My trip to Olympic National Park was amazing, and I’ve been itching to go back ever since. This park has it all, from cool hikes to amazing camp grounds and my favorite lake of all time. Oh, and it has one of the largest temperate rainforests in America. There is truly something for everyone when you’re visiting Olympic National Park. Here are a few of the highlights from my trip that will ensure you have as good a time as I did.
My great grandfather suggested we go on this hike because he did it decades ago. Shoutout to Dap because Hurricane Ridge came with some epic views! This is one of the most popular and most visited areas of the park and for good reason. It’s surrounded by greenery and huge mountains everywhere you turn. I think it most resembles the area where Julie Andrews sang “The Hills Are Alive” in “The Sound of Music.”
Our favorite hike was the Hurricane Hill Trail. Though the beginning of the trail we were on was super easy, once you get to the actual hill it got pretty steep. It wasn’t too bad, but compared to the rest of the hike it was a lot harder. Still, it was well worth it to make it to the end. We met cool Canadian and German travelers who encouraged me when I was 100% over how steep it got, and I’m so glad they did.
The mountain views from the top were amazing (like the featured photo). As far as wildlife, we saw a few marmots and some black tailed deer but were warned to stay clear of the goats that frequent the area. Yes, you heard me correctly. The goats were what the park staff were warning us about. I’m not the most experienced hiker, I’ll admit. So I was planning this whole trip around how I would react if/when the worst predator of the woods, bears, would be close by. Turns out it’s the goats who are better known to menace hikers In Olympic than bears. Go figure.
Our lodging for this trip was a tent! This was actually my first time camping outside, and it wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be. I’m a city girl that’s been trying to get outside more, so this was a good first step. We stayed at the Heart O’ the Hills campground and it was perfect. It’s a first come first served situation at this spot, so we set up early in the day and there were a good amount of spots open. But by the end of the night there were none, so I’d suggest setting up first and then going back out to explore.
It was a really nice campground that had water nearby, so the sound of it played peacefully in the background. Our tent was tiny and we only woke up once in the night, convinced we heard something outside Neither of us had the guts to investigate it. Needless to say, we survived!
The greenest greens and the mossiest trees can be found in this section of Olympic National Park. There are also banana slugs (gag), but I won’t get into that. Walking into this rainforest feels like going back in time. Deep green moss hangs from all the tress and the ground is usually damp, but that made everything look brighter so that’s a plus. We went on a few shorter walks in this area and loved it, but they also have longer hikes that are over 17 miles long.
There are not that many options for food in this area so we went to the only one around, the Hard Rain Cafe and Mercantile. They have basic food like fries and grilled cheese (which is what I ate) and picnic bench seating on their outdoor deck. They have souvenir items there too like t-shirts and magnets. I grabbed a few postcards while I was there to send off to family.
This lake was my favorite part of our entire trip. One thing I insisted on doing while we were visiting Olympic National Park was taking a kayak or canoe onto one of the lakes in the area. Stumbling upon this location felt like fate. The Pacific Coast Scenic Byway (101) border the entire right side of this lake, so even if you’re just driving by it’s a sight to see. But seriously though, stop the car and check this lake out!
We went to Lake Crescent Lodge which is definitely the cutest hotel I’ve ever seen. Their main building reminded me of a bed and breakfast in New England, and they had about a dozen tiny cabins you could stay in that overlooked the lake. If I ever go back, I’d stay there for sure. The kayaks were inexpensive and the water was super clear. It was so quiet and peaceful when we were there, and they had a really nice dock that we ended up jumping off of a few times. You won’t regret spending time here.
The Pacific Coast
There are over 70 miles of coast in Olympic National Park and a road that takes you straight down most of it. These aren’t the kind of beaches you go swimming in. They were riddled with boulders and huge logs. I’ve never seen anything like it.
We stopped at a few different spots on the coast, and they were all pretty different, despite being just a few miles away from each other. One was filled with ginormous beach logs that were so big it made it hard to get past them. It felt like a maze trying to reach the water. The other was rocky with big boulders to explore. Online it said there places that had cool wildlife like starfish in little pools of water, but we didn’t get to see any. They also have campgrounds right beside some of the beaches, if you’re looking for somewhere to camp at closer to the water.
I’m going to out myself as a die-hard Twilight fan. I’ve seen all the movies at least 10 times. I have them all on dvd, and my grandma gave me a collector’s item rose “from the wedding” that I kept. I’m proud and yet totally ashamed.
So one of the nice perks for me about visiting Olympic National Park is that I got to ride through the city of Forks. This is the town where all of the movies and books are based on. A lot of the movie was set in what would be the HOH rainforest (but I think they actually filmed more in Canada) and parts of the town. I think they used the real high school here as well. But this place is underwhelming to say the least. The main road lasts for what felt like one minute and then it’s over. But I got to take this picture and say that I’ve been here, so that’s good enough for me!