Your Camera – There are sooo many photo-worthy spots in Olympic National Park!
- Hiking Boots – You will be exploring a lot of probably muddy trails in the park as well as doing quite a bit of walking so a pair of hiking boots is a good idea.
- America the Beautiful National Parks Pass – If you don’t already have one, you can purchase one here.
- Clothing Layers – You will be travelling from the mountains to the coast so the weather will change quite a bit.
- Bug Spray for the pesky mozzies
- Sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses
- Bin bags for your road trip rubbish to help you Leave No Trace.
📍 Where to Start Your Road Trip From
If you are coming from another US state or from overseas, then you are most likely going to be flying into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEATAC).
From here you can pick up a rental car – I like using Rentalcars.com to find the best deal on a rental car before arrival.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
Ultimate Olympic National Park 4 Day Itinerary
Day 1 of Olympic National Park starts with a bang. Once you have picked up your rental car, you will start your 4 hour drive from Seattle to Olympic National Park.
From the airport, you will need to take the Airport Expressway to the WA-518 E before merging on to the I-5 S, followed by the WA-8 W and the US-12 W. Eventually you will need to take the exit towards Devonshire Road and turn onto 95190/Wynoochee Valley Road which will take you all of the way to your first stop, Kalaloch Beach.
Tree of Life
Your first stop is Kalaloch Beach where you will go on a short beach stroll to find the crazy looking Tree of Life!
To find the Tree of Life, drive along the road towards the camping registration area. We found this was the easiest spot to park in to walk down to the Tree of Life. There is beach access from the parking lot and a picnic table. There are no bathrooms in the parking lot but there are some a little further down the road when you reach the next campground.
From the parking lot, walk down to the beach and turn right. You will only need to walk along the beach for about 5 minutes before you reach the Tree of Life, located at the back of the beach.
The Hoh Rainforest is one of the wettest places in the world! It is only about a 20 minute drive from Kalaloch Beach. If you haven’t already had lunch, you can eat a picnic lunch at Kalaloch or otherwise pop into the Creekside Restaurant or Kalaloch Mercantile back down the road from where you have parked for the Tree of Life. 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.
You can get an annual pass, a day pass or a 7 day pass. If you decide to purchase online, make sure you have printed out your confirmation otherwise you may have to purchase a new pass at the gate.
We purchased the annual pass as we usually visit quite a few of the US parks throughout the year and it makes sense if you plan on spending more than 7 days in US national parks throughout the year.
There is a parking lot where the trailheads are for the loop trails, along with a visitors centre and toilets.
The Hoh Rainforest is INCREDIBLE and will make for some awesome, moody photos. You can take a leisurely stroll around the forest on one of the forest loops. We did the Hall of Mosses Hike which we can highly recommend!
Hoh Rainforest Hike Options
Hall of Mosses
Distance: 1.2km / 0.75 miles
Elevation: 25 metres / 82 ft
Time: 30 minutes
Spruce Nature Trail
Distance: 2km / 1.2 miles
Elevation: 5m / 16 ft
Time: 30 minutes
Ruby Beach was our favourite beach on the Olympic Peninsula. It is 20 minutes from the Hoh Rainforest and is a perfect spot for sunset. The beach is a short walk to get down to from the parking lot along a well-maintained path.
Ruby Beach has loads of driftwood scattered along it like many of the beaches in this area and some cool rocks jutting out of the water that make great photos!
Tip: Look out for seals frolicking in the water!
Where to Stay
For night 1, Forks will be the best place to stay. Forks is a 30 minute drive from Ruby Beach and is the closest small town. Some great places to stay are:
Alternatively, you could drive 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
Day 2 will be spent exploring the rest of the beaches. If you are a fan of the Twilight book series, look out for signs to “La Push” and the “Quiluete” reservation which were both names inspired from this area for the books.
Rialto Beach and Hole in the Wall
Rialto Beach is probably the most famous beach along this coastline. It is famous for the stunning rock at the very end of the beach that juts out of the water and makes an awesome photo! To reach this spot, you will have to walk onto the beach, turn right and walk all of the way to the end of the beach.
There is an area on the beach where you will need to cross a river flowing into the ocean which was fairly deep when we were there.
We chose to climb up onto the driftwood and walk across but it will be a lot easier if you just wear waterproof sandals so that you can walk straight through the water rather than having to find a place to climb up or take off your shoes and socks.
Hole in the Wall
If you walk a little further past the big Rialto Beach Rock, you will see some steep stairs in front of you and slightly to your right. This is the way to the Hole in the Wall and also to a pretty amazing viewpoint of Rialto Beach.
From the top, you can get a pretty amazing shot of Rialto Beach with its famous rock formation. At the top, turn right and follow the path down to the next beach over.
Once you reach the beach, look to your left and you should see the Hole in the Wall which is literally a hole in a wall. It is a cliff face with a little archway that has been carved out like a pumpkin by the water over the years.
The total walk to the Hole in the Wall and back to the parking lot is 5.3km / 3.4 miles and will take you approximately 1 – 2 hours, depending on how long you stay up there. Most of the walk is getting to the Rialto Beach rock, so you may as well go a little further and check out the Hole in the Wall too.
After Rialto Beach, drive over to First Beach to relax and rest your legs. It is about a 20 minute drive. Grab some lunch from the Rivers Edge Restaurant and once you are ready to go again, head over to the Second Beach parking lot.
Second Beach is a small really beautiful beach and you will need to hike through the forest to get there from the parking lot. The hike will take you around an hour return and is 2.3km / 1.4 miles return.
If you still have time and energy to spare, you could consider also checking out Third Beach, however this beach also takes a hike of 5.7km / 3.6 miles return through the forest to get to. We didn’t have time to visit Third Beach while we were in Olympic National Park but I’ve heard its really wild and beautiful!
Where to Stay
After you have finished your beach adventures, you can either choose to stay another night in Forks, or drive about 50 minutes to Lake Crescent to stay for the next 2 nights.
Some amazing places that you can stay in the Lake Crescent area are:
- Lake Crescent Lodge – This gorgeous lodge is located right on the lake.
- Starlight Camp Olympic – A beautiful glamping experience!
- Lake Sutherland – Lake and mountain views from a gorgeous house. What more could you want?
Day 3 is hiking day!
Mount Storm King and Marymere Falls (Hike)
Distance: 7.3km / 4.5 miles | Elevation: 642m / 2,106 ft | Time: 2.5 – 4 hours
Mount Storm King is an amazing hike that takes you up above Crescent Lake. The hike is pretty steep with a scramble and a rope climb near the top, but the views are totally worth it!
The Mount Storm King hike starts from the same trailhead as Marymere Falls. You can also add on Marymere Falls which will make the hike slightly longer but the falls are pretty so worth it. The distance increases to 9.5km / 6 miles by adding on Marymere Falls.
I have to admit, we have still not done Mount Storm King due to our car breaking down while we were on our trip in Olympic National Park but we are very keen to go back to do it!
Once you have finished hiking, its time to see waterfall number 2. Drive the 15-20 minutes to Madison Falls and hike 0.3km / 0.19 miles to the stunning waterfall.
Where to Stay
No need to move! Stay in your cozy accommodation in Lake Crescent.
On day 4, you will be driving an hour to Hurricane Ridge to check out the incredible views! You can see the views of the surrounding mountain right from the parking lot.
Hike Hurricane Hill
Distance: 5.5km / 3.4 miles | Elevation: 250m / 820ft | Time: 1.5 – 2.5 hours
Hurricane Hill is short but steep and has incredible views the whole way! At the top, you can see all of the way out to British Columbia and the surrounding mountains including Mount Olympus which is the tallest mountain in the Olympic Range.
Once you have finished your hike, enjoy a picnic lunch at the picnic tables near the visitors centre and start planning to drive back to Seattle.
To get back to Seattle from Hurricane Ridge, you can either get one of the ferries across the water or drive around the water and through Tacoma.
The shortest route from Seattle to Olympic National Park is to take one of the Washington State Ferries but this is not necessarily the fastest. It will depend on the ferry timings which you can check out on the Washington State Ferries website.
The options you should look at when planning your return trip are the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry, the Seattle-Bremerton ferry or the Edmonds-Kingston ferry.
💭 Our Thoughts
We can see why this was part of the world was Stephanie Meyer’s location to set Twilight in! The forests in Olympic National Park are so stunning, moody and mossy and the beaches are wild and beautiful.
Whether you spend 1 day, 4 days or 7 days in Olympic National Park, you will probably want to come back for more! I know we do!
You might also enjoy:
- How to Visit Scenic Hot Springs in Washington
- Sunset at Park Butte Fire Lookout – Hiking and Camping!
- How to Spend One Day in Mount Rainier National Park
- How to Spend a Magical Christmas in Leavenworth
📌Share and Save for Later!