Olympic National Park is an incredible place, covering nearly 1,500 square miles and several different landscapes – with waterfalls, lakes, beaches, and mountains, it’s a hiker’s paradise! The best hikes in Olympic National Park range from short, easy trails to strenuous hikes, so you’ll find one perfect for you.
This guide is all about visiting Olympic National Park – the best hikes, things to bring on the trails, how to get to the park, and tips for exploring!
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Table of Contents
Getting to the Hikes in Olympic National Park
If you’re flying in to Washington to explore the park, the closest airport is SeaTac, in Seattle.
Expedia is a good way to find flights and rental cars, I also super recommend signing up for Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) – they send you amazing deals, so you can find cheap flights to Seattle, and to destinations all over the world. The free account is great and totally worth the few minutes it takes to sign up, and I do recommend the premium account too!
If you fly into Washington, you can rent a car through Discover Cars or Rental Cars. But, a great alternative to a rental car is a tiny home on wheels! With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans. Another option for vans is to use Outdoorsy, which is more like Airbnb for campers – you can rent a van, RV, or trailer from a person in the area. Olympic National Park is huge, so you’ll definitely need a vehicle to get around!
From Seattle, you can take a ferry across Puget Sound – you can drive your car onto the ferry and it’ll take you to across (you probably know this if you live in Washington, but I mention it because when I first moved to here from the east coast, I was absolutely mind blown and had no idea ferries like that existed!). The ferry costs around $50 round trip (depending on which terminals you depart from and arrive in and how big your vehicle is – you can check the fares here), but you can also just drive south from Seattle towards Olympia, and then make your way north to Olympic National Park!
If you want to turn your hiking adventure into a road trip, check out this guide to a road trip around Olympic National Park!
Entrance Fee for Olympic National Park Trails
To hike at Olympic National Park, you will need to pay the entrance fee – and you’ll need to display your pass in your car anytime you park.
It costs $30 per car, but if you visit national parks often (or at least more than twice a year), I recommend getting an America the Beautiful Pass! It’s an annual pass that will get you into every national park in the country for an entire year, for just $80.
You can purchase either pass on your way into the park, or get an America the Beautiful pass online ahead of time!
The Best Time for Hiking in Olympic National Park
One thing you should definitely know about Olympic National Park is that it’s really rainy!
The most popular time to visit is summer, when the area gets a short break from the rain. In the mountains, snow doesn’t completely melt until around mid-July, so if you want to do some high elevation hikes, it’s best to wait for summer.
But, spring and fall can be great times to hike the best trails in Olympic National Park if you want to avoid crowds! The coastal regions usually have more mild temperatures, so while you’ll definitely need to be prepared for rain, the weather is usually warm enough to explore and enjoy the scenery – you’re likely to have it to yourself!
Winter is cold and rainy, so while you can definitely enjoy Olympic National Park, you’ll need to bundle up with waterproof layers. The higher elevation trails, like those in Hurricane Ridge, will be covered in snow through the winter, until mid-July most years.
What to Bring to Hike in Olympic National Park
To help you pack for hiking in Olympic National Park, here are some essentials to bring with you!
- Hiking Shoes – make sure you bring shoes with good grip, and ones that are waterproof – it rains often, and many of the hiking trails will be muddy all year. I prefer hiking in sandals and usually hike in my Chacos, but boots are a good idea for more ankle support. I love my Danner boots – and they come in men’s and women’s.
- Layers – you should always bring a rain jacket to Olympic National Park. I also recommend some warm layers, like a fleece. For the cold, I love my Columbia puffy jacket – it’s lightweight, and water resistant!
- Backpack – you’ll need a backpack for water and snacks. I use an Osprey Hikelite 26L.
- Headlamp – always bring a headlamp just in case, or if you plan to do a sunrise or sunset hike.
- Hiking poles – if you have knee pain going downhill, poles help a lot with that!
- Water – water is a must, always. I usually bring my 2L hydration pack on hikes.
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Olympic National Park Hiking Map
In the next section, I’ll talk about all of these hikes – but this map of the best hikes in Olympic National Park will give you an overview!
The green hiker icons are easy hikes, and the orange ones are more difficult – the red icons are the hardest hikes.
The Best Easy Hikes in Olympic National Park
There are trails for everyone – so if you’re looking for something that isn’t too challenging, here are the best easy hikes in Olympic National Park! If you want to explore more of the park in a shorter amount of time, you can knock out a few of these trails in one day.
Staircase Rapids Loop
The Staircase Rapids Loop trail is a short, easy hike through the forest and along the rapids. Though it’s a popular hike, it feels really peaceful and quiet. There’s a fun bridge to cross, and lots of river views!
Distance: 2.1 miles (3.37 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 213 feet (65 m)
Marymere Falls is on the way to Mount Storm King, so if you’re doing that harder hike, it’s a great detour! But even on its own, the waterfall is a beautiful place to hike to. The trail is easy, and pretty flat most of the way – until you get close to the waterfall and have to climb some stairs.
Distance: 1.7 miles (2.74 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 298 feet (91 m)
Ancient Groves Nature Trail
The Ancient Groves Nature trail is a nice, easy path that takes you through old growth forest. It’s a nice path that will take you less than half an hour to complete, and is great for stretching your legs and spotting different types of birds!
Distance: 0.5 miles (0.8 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 52 feet (15.85 m)
Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Washington – and it’s super easy to get to! The trail is short and flat, but you have the option to extend it and do some other hikes if you want to get deeper into nature, and get away from the crowds a bit.
Distance: 1.6 miles (2.57 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 226 feet (68.88 m)
hall of mosses
This quick, easy walk through the Hoh Rainforest is a gorgeous loop where you’ll see the lush greenery that this part of the park has to offer. It’s one of the best hikes in Olympic National Park if you just want to take a quick stroll!
Distance: 1.1 miles (1.8 km) loop
Elevation Gain: 78 feet (24 m)
Hole-in-the-Wall from Rialto Beach
Rialto Beach is beautiful, but if you take a walk down the beach you’ll find even more amazing views! Make sure to do this when the tide is low, because if it’s over 6 feet, the beach will be covered. There’s no official trail here, as you just walk on the sand following the shoreline – while the hike is flat, it can sometimes get a little tiring to walk on soft sand! Still, it’s a great walk to see tide pools, rock formations, and the iconic hole-in-the-wall.
Distance: 3.3 miles (5.3 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 108 feet (33 m)
Second Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen! A short walk through the forest takes you to this beach, with sea stacks, tide pools, and incredible scenery. It’s an amazing place for beach camping too! The hike has a few short inclines, but nothing too strenuous.
Distance: 2.1 miles (3.4 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 278 feet (85 m)
The Best Day Hikes in Olympic National Park
Here are a few harder hikes in the park – these Olympic National Park day hikes are more challenging, so make sure you’re prepared!
Mount Storm King
Mount Storm King, with it’s ominous name, is definitely a challenge. The peak towers high over Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park, and though the hike isn’t very long, it is very steep – and the best views require a steep scramble and pulling yourself along on ropes! But though it’s a hard hike, it’s manageable, and so worth it.
Length: 4.1 miles (6.6 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 2106 feet (642 meters)
Hike Time: I consider myself to be an average hiker, and this trail took me 4 hours and 39 minutes, including taking a snack break at the top. But, I also took the side quest to Marymere Falls, which adds a little under a mile. You can check out my hike on Strava!
For mountain views, the Hurricane Ridge area of Olympic National Park is definitely the best place to hike. Hurricane Hill is one of the shorter day hikes in the area, but it offers really beautiful views of the Olympic Range!
Distance: 3.4 miles (5.5 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 826 feet (252 m)
If you’re looking to take the leap from day hikes to overnight trips, the Lake Angeles trail in Olympic National Park is a perfect hike for beginner backpackers! It can easily be done as a day hike, but sleeping under the stars next to the peaceful lake makes the experience even more magical. You’ll walk through the forest, up a steep hillside before emerging to beautiful views of the mountains over the lake!
Length: 8 miles (12.87 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 2486 feet (758 meters)
Difficulty: Moderate – hard
Hike Time: I consider myself to be an average hiker (but a beginner backpacker) and this trail took me 4 hours and 42 minutes to hike. You can check out my hike on Strava!
The Best Hard Hikes in Olympic National Park
These hard hikes are best as backpacking adventures – if you’re super fit, you might do them in a day, but it would definitely be difficult!
South Coast Wilderness Trail
The South Coast Wilderness trail in Olympic National Park is an incredible adventure – taking you along the rugged, remote coastline and up into lush green forest. You’ll see breathtaking sea stacks, wake up to the sound of crashing waves, climb nearly vertical ladders up into the headlands, and enjoy walking on the wild beaches. The trail is perfect for beginner backpackers and experienced adventurers – it’s challenging in places, but absolutely beautiful and not terribly strenuous.
Length: 17 mile (27.36 km) thru-hike
Elevation Gain: 1900 feet (579 m)
Difficulty: Hard for a day hike, moderate for a backpacking trip
Hoh River Trail to Blue Glacier
The Hoh River Trail to Blue Glacier is one of the absolute best hikes in Olympic National Park, and an incredible backpacking adventure. The trail takes you through Washington’s lush temperate rainforest, and ends at a really stunning view of the glacier. But, the trail is 17 miles long – so it’s best as a backpacking adventure. There are also some viewpoints along the trail, so a lot of people don’t go all the way to Blue Glacier.
Length: 35.1 miles (56.5 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 5656 feet (1723 m)
Difficulty: Hard for a day hike, moderate for a backpacking trip
Where to Stay When You Hike in Olympic National Park
You can definitely do these hikes as a day trip, but it’s also fun to turn your trip into a little getaway! If you want to stay near the park, here are some ideas.
Washington has some of the best A-frames, rustic cabins, and adorable stays! They make for a really cozy getaway, and there are plenty of options near Olympic National Park.
Check out these amazing spots:
Glamping, Cabins, & Yurts
For a unique place to stay during your trip, check out Hipcamp! It’s like Airbnb for campsites – and you can find yurts, cabins, glamping sites, and more.
You can even get $10 off your first booking here!
A Camper van
With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans.
Find a Campsite
Whether you car camp, tent camp, or rent a tiny home on wheels, The Dyrt is the best way to find campsites! There are also options for free camping just outside of Olympic National Park – for tips on finding the best ones, check out this guide.
More Adventures Near Olympic National Park
Have you done any of these hikes in Olympic National Park, or have any recommendations for other trails? Let me know in a comment below!
Pin any of these photos to save the best hikes in Olympic National Park and reference this guide later!