11 Best Hikes in Olympic National Park You Need to Explore

best hikes in olympic national park
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One of the most beautiful places in Washington is Olympic National Park, but up until the past few years, I had only visited it a few times. I always thought about making plans to go but would make an excuse that it was too far away. That was until I started hiking there and discovered some of the best hikes in Olympic National Park.

You can go on Olympic National Park hikes year-round, making it ideal when you’re looking for winter hikes in Washington to do. I also love that you can hike in the mountains, in a rainforest, to hot springs, and to the coast – talk about variety! When I have the time, I always gravitate toward this area to explore new hikes.

As with any hike, you’ll want to plan your trip in advance, so this article provides tips for going on the best Olympic National Park hikes and all the information you need to know about them.

This post promotes travel to a national park that is the traditional lands of the Coast Salish and S’Klallam people. I make a formal land acknowledgment showing my respect and appreciation to the people of these lands. You can learn more about this on Native Land.

Tips for Hiking in Olympic National Park

Mount Ellinor

You’ll want to plan your Olympic hikes in advance, so in addition to checking the weather, here are some tips to help with your trip.

Best Time to Visit Olympic National Park

As I said before, you can go on Olympic National Park day hikes any time during the year. However, you should consider the weather first.

  • Winter – The advantage is the park is pretty empty, but it does rain quite a bit. Some roads may be blocked or inaccessible due to the snow when trying to get to higher hikes.
  • Spring – This season is ideal for visiting, as the weather starts getting warmer, but you still won’t experience the large crowds. Make sure to bring a waterproof rain jacket, though!
  • Summer – This is the best weather, as it’s generally sunny and warm most days. However, everyone also agrees this is the best time to go, so you’ll need to get to the trails early. I recommend spending the night on the Peninsula the night before.
  • Fall – I love hiking Olympic National Park in the fall, as it’s still sunny many days, but you’ll get cooler weather.

One of the most important things you should do, no matter what season it is, is to prepare for Olympic National Forest hikes by the coast. You should always read a tide chart before going on any coastal Olympic National Park hikes so you won’t get stuck out on your trail.

There has been a surge of people not beating the tide lately and having to be rescued, so don’t be that person. Researching tips for the best hiking in Olympic National Park is always smart.

Packing List for Olympic National Park Hikes

This national park in Washington can get cold, and several of the hikes on this list are long. That means it’s essential to prepare with the right gear. Here’s a quick breakdown of my minimum recommendations (and check out my winter hiking gear list if going during that season):

  • Hiking boots are necessary to make hiking more comfortable and safer (and make sure to try these out before you go hiking).
  • A waterproof rain jacket is something I always pack regardless of the weather forecast because you never know when you’ll be caught in a rainstorm in Washington.
  • Always have a water bottle or CamelBak in your backpack to keep yourself hydrated during hikes.
  • A hiking backpack makes it easy to carry all your essentials, such as water, snacks, and a first aid kit.
  • Polarized sunglasses help protect your eyes and make it easier to see when the sun reflects off snow or you’re in a section with no shade.
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Where to Stay for Olympic National Park Hiking

You can do day hikes in Olympic National Park, and I have many times when I need to get home for the night. However, you’re looking at about a three-hour drive from Seattle, including taking a ferry, so you may want to spend at least one night in the area.

I personally love sunrise hikes and starting as early as possible, so I recommend staying at your accommodation the night before. That way, you won’t have to get up as early the next day as you explore Olympic National Park trails.

It’s also fun to take a Seattle road trip to the Peninsula and spend several days exploring various hikes.

I have a full post on where to stay in Olympic National Park if you want to research the different areas first, but here are a few recommendations:

  • Lake Crescent Lodge is one of the few places you can stay in the actual park. This lodge is in a quiet area and on a beautiful lake. (rates start at $139 per night; book your room on Hotels.com or read reviews on TripAdvisor)
  • Port Angeles Inn will give you a view of the water and Canada. This hotel is only about 30 minutes outside of the park. (rates start at $72 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
  • Hideaway Home has a beautiful water view with private beach access and sleeps up to four guests. (rates start at $200 per night)
  • Quiet Port Angeles Cottage – This cute home is right in downtown Port Angeles so you can walk to restaurants and shops. (rates start at $135 per night)

11 Best Hikes in Olympic National Park

Now, without further delay, let’s dive into my top picks for the best hikes on Olympic Peninsula.

1. Mount Ellinor

mount Ellinor best hikes in Olympic National Park

Mileage: 6.2 miles, roundtrip (lower trailhead)

Elevation Gain: 3,300 feet (lower trailhead)

Difficulty Level: Moderate to hard

Sloping upward from the shores of Lake Cushman, Mount Ellinor is a scenic peak in the Olympic Mountains, and one of the best Olympic National Park hikes and best Washington hikes in general when you want a challenge.

It’s one of the best trails in Olympic National Park, offering an upper and a lower trailhead. The upper trailhead is ideal for a shorter hike, starting around midway through the route from the lower one. You can park at either start point and follow the trail.

Both trails weave gently through a dense forest of towering conifers to start, with occasional glimpses of the distant surroundings. 

Once you climb above the treeline, the vista fully unfolds, with views of Lake Cushman, Puget Sound, and the often-snow-capped Olympics. Don’t be fooled by the short distance ahead; the trail ascends steeply from here through Alpine vegetation and rocky terrain on one of the best hikes in Olympic National Forest with a stunning view.

If you’re hiking the trail between March and August, keep your eyes out for the wildflowers that paint the slopes in lilac and magenta. The local mountain goats are also a spectacle worth capturing.

Near the summit of the hike, the trail splits into routes for winter and summer hikes, so be sure to take the path that suits the time of year.

2. Hall of Mosses

Hall of Mosses

Mileage: 0.8 miles, roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy

Hoh Rain Forest is one of our country’s largest and finest temperate rainforests and one of the top stops on my Olympic Peninsula road trip. Its crown jewel is the Hall of Mosses, a short loop trail through some of its most mystical pockets. You’ll love exploring one of the best hikes in the Hoh Rainforest and one of the best easy hikes in Washington State.

The area oozes with the essence of a Tolkein novel. Damp mosses drape the Sitka spruces and bigleaf maples flank the meandering trail. Moss also blankets the forest floor, regularly interrupted by flurries of ferns.

As one of the most scenic Olympic National Park trails, it guides you through verdant terrain and over trickling streams, with educational signs en route. It’s short and easy, making it a perfect trail for hikers of any experience level.

Kids especially will love the fairytale atmosphere and spotting forest creatures, making it one of the best hiking trails in Olympic National Park for families. Since this is at a low elevation, it’s also a perfect spring hike in Washington, as you won’t often see snow here.

I love using AllTrails to download maps and stay on the trail during all my hikes.

3. Ozette Triangle

olympic national park hikes ozette triangle

Mileage: 9.4 miles, roundtrip (with the option of cutting it to 6.2 miles)

Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Difficulty Level: Moderate

The Ozette Triangle, also known as the Cape Alava Loop, is one of the best day hikes in Olympic National Park. It pairs two of the state’s finest natural offerings – forest and coast. 

If you take a day trip around Seattle, you’ll want to leave early, as this is out on the coast. The first portion of the trail treats you to a boardwalk stroll among ferns and red cedar in a dense evergreen forest. 

Then, after around 3 miles, the air becomes thick and salty as you close in on the shore. Soon, the trees give way to an unspoiled stretch of sand and rocky beachfront, with the vast North Atlantic stretching into infinity.

When you arrive at the shore, you can turn back for a shorter roundtrip. However, the better option is to step onto the sand and tackle the coastal section to complete the loop.

You’re likely to come across a host of birdlife and some furry water-goers like otters, seals, and sea lions along the trail. When I was here, I saw a black bear and her two cubs, so be aware that they’re in the area.

It shouldn’t be a problem as long as you give them plenty of space and make noise, so they know you’re nearby. If you do camp at one of the campsites in the area, a bear can is absolutely mandatory.

This Olympic Peninsula hike is beautifully isolated, with a tangle of dramatic sea stacks just off the shore. The small stones and sand underfoot can make it a challenging trudge, so complete the loop with fair warning. 

I also recommend checking the tide charts and forecast, so you don’t set yourself up for soggy boots. There are a few things to consider for this trail, but it’s still one of the best hikes in Olympic National Park.

4. Marymere Falls

Marymere Falls

Mileage: 1.8 miles, roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 500 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy

One of the top waterfall hikes near Seattle, the trail to Marymere Falls is an easygoing out and back trail with a scenic reward at its pinnacle. It kicks off from the Storm King Ranger Station or Lake Crescent Lodge and weaves upwards through the forest.

Like Hoh Rain Forest, the trail is lined with moss and peppered with ferns. You’ll walk under elderly maples and conifers and over creeks as you make your way along the well-maintained path.

The climax of the hike is, of course, the waterfall itself. You’ll ascend to its base through a lush ravine and arrive at a swirl of cool air and mist. The falls tumble down 90 feet of a rocky cliff face, and you can access them from the bottom or the top using the looped trail. Marymere is one of the top hikes in Olympic National Park for those looking for more of a stroll.

Make sure you have your America the Beautiful Pass! For only one price, you can visit all the national parks over and over throughout the year. I renew mine every year.

5. Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc Falls

Mileage: 1.6 miles, roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy

Easily one of the best hikes in Olympic National Park, the trail to Sol Duc Falls is a straightforward stroll through the thick rainforest and worth putting on your Washington bucket list. Expect more moss-covered sights and dense greenery as the path climbs to the main attraction. Often considered the most beautiful waterfall in Olympic National Park, Sol Duc Falls is a treat for all the senses. 

You’ll hear it before you see it as it bellows up ahead. At 48 feet, it’s not the tallest waterfall in Washington, but it’s certainly a spectacle. Bright green moss clings to rocks, smoothed by the rushing waters, and the whitewater sprays mist into the air. 

The falls cascade side-on into a steep, narrow channel, over which you’ll find the perfect bridge for soaking up the sights. 

The trail begins and ends just up the road from Sol Duc Hot Springs, so consider stopping in for a refreshing soak on the way down.

6. Hurricane Hill 

Hurricane Hill

Mileage: 3.2 miles, roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 650 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy to moderate

If you’re looking for minimum effort and maximum reward, Hurricane Hill is an ideal Olympic National Park hiking spot. It’s a relaxed out and back trail that culminates with breathtaking 360-degree views that rival some of the views you’ll see on North Cascades hikes.

Following a drive up to Hurricane Ridge, you’ll hit the path, which is well-maintained and paved for part of the way. It’s lined with small pine trees, but the landscape is mainly open meadows, complete with wildflowers in the summer months.

Keep an eye out for deer and marmots, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a mountain goat or bear on a nearby ridge.

You’ll have sweeping views of the Olympic Range to the south and Canada to the north from the top. The hike is better suited to the summer months, so give it a miss if it’s been snowing.

7. Mount Storm King

Mount Storm King
Image via Flickr: Zengame

Mileage: 4.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 2,065 feet

Difficulty Level: Moderate to hard

Lace up your boots and fire up your quads for one of the best hikes in Olympic National Park when you want to feel the burn. Mount Storm King is a brief but grueling ascent and an amazing way to spend a day in Olympic National Park.

The peak towers above Lake Crescent, which is what the hike is all about. From the top, the views of the lake are out of this world, and a picture here is customary. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a Bob Ross painting, with the surrounding conifer-covered mountains sloping away from the lake’s shores.

Starting at the Storm King Ranger Station, the trail is steep all the way up, so beginner hikers may have to sit this one out. Towards the summit, it gets even steeper with some rope-assisted scrambling, which is plenty of fun if you want one of the most challenging hikes in Olympic National Park.

Everyone wants to make it to the top to get a beautiful picture of the lake, but don’t push yourself if you’re not feeling comfortable using the rope to get up there. I also wouldn’t recommend going if it’s slippery, such as snowing or raining, unless you have plenty of experience.

8. Staircase Rapids Loop

Staircase Rapids Loop

Mileage: 4.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 150 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy

This short and easy hike at Staircase Rapids follows the North Fork of the Skokomish River. The loop trail is mostly flat, winding through a lush rainforest of western hemlock, red cedars, and firs. 

You can enjoy views of the rapids and waterfalls cascading downstream along the way. Sword ferns and mosses thrive in damp conditions, adding to the area’s allure.

Starting just up the road from the Staircase Ranger station, the loop will take around an hour and a half at a steady stroll. Allow two hours if you’re hoping to snap some shots and enjoy the views – which I highly recommend.

9. Rain Shadow Loop

Rain Shadow Loop

Mileage: 0.5 miles, roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 170 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy

Looking for the best hikes in Olympic National Park with views but without the trek? At the top of Deer Park Road, Rain Shadow Loop is one of the shorter hikes in the Olympics, but it tops out at a jaw-dropping 6,007 feet. As you might expect, the views from up there are worth the walk.

The sparsely forested summit of Blue Mountain offers views of the Pacific Ocean, Puget Sound, the San Juan Island, and the icy reaches of the Olympic Range. The trail’s brevity makes it an accessible option for hikers of all ages and fitness levels.

Note that the hike is inaccessible during the winter due to the often icy roads at this altitude.

10. Hole in The Wall, Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach

Mileage: 4.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 110 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy

Rialto Beach is a place where the forest meets the sea. Conifers line up along the sandy stretch, scattered with sun-bleached driftwood logs and well-balanced rock formations. It makes for a dramatic and rugged scene, perfect for a seaside stroll.

It’s an easy walk, but the beach is your trail, so be prepared for sand underfoot. You’ll pass rock pools and hazy sea stacks as you walk before reaching the Hole in the Wall. This towering sea stack has a hole through its center, which you can pass through and snap a few pictures.

Keep in mind that checking a tide chart is essential, as some of the route is only accessible at low tide unless you feel like taking an icy dip.

11. Cape Flattery

cape flattery washington bucket list

Mileage: 1.5 miles, roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Difficulty Level: Easy

Cape Flattery is an easy hike in Olympic National Park that most skill levels can complete. Not only is this a beautiful place to visit, but it’s also the most northwestern spot in the contiguous United States.

Once on the trail, you’ll follow a gravel path down to a boardwalk. From there, you can go three different ways to see various viewpoints of the ocean. The last viewpoint is probably the most scenic but requires a climb up a steep ladder, so take your time if you choose to go up it.

However, you’ll have a beautiful view of the lighthouse on Tatoosh Island, so I recommend going to all viewpoints if you can.

You do need a permit to hike here, which you can get in advance at The Makah Museum or Washburn’s General Store.

And there you have it – the best hikes in Olympic National Park! Leave a comment and let me know which ones you plan on doing.

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