Can you see Olympic National Park in One Day?
Olympic National Park is enormous, encompassing over 1,000,000 acres. In one day, there is NO way to see everything. However, should you only have one day in the park, here are the highlights we did that we think are worth exploring.
Starting in Seattle very early in the morning, we headed west toward the park and worked our way around the park in a clockwise direction. Our first stop, was the spectacular coastline at Ruby Beach. The coastline here along with Pacific Ocean is simply gorgeous. There are giant trees, weathered by years of sand and salt, all along the sandy beaches. The beach here is often shrouded in fog, making everything appear very otherworldly.
Two Trails to do at Hoh Rainforest
From Ruby Beach, we continued on to the Hoh Rainforest by turning back inland away from the coast. Undoubtedly, this is a must when you’re visiting Olympic National Park. This area gets approximately 140 inches of precipitation each year making a fantastically green canopy of trees and mosses. There are a few short trails here that allow you to see towering trees, including cedar, spruce, maple, and fir, many of which have a beautiful shawl of moss draped over them. The two quick loop trails that allow you to see the majority of the sites are the Hall of Mosses Trail (0.8 miles) and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles). While we were on a tight schedule, there is much more to explore in this area, including a campground along the Hoh River.
Next up, was at stop at the The Three Rivers Restaurant just a little beyond the Forks. The Forks in Washington is interestingly the rainiest town in the contiguous US and is a ‘bigger’ town outside of Hoh where you could grab a bite to eat or a few supplies. Unbeknownst to us, this is a big stop for fans of the book Twilight. We thought it weird that there was a vampire threat level sign on the wall, until we found out about the Twilight connection. Slightly past this you can continue again toward the coast via La Push Road, the road splitting either north to Rialto Beach or south to La Push beach. We opted for Rialto, one of the most popular beaches in Olympic and known for its amazing tidal pools. Check your tide charts!
The Brilliantly Blue Lake Crescent
Our final stop on our very busy day was Lake Crescent, a gorgeously colored glacial lake. With more time here, we would have done a hike to Marymere Falls which is listed as a favorite. We also took a quick peek in the lobby of the historic Lake Crescent Lodge which was ideally situated on the lake with colorful kayaks and rocking chairs for relaxation.
Sunrise on Blue Mountain
After our marathon day, we finally made it to Port Angeles where we stayed at the Olympic Lodge which we can highly recommend. Its location is great with scenic views of the Olympic mountains, a fireplace and outdoor pool and jacuzzi. We rested up for our ferry the next day to Vancouver Island…but not before one more snippet of Olympic National Park in the morning. (So I guess this is a one day plus a few hours itinerary!) Unfortunately for us, Hurricane Ridge Road was closed which is another must for your visit to the park and the most popular access point. This 17 mile road offers 360 degree views of the Olympic Mountains along with many hikes along the way. That would have been too easy for us anyway! Instead, looking for a substitute that would still allow those breathtaking Olympic Mountain views, we opted for Blue Mountain. This summit also permits 360 degree views of the Olympic Mountains, Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands and the Pacific Ocean. The drive up is not for the faint of heart. It’s a steep gravel road that is very narrow with a terrifyingly steep drop off on one side and it does NOT leave a lot of room to pull over if a car comes at you. Of course, we decided we would be up there for the sunrise so we did it in the dark. Yikes. The sunrise, with faint glows of orange peeking behind the mountains before the yellow engulfed the whole mountains was worth it!