This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Olympic National Park is one of three National Parks throughout the state of Washington. You should definitely take at least three full days to explore Olympic National Park. However, due to the sheer size of the park, you could easily spend 5 days to 7 days (a week) in Olympic National Park and still have a packed itinerary.
After spending a little over a week in the area and dedicating three full solid days to Olympic National Park, I’m sharing my tips and itinerary inspiration for (at least) 3 days in Olympic National Park. But, realistically you’ll probably want to spend more time here! Use this as a guide to plan your days from 3 days to a full week exploring the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.
Let’s dive into the details of this unique National Park, when to visit, and what to do while you’re there.
About Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is a very large park covering most of the Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington. The Olympic National Forest surrounds Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula. But the National Park itself covers nearly one million acres! Even though Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Canyon are actually larger in size Olympic National Park feels a lot more vast.
Let me elaborate a bit more. When we have visited Yellowstone on several occasions you can fit many things into one day. A lot of sights, trails, and attractions or points of interest are relatively close together if you plan your stops in a logistic manner. Olympic is not like that at all! We did a lot in the three days but it definitely is a much more “drive heavy” or actually a road trip type of itinerary.
Do not let this deter you from visiting! After spending time in many National Parks one of my absolute hands down favorite days was in Olympic. But add in the weather in the PNW and you may have to try a few times to see certain things. I don’t regret it at all! It was so worth it. It’s always good to be flexible anytime you’re traveling. Sometimes that’s when you’ll have the best most memorable experiences! Let’s talk a bit more about the weather and the best time to visit Olympic National Park.
Best time to visit
The Pacific Northwest region of the United States is most known for the amount of rainfall it can receive. While this attributes to its lushness and beauty, while you’re exploring you generally hope for mild weather so you can comfortably spend the most amount of time outdoors as possible.
The best time to visit Olympic National Park is during the summer months. June through August more specifically. During this time of year, the weather is mild and they experience the least amount of rainfall/precipitation. However, I’m not going to promise it won’t rain! For some reason, it always ends up raining on us (or so it seems!) when we’re in National Parks or planning to hike. That doesn’t deter us though.
The park is open year round, however especially in winter due to high levels of precipitation and avalanche conditions, many areas of the park may be inaccessible.
Olympic National Park weather
Weather within Olympic National Park greatly varies depending on what ecosystem and area of the park you are visiting. Olympic is extremely diverse with rain forest nature, coastal beaches, as well as the Olympic mountain range. This causes a wide range of different weather you can experience even on a singular day when spending time in Olympic National Park.
What to pack for Olympic National Park
Be sure to pack layers and extra clothing. A raincoat is definitely needed. If you have two, bring them because it’s nice to have a dry one in case one gets really drenched.
- Pack snacks, water, and plenty of supplies
- Bring a pair of comfortable, waterproof, and breathable hiking boots
- 1-2 rain jackets
- Bring extra socks, rain gear, and layers in case you run into inclement weather
- Wool hiking socks
- Hiking backpack with hydration pouch (and additional water bottles)
- Sunglasses and hats
- First aid kit
- Headlamps or flashlights
- Bug spray and sunscreen
Where to Stay
There are several lodging options within Olympic National Park. They do tend to fill up fast, so the sooner you know when you’re planning on visiting Olympic National Park the better to make your reservations.
Within the park, there are four different lodges: Kalaloch Lodge, Lake Crescent Lodge, Log Cabin Resort, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, and Lake Quinault Lodge.
Located in Forks, WA the Kalaloch Lodge has a restaurant as well as several different lodging options. There are rooms available in the main lodge, cabins (some boasting amazing views of the ocean), and the Seacrest House rooms have patios or balconies with sweeping ocean views of the Pacific Ocean.
Lake Crescent Lodge
This historic lodge was built in 1916. There are rooms available in the main historic lodge as well as cabins and motel options. With a dining room on site, lounge, coffee bar, and boat rentals as well for Lake Crescent.
Log Cabin Resort
Seasonally open only in summer, the Log Cabin Resort offers a much more rustic experience. Generally open from Mid May to the beginning of October each year. This is an option if you plan to visit during that timeframe.
Offering Lakeside cabins, lodge rooms, camper cabins as well as RV hookups and tent camping. This is a great place to stay if you want to take part in boating, kayaking, or SUP (stand up paddle boarding) on the lake.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort
A seasonal accommodation, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort offers pet-friendly accommodations as well as an onsite restaurant, spa services, and the use of the therapeutic thermal pools. Only open from March through October. Also very important to note, there isn’t WiFi access at this property!
Lake Quinault Lodge
A rustic and historic retreat located on the shores of Lake Quinault. Lake Quinault is in the southwestern part of the Olympic National Park making it more remote and less visited than the northern parts of the park.
With many lodging options available you’re sure to find one that will suit your needs. Lake views and boat houses are a few of the unique lodging options offered here.
Olympic Peninsula Lodging
Other options throughout the Olympic Peninsula include some of the larger cities located here such as Port Angeles, Sequim, or Port Townsend on the northern part of the peninsula.
While on the western part of the peninsula, there is Forks (made famous by the Twilight books and movies.) As well as the Lake Quinault area, Clallam Bay, or Neah Bay.
In the east part of the peninsula, lodging is available in the Hood Canal area of the peninsula. Hood Canal includes the following cities: Hoodsport, Quilcene, and Brinnon. Shelton and Olympia are larger cities that are located more south on Highway 101. They may not be the best places to stay while exploring the park, but could make for a great day or two before or after to add to your itinerary!
When deciding where to stay, whether it’s in a nearby town on the peninsula or within the National Park, consider driving time, your planned activities, and amenities that will make your stay more relaxing and enjoyable. Let’s move on to some tips specific to Olympic National Park that will allow you to have an amazing time exploring the Pacific Northwest.
Olympic National Park Tips
Olympic National Park is a vast and beautifully unique National Park, some general National Park tips apply but here are some specific tips for Olympic National Park.
- Always practice Leave No Trace Principles!
- Makah pass vs. National Parks pass
- Some areas of the park require a Makah Pass in addition to the National Park Admission fee or pass
- Areas of the park allow for overnight parking, so if you want to car camp that’s an option!
- Plan for your stops by driving to the farthest location first then make your way back to your ending destination
- OR, plan to stay in multiple different places within or close to different areas of Olympic National Park to reposition yourself better
- Look up the weather forecast each day and be prepared!
- Pack snacks, water, and plenty of supplies
- Bring a pair of comfortable, waterproof, and breathable hiking boots
- 1-2 rain jackets
- Bring extra socks, rain gear, and layers in case you run into inclement weather during the day
- Be sure to hike to your ability, be realistic, and don’t overdo it
There are three visitor centers, an information center, and a ranger station located in Olympic National Park.
The main Olympic National Park Visitor Center is located in Port Angeles, WA. Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is located 17 miles from Port Angeles by way of Hurricane Ridge Road. This visitor center is temporarily closed as it burned down in May 2023. The Hoh Rainforest visitor center is the third one.
The information center is also located in Port Angeles. Whereas the Storm King Ranger Station is located in Forks, WA.
3 Days in Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is so uniquely beautiful in that there are so many different types of ecosystems you can explore while spending 3 days there. Here’s the itinerary of what we did while visiting. Use it to inspire your adventures to Olympic National Park over three days (or less or more time here!)
Let’s dive in on the details of the three day itinerary and tips and tricks to have an amazing time in Olympic National Park!
[NOTE: We spent a few evenings exploring areas that were closer to where we stayed in our RV and then had 3 full dedicated days to Olympic. So, this itinerary really could be more like 4-5 full days in Olympic National Park. Depending on how fast or leisurely you prefer to explore!]
Quick things in Olympic NP near Port Angeles, WA
Elwa River Valley
In this area of Olympic National Park, there are several shorter hikes such as Madison Creek Falls Trail (0.1 mile). This was a quick and easy little walk past the river valley to the waterfalls. There are several other longer and more strenuous hikes in this area if you have more time.
Lake Crescent & Devils Punchbowl
Lake Crescent is located on the Northern part of Olympic National Park about 20 miles from Port Angeles. Alongside the north side of Lake Crescent, you can access a really deep swimming hole (supposedly it’s 1,000 feet deep!) called Devils Punchbowl.
You can get to the Devil’s Punchbowl via the short hike via Spruce Railroad Trail. This out and back hike at a little over 2 miles is mostly paved and with very little elevation gain. Once you’re at Devil’s Punchbowl you can walk across the bridge to view the beautiful colors of the swimming hole and Lake Crescent.
We mostly had the trail to ourselves and it was a serene and relaxing July evening hike.
Hurricane Ridge is very accessible from Port Angeles. Located just 17 miles south of Port Angeles it’s an easy stop before or after exploring the town. It takes about half an hour to drive up here from Port Angeles. Be sure to stop at the Visitor Center as well as the end of the road. There is a great spot to pull off and take in some views of the Straight of Juan de Fuca.
Hurricane Ridge is also the most easily accessible mountain range within Olympic National Park. The road here is seasonal, so it may not be open if you’re planning to visit in the winter. If you are planning to visit during winter, be sure to have chains for your tires.
Olympic National Park Day 1
Our first stop during the full day exploring Olympic National Park was Cape Flattery. Technically this isn’t a part of the National Park, it’s right outside of it but located on the northwestern point of the Olympic peninsula.
It’s located in Neah Bay where you will need to purchase a “Makah Pass” which is $20 and good for a calendar year. We purchased ours from the Makah Mini-Mart. There is no online option for purchasing the pass, refer here to plan where you will buy the recreation pass.
Neah Bay is located within the Makah Indian Reservation outside of Olympic National Park. Cape Flattery trail is well worth the effort. Only about a 30 min hike, it’s the most NW point of the United States.
Shi Shi Beach
The Shi Shi Beach trailhead is about a 10 mile and 20 minute drive from Cape Flattery. Shi Shi Beach consists of walking through an area considered rainforest as well as the beach itself.
It’s a little over 2 miles to hike to the beach and if you hike once on the beach to the sea stacks it’s a similar distance making it around 5 miles one way. Due to the weather, we chose not to hike to the sea stacks but it was great to hike down to the beach and take in the sweeping scenery.
Shi Shi Beach Tips: If you’re using google maps do not navigate to Shi Shi Beach, be sure to navigate to the Shi Shi Beach trailhead. There’s overnight parking available but the day use parking is closer to the trailhead. The trail to the beach can be extremely muddy! Especially when rainy as there’s a lot of cover so it doesn’t get a chance to dry out.
Heading Southeast to Forks, WA, a city put on the map by the Twilight books and movies written by Stephenie Meyer. This small town definitely plays it up with signs as referenced in the series as well as a lot of information and props in the visitor center.
The visitor center was very helpful though in knowing the tide schedule so we were able to determine when to hike to the hole in the wall on Rialto Beach.
In the books and movies, Bella Swan works at Newton’s Olympic Outfitters (which is actually fictional.) But, it’s based on an actual business in Forks, Forks Outfitters & Thriftway. This is a great place to pop in for snacks or anything you may need. They even have an onsite coffee shop. (Spoiler: some of the specialty coffee drinks make nods to the Twilight series!)
After a fun day with some inclement weather, we went back to Port Angeles, due to being drenched! Grabbed some food and dried off a bit after driving from Forks.
Olympic National Park Day 2
Day two in Olympic National Park started with a drive of about an hour and a half.
Due to the information we learned from the visitor center in Forks, WA the day before we knew the tide schedule for Rialto Beach. You want to be sure to arrive at Hole in the Wall at low tide so you can actually see it! It can be very dangerous if you go during high tide or even on the cusp of high tide as you can actually get stranded there and you’re just at the mercy of the tide if you don’t get swept out into the ocean in the meantime.
So we set out to hike to the Hole in the Wall & tide pools. We timed it perfectly! We nearly had it to ourselves for at least an hour. The tide was out and we were able to really explore all of the tide pools and sea life living within them. This truly was one of my favorite days of the whole summer of exploring countless National and State Parks. The tidepools were incredible!
Just be sure to be careful where you step and to try to step on the dried out barnacles within the rocky area as it will help to create a more natural grip. It can really get slick in some areas!
The Hoh Rainforest is a very popular destination in Olympic National Park. After attempting to go here next after spending the morning at Rialto Beach. It’s a little over an hour drive from Rialto Beach to Hoh and it was really busy in the afternoon.
There’s only limited parking available at the Visitor Center where the popular Spruce Nature Trail and Hall of Mosses hike trailhead starts. Once you approach the visitor center, if you’re waiting in a car queue there were signs stating approximate wait times. When it stated over an hour, we decided to just go explore other things and come back to it the next day.
Hurricane Ridge & Visitor Center
From the Hoh Visitor Center area to Hurricane Ridge (which is located close to the town of Port Angeles), the drive is 2 and a half hours. Unfortunately, when we visited, the view at Hurricane Ridge was really foggy and you couldn’t see much. But, sometimes that’s the risk you take traveling to National Parks, you can’t control the weather!
*Since our visit, the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center was in a fire and isn’t operating. Check with the National Park Service (NPS) on the status of this visitor center if it’s being rebuilt or is operable at the time of your visit.
Olympic National Park Day 3
Our final full day in Olympic National Park was filled with repeat things due to failed first attempts and some great hiking trails.
Arriving bright and early when the Visitor Center opened there was ample parking and we weren’t waiting in a car line. (Contrary to the previous day when we attempted to visit mid-day.)
We started by hiking the Hall of Mosses Trail. This starts and ends in a loop from the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center. After the loop, we explored the Visitor Center which is very interesting with exhibits talking about the amount of rainfall and habitat located in the Hoh Rainforest.
After the Hoh Rainforest, it was an hour and a half drive back to the Lake Crescent Area and another hike.
Marymere Falls Trail
Marymere Falls is located on the South side of Lake Crescent. In this area of Olympic National Park, you’re close to Lake Crescent Lodge, The Moments in Time Trail, and Marymere Falls.
The Marymere Falls Trail is a quick less than 2 mile loop that has little elevation gain but a big payoff! The 90 ft waterfall spills down into a pool below. Marymere Falls is a popular stop within Olympic National Park since it’s in close proximity to Highway 101.
Moments in Time Trail
The Moments in Time Trail is more of a quick nature walk. Less than a mile in length it circles an area near Lake Crescent.
There are many signs along the path that make it “Moments in Time”. Meaning these signs explain some of the history of the area in different time periods. If you like learning the origin of places and are a history buff the Moments in Time Trail should definitely be in your 3 day Olympic National Park itinerary plans!
Sol Duc Falls
Out of all the waterfalls in Olympic National Park, Sol Duc Falls was my favorite! Multiple different streams of water dropping down into a dramatic gorge. Walking across the bridge nearby and taking in the beauty was unbelievable.
The hike to Sol Duc Falls is very approachable at less than 2 miles with under 300 ft of elevation gain. The trail is an out and back. There were a lot of others on the trail as it’s a very popular destination within Olympic National Park.
Olympic National Park Itinerary: beyond 3 days
Here are some additional stops or attractions to add to your 3 day Olympic National Park itinerary. I can’t personally speak to these, but they would be added on a return trip in a heartbeat! So if you’re spending 4 or 5 days exploring in Olympic, keep these in mind!
The Sunrise Ridge Trail is located near Port Angeles, WA. It’s a longer hike at almost 7 miles with significant elevation gain and a difficult rating. This hike starts at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and it intersects with the Switchback trail.
Aside from the Sunrise Ridge to Klahhane Ridge, this hike can be taken on many different routes as trails intersect. Steep elevation gains lead to unforgettable views. The intersection of Klahhane Ridge offers views of Mount Angeles and Hurricane Ridge Road. You can also see a great overall view of Olympic National Park.
Olympic Discovery Trail
The Olympic Discovery Trail is a trail that is to be used for non-motorized multi-use exploring. The trail can be used to hike, bike, or ride a horse, and generally leashed pets are also allowed. So, if you’re bringing a bike with you this would be a perfect thing to add to your itinerary in Olympic National Park!
The trail starts in Port Townsend and ends at the Pacific Ocean Shores. The trail is broken up into many different trail segments and there are designated stops on the specific segment maps. These maps are helpful in showing the trail surface (paved, gravel, dirt) and also the trail grade so you’re not surprised after setting out on the trail.
Ruby Beach is located in a part of Olympic National Park we really didn’t explore extensively. Off of 101 and on the Southwestern part of the Olympic Peninsula you’ll find this beach. A rugged and dramatic beach featuring trails, campsites, and Kalaloch Lodge. Ruby Beach is well known for its jagged sea stacks and red tinted sand.
Compared to Rialto Beach, Ruby Beach is more accessible. This makes it typically busier as Rialto takes more effort in tracking the tide charts to hike to the Hole in the Wall. But Ruby Beach is a great location to walk along the shore, look for agates and sea glass and take in the serene landscape.
Quinault Rain Forest
The Quinault Rain Forest is located in the southwestern part of Olympic National Park near Lake Quinault and the Quinault Reservation. Approximately 125 miles and a two and a half hour drive from Port Angeles.
This area of Olympic National Park is closer to Olympia and Tacoma, WA. There are lodging options available near Lake Quinault if you choose to explore the southern part of Olympic National Park.
Hoh River Trail
If you’re looking for a more challenging hike beyond just a day hike, Hoh River Trail is a great option! This hike has significant elevation gain at over 4,000 ft and a grueling length of just over 17 miles to Glacier Meadows.
If you’re wanting to do some back-country backpacking and take in some stunning views of Mount Olympus and Blue Glacier, Hoh River Trail should be on your Olympic itinerary!
Staircase Rapids Loop Trail
This trail is generally considered easy. The Staircase Rapids Loop Trail located in Olympic National Park clocking in just under 2 miles in length and just over 200 ft of elevation gain makes this a very approachable hike.
This hike follows the North Fork of the Skokomish River on the southeastern part of Olympic National Park near Hoodsport, WA.
Mount Storm King
This hike is located close to Lake Crescent and many of the other things we did in Olympic National Park. To be honest, since it was rated hard that scared me from doing the hike. But we’ve completed longer hard hikes since then so I’m kicking myself we didn’t go on this hike!
This is the top rated hike in Olympic National Park. In just over 4 miles, there is over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. So, like I said, it’s no joke! Be sure to take your time, monitor your heart rate and go at a pace that’s right for you!
The first two miles of the hike are steep. You will come to an “End of Maintained Trail” sign. The last quarter mile includes obstacles such as rocks and a series of ropes to maintain your balance. Be sure to go one person at a time and take your time!
As you’re going up, evaluate if you’ll be able to go back down as this is an out and back route. If not, I strongly suggest you turn around and not hike further on this trail. Due to the ropes, if you have gloves bringing them with might not be a bad idea!
Once you make it to the top the views are amazing and it makes the struggle worth it!
Olympic National Park in three days FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions:
How many days should I spend in Olympic National Park?
Three days. If you have longer, 5 to 7 days will allow you to see all of the different areas of this very diverse and vast National Park located on a peninsula in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. You won’t see a lot in one day so I would plan to spend at least a few days.
What should you not miss in Olympic National Park?
Rialto and Shi Shi Beached. Especially Rialto beach hiking/walking to Hole in the Wall. Be sure to plan the best day and time based on the tide charts. The tide pools near the hole in the wall are absolutely incredible. There is so much to explore and see!
What are the best hikes in Olympic National Park?
Some of the most popular hikes in Olympic National Park include Hurricane Ridge Trail, Hoh Rainforest Hall of Mosses, Sol Duc Falls Trail, Marymere Falls Trail, and the hike to Hole in the Wall along Rialto Beach. The top-rated hike in Olympic National Park on alltrails, Mount Storm King is rated hard.
What can you do in one day in Olympic National Park?
If you only have a day in Olympic National Park, be sure to check out at least one of the visitor centers. But, by far the most fun thing to see and explore is the tide pools in Olympic National Park. Do not miss these! They’re incredible! Check the tide charts and be sure to time your visit appropriately.
How long is the ferry from Seattle to Olympic National Park?
The Seattle Bainbridge ferry takes approximately 35 mins to cross from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. From there, you will drive to Olympic National Park. When taking a ferry you also have to account for the time it takes to board and unboard. Driving may be faster. Washington State Ferries has several ferried that depart from downtown Seattle.
What town do you stay in for Olympic National Park?
Port Angeles is technically the town that’s the closest to Olympic National Park. Several lodging options are available within the park itself. But, in terms of restaurants and other things to do Port Angeles is your best option.
Are there any waterfalls in Olympic National Park?
Yes! There are 25 waterfalls in Olympic National Park. Some require more effort via a hike while others are more accessible. Sol Duc Falls and Marymere Falls are a few of the more popular waterfalls in Olympic National Park. Madison Falls is the easiest waterfall to get to in the park.
Is two days enough in Olympic National Park?
Two days is a good amount of time in Olympic National Park. (Three or four is better.) With only two days, you will need to really prioritize what’s most important for you to see. Much of the park and sights are very spread out and you’ll spend a lot of time traveling around the park.
Do you need a car in Olympic National Park?
Yes. There are ways you can get to Olympic National Park via a ferry or bus. But to get around within the National Park and explore you will need to have a vehicle. If you’re flying, I would definitely rent a car to come to Olympic National Park.
Conclusion Olympic National Park in three days
Three days is a good amount of time to see everything that we wanted to see in Olympic National Park. However, due to the National Park’s vastness, you could spend upwards of 5 days or a week here and still have much more to do and to add into your itinerary. (Compared to the other Washington National Parks, Mt. Rainier and North Cascades.)
From hiking, paddling, exploring Lake Crescent, and seeing beautiful beaches and tide pools to rainforests and mountain peaks, Olympic National Park truly has it all!
I hope this inspires you to visit Olympic National Park soon. Happy Adventuring!