How to Plan a Perfect Olympic National Park Itinerary

Olympic National Park was one of our favorite stops on our Washington road trip, though we didn’t spend nearly as much time exploring the massive park as we would have liked. It has the most diverse set of landscapes of any national park we’ve ever been to, with a dazzling array of ecosystems ranging from sandy ocean beaches to rugged alpine terrain.

Oh, and the temperate rainforests, which are the most unique natural feature that you’ll find on the Olympic Peninsula.

What we’re saying is that Olympic National Park should definitely be on your radar as a great long weekend trip from Seattle.

We wrote the Olympic National Park itinerary, which includes all the information you need to plan your trip – what to do and see, where to stay, how to get there, and more – to help you plan a 3 day, long weekend trip to Olympic National Park. Plus, you’ll find some ideas for what else to do if you have more time at the end. 

Planning a Trip to Olympic National Park? We’ve got a few other guides to help you plan an amazing trip. Check out our guide to the best hikes in Olympic National Park, and the best places to stay in Olympic National Park to help you plan an unforgettable adventure out on the Olympic Peninsula.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel and vacation rental links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would absolutely never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.

A Geography Overview

Olympic National Park is massive – just under a million acres – and its size means that there are several distinct ecosystems within the boundaries of Washington’s biggest national park. Sandy beaches, one of the biggest temperate rainforests in the country, and towering peaks and icy glaciers of Mt. Olympus and the Olympic Range.

For the purposes of this guide, let’s think about Olympic National Park as five different regions. 

They are: 

  • Hurricane Ridge & Lake Crescent: This is the closest part of the park to Seattle, and Port Angeles is the closest city. Here, you’ll find the Sol Duc River Valley, Lake Crescent, and Hurricane Ridge.   

  • Northern Pacific Coast: The area north of Lake Crescent along the Pacific and the Strait of Juan de Fuca is the northwestern-most point in the contiguous United States. This is where you’ll find the Makah Indian Reservation, which is worth spending some time learning about since you’ll be on their land while you’re exploring the bounty of natural beauty in the area. Like Shi Shi Beach, Point of Arches, and Ozette Lake, which is the third biggest lake in the state of Washington. 

  • Forks and La Push: The coastal area near Forks has a bunch of the best beaches in Olympic National Park – namely, Rialto Beach and Second Beach. This area is a good place to base yourself to explore the coast and the Hoh Rainforest. 

  • Hoh Rainforest: Pretty self explanatory, this is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the country. 

  • Southern Pacific Coast: This region stretches south down the coast from La Push, where you’ll find Ruby Beach, Kalaloch Beach and Lodge (including the Tree of Life), and Lake Quinault and the Quinault Rainforest. 

With a long weekend – let’s call it 3 days in Olympic National Park – you probably won’t be able to make it to all of those regions. 

Here’s a map of the itinerary you’ll find below:

Where to Stay in Olympic National Park

There are some pretty incredible places to stay in Olympic National Park, from four historic national park lodges (we think they’re cool, but waaaayyy overpriced), to cool treehouses and cozy cabins, and coastal camping.

As you’ll see in the itinerary below, because the park is so big you’ll probably want to spend each night in a different place. Otherwise, you’ll be doing a ton of driving. 

Pssst! Are you planning a trip to the Olympic Peninsula? We have an entire guide to deciding where to stay in Olympic National Park with all the details and specific recommendations.

At a high level, here’s our recommendation in terms of where to stay: 

  • We think Port Angeles and Lake Sutherland are the best places to stay to explore Hurricane Ridge and the area around Lake Crescent and the Sol Duc River. 

  • Forks is the best area to stay to explore the Pacific Beaches and Hoh Rainforest

  • Ozette Lake and Neah Bay are the best spots to explore the northern Pacific Coast

If you want to spend a night near the Hoh Rainforest, stay at the Hoh Valley Cabins, which will put you in prime position for beating the crowds out to the rainforest. 

In each section below, you’ll find specific recommendations on places to stay inside the park for a range of styles and budgets. 

Camping in Olympic National Park

There are 14 campgrounds inside Olympic National Park (along with quite a few along the boundaries)

There are only three campgrounds that accept reservations in advance – Sol Duc, Mora, and Kalaloch. Book these well in advance as they fill up quickly, especially on summer weekends and holiday weekends. 

The majority of campgrounds in the park are actually first-come-first-served. I wouldn’t count on showing up at 7pm on a Friday in the height of summer and finding a site – you’ll have to plan to show up a little earlier (midday to be safe) to make sure you get a spot.

Some first-come-first-served campgrounds that you might find useful are Heart O’ the Hills (on the road up to Hurricane Ridge), Fairholme Campground (on the eastern shore of Lake Crescent), and Ozette Campground. 

See them all, along with the status of each one, here

Historic Lodges in Olympic National Park

Kalaloch Lodge on the Pacific Coast

There are four historic lodges in the park (technically, Lake Quinault is outside the park – you caught me), which are a charming, rustic place to stay, but are also going to be fairly expensive for what you’re getting. 

Still, the locations of the lodges really can’t be beat, and some offer cozy cabins with full kitchens so that you can cook for yourself and save a bit of money (though you’ll need to bring your own cooking equipment and groceries). It might be worth it depending on your budget. 

  • Lake Crescent Lodge: Right on the shores of Lake Crescent, which is a great base for exploring the lake, Hurricane Ridge, and the Sol Duc Valley.

  • Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort: Good location in the Sol Duc Valley, but not the best base in the area because it takes extra time to get to Hurricane Ridge.

  • Kalaloch Lodge: Beautiful lodge along the south Pacific Coast. Don’t miss a walk on the beach to the Tree of Life!

  • Lake Quinault Lodge: On Lake Quinault at the south end of the park, this is a good add on if you want to see more rainforest, or if you just want to relax around the lake.

A Complete Olympic National Park Itinerary: A Long Weekend Guide (3 Days)

Now that we’ve got some of the logistics out of the way, let’s get into how to spend a long weekend exploring Olympic National Park. 

Day 1: Drive from Seattle + Lake Crescent and Hurricane Ridge

Pro-tip: Get on the road early from Seattle to give yourself as much time as humanly possible to explore this part of the park on your first day. 

Hurricane Ridge

Start your time in Olympic National Park off with a trip up to Hurricane Ridge, which is an interesting journey that takes you from sea level in Port Angeles up more than 5,000 feet to the Hurricane Ridge VIsitors Center. From there, you can see the Olympic Range, including Mt. Olympus, the tallest of the bunch. 

There are a bunch of short and sweet trails leaving from the visitors center, like the Hoh Ridge Trail and the Cirque Rim Trail. However, the highlight here is the Hurricane Hill Trail, which is just a little bit further up the road past the Visitors Center. 

The trail itself is paved and well marked all the way to the top. From the trailhead, it’s a mile and a half up to an incredible 360 degree view of the surrounding area.

On a clear day, you can see Mt. Baker to the east, Victoria, B.C. across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Olympic Range in all its glory to the south. It’s a pretty spectacular view, and well worth the 800 feet of elevation you have to climb to get there. 

It’s also one of the most popular trails in the park, which means parking can be a nightmare and the trail will likely be packed. 

After your hike, head back to the visitors center and do some of the shorter hikes that leave from there before making the descent back down to sea level. 

Lake Crescent

Getting to Lake Crescent from Hurricane Ridge is going to take you about an hour as you descend down into Port Angeles and then continue west on US 101. 

Your first stop should be the Lake Crescent Lodge, where you can have a picnic lunch and relax next to the lake. 

Next, head over to the Storm King Ranger Station, which is the starting point for the two best hikes in the area: Marymere Falls and Mount Storm King.

Marymere Falls is a relatively easy two mile out-and-back hike with a worthy payoff: a beautiful 90 foot waterfall cascading down the mossy rocks. It’s family-friendly, mostly flat, and is well worth the minimal effort. 

For the adrenaline junkies out there, Mount Storm King is probably the best hike in Olympic National Park to get your blood pumping. And not just because of the elevation gain. Part of this hike involves using ropes to climb a rocky slope to reach the summit, which might not be a good choice for people who are wary of heights.

It is by no means an easy hike – you’ll gain almost 2,000 feet of elevation over about two miles to reach the top. Still, the views over Lake Crescent and the northwestern part of the park are pretty spectacular, and might be worth the climb depending on how much you love heights. 

The Sol Duc Valley

Finish your first day off with a trip up to Sol Duc Falls, which is worth the detour. It’s a short walk through the woods to reach Sol Duc Falls.

On the way back, stop by Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, where you’ll find hot springs that you can take a soak after a long day of exploring. 

Where to Stay for Night 1

On your first night, you should stay either near Lake Sutherland along the lake itself, or in nearby Port Angeles

If you’re looking to camp, look at Sol Duc Campground (we stayed here, and it was a solid national park campground), which is reservable in advance, or at first-come-first-served Fairholme Campground and Heart o’ Hills Campground, which is back towards Hurricane Ridge and should probably be your last choice. 

Camping not your thing? We’ve got you covered. 

We wouldn’t recommend staying in Port Angeles itself, if you can avoid it because it’s not the sexiest town around.

Instead, look at the area northwest of Port Angeles along the Strait of Juan de Fuca or Lake Sutherland where you’ll find plenty of rustic log cabins that make a perfect home base for exploring the area.

Another great option would be to find a cozy cabin on the shores of Lake Sutherland. It’s roughly equidistant between Lake Crescent and Hurricane Ridge, which makes it a great choice.

Plus, you’ll spend your day exploring and your evening relaxing on the lake, which doesn’t sound half bad!

We like this one for couples, and this one for bigger groups.

Day 2: The Pacific Coast and Ozette Lake

Today, you’ll make your way along the Pacific Coast, starting at the northern tip near Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, and making your way south to end your day with a sunset hike at Rialto Beach. 

Start your day off with a cup of coffee (duh) and a quick breakfast before hitting the road and heading up towards Neah Bay. 

The majority of your day today will be spent on the Makah tribe’s land – you can learn about the Makah here, and it’s worth taking some time to acknowledge that you are on their land while you’re enjoying this amazing part of the world. Please respect the Makah Tribe and make sure to Leave No Trace

It’s worth stopping in Neah Bay at the Makah Cultural and Research Center to check out the museum, where you can learn more about the history of the Tribe and the land you’re exploring.

You will need a recreation permit to park at the trailheads in the northwest corner of the peninsula, which you can buy at several different places in the area (see them here). It costs $20 and is good for the calendar year. 

Cape Flattery

Start out at the northwest tip of the contiguous United States – Cape Flattery. The drive here from Port Angeles will take you two full hours, so head out early to give yourself plenty of time. 

The hike out to Cape Flattery is an easy one – it’s under a mile and a half with just 200 feet of elevation gain. It can be muddy, which is why it’s important to pack some good hiking boots for your trip to Olympic National Park. 

The viewpoints along the trail are amazing – you’ll see Tatoosh Island to the northwest and Vancouver Island due north across the water. 

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot else to do around Cape Flattery, so make your way to your next stop. 

Shi Shi Beach + Point of Arches

Getting to Shi Shi Beach is a bit of a trek, but it’s more than worth it. It’s one of the highlights of Olympic National Park. 

The drive from Cape Flattery to the Shi Shi Beach trailhead will take you roughly twenty minutes. 

From the trailhead, it’s a 3.5 mile hike out to the beach (one way). The good news is that it’s flat! 

At the beach, there are all sorts of tidepools to explore, sea stacks to admire, and more. The sea stacks at the south end of the beach are known as Point of Arches. 

Cape Alava & Ozette Lake

Ozette Lake is the third largest lake in Washington State, and is nearly eight miles long and three miles wide (at its widest point).

Unfortunately, getting there from Shi Shi Beach is a bit of a trek, and might not be worth it if you’re done hiking for the day. You have to go out and around to access the lake, which is worth a stop for the Cape Alava Trail. 

The trail, which leaves from the Ozette Ranger Station, is a three mile jaunt (one way, so six miles round trip) to a rocky beach that marks the western-most point in the United States. It’s an easy walk along a boardwalk, and it’s perfectly doable for kids.

There’s some good driftwood out on the beach, though it’s quite a detour for those with limited time. Might be best to save it for next time if you’re not up for another longer hike. 

You’ll want to save your energy for the last stop of the day, which involves a short beach hike that is sure to be among the highlights of your time in Olympic National Park. 

Rialto Beach

When we talk about highlights of our Washington road trip, sunset at Rialto Beach is always one of the first things we mention. We did the beach walk down to Hole in the Wall at sunset, saw two bald eagles, and I just about lost my tripod in the surf trying to get an epic sunset photo on the beach. 

Close out your second night with sunset at Rialto. The hike down the beach to Hole in the Wall is a must-do, and it’s family-friendly, flat, and relatively easy. Although you will be walking in sand, so know that going in. 

Where to Stay on Night 2

Stay in Forks or La Push on your second night. 

If you want to camp, stay at Mora Campground, which is about five minutes from Rialto (perfect for sunset) and is a nice campground that we enjoyed – we stayed there on our trip. It’s reservable in advance. If you can’t find a reservation there, look at Bogachiel State Park, which is in Forks near 101. 

If you’re not up for camping (or you just don’t have the equipment), look at these spots. 

I will say that we really like the Hoh Valley Cabins. It’s not in Forks, but it is along the way to the Hoh Rainforest, your first stop tomorrow morning, which will put you in prime position for getting to the rainforest before the crowds and maximize your chances of seeing elk!

Hotels in Forks

If you want a hotel, there are three great options in and around Forks that we think you’ll love.

  • Woodlands Inn: Amazing cabins that are a perfect balance of modern and rustic. Each cabin has a kitchen, and they have different layouts that can accommodate up to 4-6 people.

  • Misty Valley Inn: A gorgeous bed & breakfast just outside of Forks with a beautiful property overlooking a lush valley. The highlight is the breakfast, which is made-to-order and features things like waffles and biscuits and gravy.

  • Pacific Inn Motel: The best hotel in Forks. It’s right in the middle of town, and has traditional hotel-style rooms at affordable prices.
Vacation Rentals in Forks

If you’d rather stay in a vacation rental, where you’ll generally have more space and a full kitchen, look at these options near forks.

Day 3: Two Rainforests and the Drive Home

Today, on your last day in Olympic National Park, you’ll hit two of the Pacific Northwest’s famous temperate rainforests – the Hoh Rainforest and the Quinault Rainforest – along with several sandy Pacific beaches as you complete the loop around the south end of the Olympic Peninsula and return home. 

If you don’t want to take the southern loop to get home, head back along 101 from the Hoh Rainforest towards Port Angeles to make your way back to Seattle. Otherwise, continue south to hit some of the things to do in the southern part of Olympic National Park. 

Hoh Rainforest

The Hoh Rainforest is best in the early morning and around dusk, so plan on getting an early start. The reason? Crowds and wildlife. By about 10am, the trails are packed with people. Early morning is also the best time to catch a glimpse of the Roosevelt elk that call the Hoh Rainforest home. 

It’s particularly pretty in the early morning when the sun rays pierce through the dense canopy of trees and illuminate the mist that is floating throughout the rainforest. 

The Hoh Rainforest is a temperate rainforest, which means mild temperatures and tons of precipitation. It’s full of old growth trees, most of which are centuries old. Make sure to take some time to admire the abundance of mosses growing on just about every available surface.

There are a couple of trails in the Hoh Rainforest that are worth doing, and both are short and easy and they leave from the visitors center parking lot. 

The first is the Hall of Mosses, which is an easy 0.8 mile loop through the heart of the rainforest. You’ll leave the parking lot and immediately be transported to another world, one that has a lot more moss and where the ground is lined with ferns that look like they’re straight out of Jurassic Park. It should take you less than an hour to do the quick loop. 

The second stroll is the Spruce Nature Trail. This is a 1.2 mile round trip hike that takes you through similar ecosystems as the Hall of Mosses, but the highlight is the Hoh River, which is probably the best place to see wildlife in the area (aside from the backcountry). 

If you’re looking for a longer hike, it’s worth doing a portion of the Hoh River Trail, which forks off from the Spruce Nature Trail and follows the Hoh River all the way up to Mount Olympus (~17 miles, one way). You can make it as long or short as you’d like – we’ve done the 5 mile hike out to Mineral Creek Falls and back, and enjoyed it.

If you can make it out to Five Mile Island, which would be a 10 mile round trip hike, it’s a great place to have lunch with views of Bogachiel Peak before you turn around and head back the way you came. 

Ruby Beach

As you make your way down the coast, Ruby Beach, named for the red pebbles that make the beach a faint rust color, is worth a stop. It’s a short hike down from the parking lot, and is full of picturesque driftwood and sea stacks just off the coast. 

Kalaloch and the Tree of Life

Kalaloch is south of Ruby Beach, and is home to a couple of main attractions that make it worth a stop on your way home. 

Beach 4 is a cool spot to go tidepooling, and all of the beaches in the area are prime bird watching areas. Bald eagles and other kinds of coastal birds call these beaches home, and you’re sure to spot at least a few seagulls if nothing else. DON’T FEED THE GULLS. 

You can also walk along the beach to the Tree of Life, which is an example of nature’s ability to adapt. The tree was growing on a bluff that has since washed away, leaving the roots of the tree exposed. It looks like it’s floating above the beach below. 

Lake Quinault & the Quinault Rainforest

Your last stop on your grand tour of Olympic National Park is going to be Lake Quinault and the Quinault Rainforest.

Like the Hoh Rainforest, the best time to visit the rainforest is definitely early in the morning. If you have an extra night to spare, spend it either at the Kalaloch Lodge or Lake Quinault Lodge (or one of the nearby campgrounds) so that you can take in the rainforest, which has the biggest Sitka Spruce tree in the world, in all its glory. 

The stroll through the Quinault Rainforest is quick and easy – just a half mile – and you’ll make your way along a well-defined, flat path lined with interpretive signs that will probably teach you some things about the temperate rainforest. 

Don’t miss the Big Cedar Trail and the Trail of the Giants, two other worthwhile short strolls in the area. 

What to Add with More Time

Whether you have a couple of extra nights, or just have an extra day to explore, there are plenty of things to do in Olympic National Park to fill your time. 

Here are some things to think about adding on to your trip. 

Spend the night along the northern coast near Neah Bay so that you can see Cape Flattery at its finest – around sunset. Stay at either Chito Beach Resort or Hobuck Beach Resort. This will allow you to spend some more time in one of the most spectacular parts of the park, and will make it an easier day to head out to Ozette Lake. Alcohol and drug use are prohibited on Makah land – please respect the rules. 

If you have an extra day, spend an extra night along the southern coast, either at Kalaloch Lodge or Lake Quinault Lodge. This will give you more time to explore the beaches around La Push – First, Second, and Third beach – and also allow you to see the Quinault Rainforest in the early morning when it is at its most peaceful and serene. 

Spend a night camping on the beach! Olympic National Park is one of the few spots in Washington that allows beach camping. You can camp on Shi Shi or Rialto (among others, but those are our recommendations), you just need a wilderness permit to do it. Bear canisters are also required in the park – you can either rent one from the visitors center, or bring your own. We have this one, which came highly recommended from multiple people. There are other kinds of bear canisters that are clear with a (hard to use) twist-off top, but apparently bears are learning how to open those.

Rent a kayak and see the park from the water at either Lake Crescent or Ozette Lake. 

Spend a night or two in the backcountry! Two of Washington’s best backpacking trails are in Olympic National Park – the High Divide and Seven Lakes Basin, and the Enchanted Valley. You’ll need to reserve wilderness permits in advance, bring a bear canister, and be prepared for weather of all kinds (but mostly rain, at least in the summer and shoulder seasons). For what it’s worth, we spent three days and two nights on the High Divide and LOVED IT, but we would have spent an extra night if we did it again to spend more time along the divide itself. 

Getting to Olympic National Park

To do the Olympic Peninsula right, you’re definitely going to need a car. So all of the routes below assume that you have a car.  

Entrance Fees: Entrance to Olympic National Park will cost you $30 for seven days (includes one vehicle and the people in it). If you’re planning on making it to three or more national parks in the next 12 months, I’d recommend buying the America the Beautiful Pass, which gives you free entrance to every park in the US for 12 months. It pays out after two visits (each visit costs $30, the pass costs $80). 

Getting From Seattle to Olympic National Park

To get from Seattle to Olympic National Park, you’ve got a couple of options.

The ferry routes below will save you a a little bit of time, but it will cost more since you have to pay the ferry crossing on the route from the Seattle area heading west. 

First is driving through Tacoma, which avoids the cost of the ferry to Bainbridge Island, but takes a bit longer if there’s any traffic at all between Seattle and Tacoma… which there usually is.

There are two ferry routes you could take, and they take roughly the same amount of time. 

The first option is the Edmonds-Kingston ferry, which is north of Seattle. This one drops you in Kingston on the other side of the Hood Canal, and from there you’d head west until meeting up with US 101, which you follow to the park. You can see costs here, which varies depending on how many people are in the car, and what kind of vehicle you have. Ferry schedule here

The second option is the Bainbridge Ferry, which leaves from downtown Seattle and drops you on Bainbridge Island. From there, you’d take a couple of different roads that bring you northwest to meet up with 101. Ferry costs here, and the schedule can be found here.

Both ferries cost roughly the same, and take roughly the same amount of time. The main difference is where they leave from and where they drop you off, and we don’t have a strong perspective on which one is “better.” 

From Portland

To get to Olympic National Park from Portland, head north on I-5 out of Portland and cut over to 101 North when you get to Olympia. From there, follow the Hood Canal North to Port Angeles. The drive will take you about four hours without traffic. 

From Elsewhere

If you’re coming from elsewhere, the best way to get to Olympic National Park is going to be flying into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac, SEA), renting a car, and following the instructions for getting to/from the park from Seattle.

If you’re coming from SeaTac, we’d recommend the Bainbridge Island ferry mainly because it gives you great views of Seattle and Mt. Rainier. 

When to Visit Olympic National Park

The best time to visit most places in the Pacific Northwest is going to be the summer months between mid-June and Labor Day in early September. We were in Olympic National Park just before Labor Day in 2020, and it was incredible weather – blue skies, 70 degrees, and completely clear. That seems to be pretty common in the summer, at least more common than other times of year when you’re likely to get a pretty constant drizzle. 

However, those summer months also are a double edged sword, because everyone is going to be trying to go to Olympic National Park at that time making it much harder to get campsites, parking spots at trailheads, and backcountry permits. 

To avoid the crowds, late spring (just after Memorial Day) and early fall (mid-September through mid-October) are also a good time to be there, though the weather is going to be a little more hit or miss. If you’re prepared for some rain, you’ll be fine. And you’re heading to the rainforest, so isn’t a little bit of rain part of the charm anyway?

Winter in Olympic National Park looks beautiful, but it’s going to be stormy and wet. Some of the higher elevation hiking trails are covered in snow making them inaccessible, but you can still explore some of the beaches and the rainforests. Be prepared to be very, very wet though. It rains A LOT. It’s like it’s a rainforest or something. 

Headed to Olympic National Park? We’ve got a guide to the best hikes in Olympic National Park, and the best places to stay in Olympic National Park to help you plan an unforgettable adventure out on the Olympic Peninsula.

Don’t miss our other guides to Washington State’s Amazing National Parks!


If you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, we’ve got you covered with all sorts of super detailed travel guides to our favorite places in Washington and Oregon.

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