Top Things To Do In Olympic National Park For Families
There are lots of things to do in Olympic National Park.
Olympic National Park fills most of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
With mountains, forest, lakes, rain forest and seashore it’s one of the most diverse national parks we’ve ever visited.
Family visits to the outdoors are always fun and exciting so we were keen to explore what Olympic National Park would offer us.
Here’s what we enjoyed the most on our trip into the wild.
View Out Over The Olympic Mountain Range
Olympic National Park Visitor Center
When we visit any National Park our first stop is usually the visitor center.
It gives us a good understanding of the park, what to see and do and an opportunity to speak to park rangers about the latest park conditions.
Olympic National Park Visitor Center is located just outside of the town of Port Angeles.
We took a look around the Discovery Center which has lots of information about wildlife and the environment of the park.
There’s also a great selection of books to purchase and of course National Park gifts.
Olympic National Park Visitor Center
A Section Of A 650 Year Old Douglas Fur At Olympic National Park Visitor Center
Once we left the Visitor Center we drove South up into the Olympic range toward Hurricane Ridge.
The road winds its way up and up through the forest then out into a high mountain landscape with wonderful views all around.
Finally, the road reaches Hurricane Ridge with lots of parking available.
There are spectacular views Southward to the high glaciers covered peaks and Mount Olympus in the distance.
The Olympic Mountain Range From Hurricane Ridge
The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center
The rangers at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center are really helpful in suggesting suitable hikes and things to do in Olympic National Park.
There’s a short movie presentation you can watch which is very informative about the park.
You can also purchase food and drinks downstairs in the cafe as well as gifts and clothing.
They do have a great terrace with a wonderful view out over the Olympic Mountain range which was especially beautiful in the wonderful weather we had on our visit.
Top Tip – Visit the center for information on walking in the area, watch the movie then wait until after your walk to visit the cafe for a well-deserved drink or snack.
Better still bring a picnic to eat out on the picnic tables by the parking area.
Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center
Hiking On Hurricane Ridge
For us getting outside is all about hiking so we loved the fact that there were so many well-marked trails at Hurricane Ridge.
We decided on walking the High Ridge Trail to Klahhane Ridge.
It was such a beautiful day with views in all directions.
To the South, there were the Olympic Mountains and to the North, the glistening waters of the Strait Of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island, Canada beyond.
The trail traversed a ridge with meadows and pine trees all around us.
As with other trails, it was well maintained and marked.
On reaching the final ridge it was time to turn around and retrace our steps back to the visitor center for a well-deserved drink and some fries.
Hiking The High Ridge Trail to Klahhane Ridge
I don’t think there are many national parks that can boast mountains, forests and beaches.
Almost all of the Pacific West coast of the Olympic Peninsula is designated as part of the Olympic National Park even though it’s not attached to the main park.
The coastline is very dramatic, especially at Rialto Beach.
As we arrived at the beach a thick fog came down making it feel very eerie.
We left the parking area and walked along the rocky beach as the waves hit the shore.
Strangely the fog just hung along the shoreline with inland being clear and out to sea being foggy.
Rialto Beach is littered with giant bits of driftwood and when I say giant I mean whole trees.
It gives the whole place a prehistoric feel.
The Stunning Rialto Beach
Magically the fog lifted and we could see that there were some seastacks (small offshore islands ) just off the shore.
Eerily whisps of fog still hung around them.
Now we could see the beach and ocean in all its beauty.
Rialto Beach really is an amazing place to visit with its wild coastline and the hauntingly beautiful driftwood covered beach.
Once The Fog Lifted We Could See The Seastack Offshore
To get to Rialto Beach you have to drive through the town of Forks.
If you have any fans of The Twilight Saga in your family, Forks may be somewhere they would like to see.
The books and the movie are based on Forks and there are some sights in town although we didn’t go and see them as we’re not fans.
Twilight Fans Will Love The Town Of Forks
On the Northern edge of Olympic National Park and West of Port Angeles the road skirts beautiful Lake Crescent.
We only had time to view it from the viewpoints by the road but you can go down to Lake Crescent Lodge that sits on the lake shore.
We’ve heard that it’s lovely and you can rent kayaks to go out onto the lake.
There are also lots of hiking possibilities around the lake as well as the Spruce Railroad Trail that runs the length of the North shore of the lake on a disused railway bed.
Beautiful Lake Crescent
The Sol Duc Falls
Near to Lake Crescent, the Sol Duc Road winds its way deep into the national park through old growth forest.
It’s one of the few roads that allow access into the interior of the park.
The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort makes a nice stop off point on the way up to the falls and you can even take a dip in the hot springs if you fancy.
The resort also has a restaurant and shop on site.
The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort (not our photo )
Further on up the road, you’ll come to the parking area for the falls and the end of the road.
There are several hikes of differing lengths here.
It was getting late when we arrived so we only walked the Sol Duc Falls Trail which is only a mile long but the Lovers Lane Trail at 6 miles looked great and we would do that if we returned.
The Sol Duc Trail winds its way through old growth forest with lots of moss and ferns.
The trail to the falls is well maintained and easy to follow.
It’s very atmospheric and did feel very ancient as we walked through the tall pine trees.
The Beautiful Sol Duc Trail
The Sol Duc Falls aren’t huge but drop down through the trees to a deeper canyon below.
I think we enjoyed the walk there and back more than the falls themselves especially as it was so quiet without any other people there.
The Sol Duc Falls
With so many things to do in Olympic National Park we only just skimmed the surface on our trip.
The park feels very old and the old growth forests make it feel like you’re in a rain forest in South America rather than the Northwest USA.
In fact, much of the forest is rain forest and unique to this part of the US.
Another well-known area of the park is the Hoh Rain Forest that you can access from the West but unfortunately, the road in was closed during our visit.
You could spend a lot more time than we did in the park, discovering all the hiking trails.
We did spend quite a bit of time hiking in the Olympic National Forest though, which is basically all the area around the park.
You can read about our adventures in the Olympic National Forest here including the bears we saw.
The Nitty Gritty
How To Get To The Park
Olympic National Park is located on the Olympic Peninsular, West of Seattle, Washington State.
There are several access points to different areas of the park from Highway 101 that encircles the park.
No loop roads exist within the park so once you’ve visited an area you’ll need to drive back out the same way as you entered to rejoin Highway 101.
The best starting point in our opinion is South of Port Angeles.
You can visit the park visitor center just outside of town to get an introduction to the park and also help from park rangers on planning your trip and the best things to see and do.
From the center you can then drive up to Hurricane Ridge.
Where To Stay
If you want to be in the park for more than one day ( which we would recommend ) then you’ll need somewhere to stay.
The obvious place would be Port Angeles as you can access most of the Northern areas easily from there.
You could also choose to stay in a few different locations as you travel around the park.
You’ll need to purchase your park entry ticket to enter the park.
We paid $30 (we visited in September 2018 ) for our vehicle and all occupants for 7 consecutive days entry.
Remember that Olympic National Park is different from the Olympic National Forest and that you’ll need a different pass for that.
We loved visiting the national forest too and found the hiking fantastic and very quiet.
You can read about our experience in the national forest here.
You can find out all the latest up to date information on the park’s website here.
Have a great visit to Olympic National Park
The Sol Duc Trail