How to Plan the Perfect Olympic Peninsula Road Trip

olympic peninsula road trip
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With gorgeous rainforests, alpine highlands, and beautiful lakeshores, the Olympic Peninsula provides the perfect opportunity for a spectacular weekend vacation from Seattle. It’s famous for hiking, camping, and of course, for a legendary Olympic Peninsula road trip.

I’ve visited the Olympic Peninsula about a dozen times over the years, and I always find myself craving more after each trip. That’s why I recommend having a multi-day Olympic Peninsula itinerary so you can see the different parts of it, as a trip is here one of the best things to do in the Pacific Northwest.

This guide gives you tips on how to prepare for your Olympic Peninsula loop drive, where to stop, and where to stay. Many people decide to stay here for a few days on their Pacific Northwest road trip. Feel free to adjust it as you need or pick and choose activities to accommodate your time frame.

This article has been updated and the facts in it are current as of May 2021.

Tips for Planning an Olympic Peninsula Road Trip

Here are a few tips to help you plan your Olympic Peninsula road trip itinerary so you can make the most of your trip!

How to Get to the Olympic Peninsula

Olympic Peninsula loop drive map

As you can see from this Olympic Peninsula road map, this area is on the west side of the state. That means you need to either drive from the south or take a ferry to get there. Many people choose to go from Seattle to Port Angeles and take the trip counterclockwise. You’ll need a car for this trip, and you can rent from companies like Alamo or Hertz if you’re visiting.

If you do that, the best option is to take the Edmonds ferry to Kingston and drive up through there. That is also the order that this Olympic Peninsula itinerary is in, but you can reverse it to adjust to your schedule.

A note about the ferry – it’s first come first serve, and it gets very crowded during the summer months in Seattle. This means you’ll need to plan your trip accordingly and either leave early or leave late. You could also try going during the weekday when there is less traffic than the weekend. You can find the ferry schedule online.

There are multiple options to drive from Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula. Another route is to take the Seattle ferry to Bainbridge Island and drive through the island to reach the Olympic Peninsula. This will take a little longer since you’ll be going on roads with slower speed limits.

If you want to start on the south side of the Olympic Peninsula, you’ll get off at I-5 in Olympic and take US-101 N from there.

If you’re wondering how long does it take to drive around the Olympic Peninsula, the answer is about 12 hours. However, this will vary depending on where you stop and how long you stop there for. You can customize your road trip from Seattle as much as you want.

The Best Time to Go on an Olympic Peninsula Road Trip

You can go on this trip anytime during the year, but you should note that the area does get snow during the winter. That means it’ll be trickier to drive around the Olympic Peninsula, and many of the top hikes in Olympic National Park won’t be accessible. However, the areas by the coast rarely get snow, so you could still visit those attractions if you don’t mind the weather.

My favorite time to visit the Olympic Peninsula is May through September. This is the time you’ll have the driest weather and will enjoy hot weather in July and August if you want to go swimming. I also find it the most pleasant time to visit the Pacific Ocean, as the water here is quite cold year-round.

Need help planning out your road trip? I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to see exactly how long it’ll take from one point to the next and also to find new places to add to my itinerary!

What to Pack for an Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive

For every road trip I go on, I refer to my road trip packing list that I’ve used time and time again to make sure I bring all the essentials.

I recommend wearing loose, comfortable clothing during your Olympic Peninsula road trip. In addition, here are a few other items that will make your trip easier.

  • America the Beautiful pass – Entrance to Olympic National Park costs $25 for 7 days, which you can purchase at the park. However, for only $79 you have access to all the national parks in America for a year, so I recommend purchasing an America the Beautiful pass in advance.
  • Hiking shoes – Even if you’re not a “hiker,” you’ll be on various terrain that you’ll want stable shoes for. I personally love KEEN’s waterproof hiking shoes.
  • Raincoat – You’ll be exploring a rainforest and the coast, both of which can bring unexpected rain. Having a lightweight raincoat is necessary to keep you dry.
  • Sunglasses – If you get a sunny day at the beach, you’ll want to make sure your eyes are protected with these sunglasses.
  • Water bottle – You’ll be doing a ton of activity during this trip, so stay hydrated with a refillable water bottle.

Where to Stay on an Olympic Peninsula Road Trip

On the Olympic Peninsula road trip itinerary at the end of this article, I suggest close places to stay each night. However, you could also choose to stay in one place during the whole trip and just drive back to it each night. I have a full post on the best places to stay in Olympic National Park if you want to research the different areas more in-depth.

Here are some vacation rentals I recommend if you want to rent them out for the weekend:

  • Sunny Sequim retreat – Relax with panoramic ocean views at this lovely home which sleeps up to six guests. (rates start at $145 per night)
  • Loft with hot tub – This romantic loft is ideal for two with breathtaking mountain & water views. (rates start at $165 per night)
  • Lakefront Cottage with hot tub –This cottage sleeps up to four guests, perfect retreat for a few days of fishing, hiking, swimming, exploring, or just pure relaxation. (rates start at $193 per night)

14 Must-See Stops on an Olympic Peninsula Road Trip

Olympic Peninsula loop map

As you can see from the Olympic Peninsula loop drive map above, this itinerary covers quite a bit of the region. If you’re wondering why this is a circular drive without any stops in the middle of the map, it’s because you cannot drive through Olympic National Park. This means your trip will take longer since you have to go around the park, but it’s worth it since this is one of the best scenic drives in Washington State.

Are you psyched to explore the Olympic Peninsula yet? Let’s take a look at the best stops and must-see places before you head out on your Olympic Peninsula road trip. 

1. Port Gamble

You’ll pass the town of Port Gamble shortly after getting off the Kingston ferry as you begin the Olympic Peninsula loop. This cute town is a popular Seattle day trip when people feel like getting out of the city.

You can stop at Port Gamble Museum to learn about the history of the town and how settlers adjusted to life here. Olympic Outdoor Center is another great place to stop if you want to rent a kayak and get out on the water. Alternatively, you could also grab a coffee and take a stroll through the town for a quiet start to the morning.

2. Port Townsend

port townsend olympic peninsula drive

Port Townsend is a quaint Washington town located in the northeast corner of the Peninsula. It’s a significant seafood and timber provider and supplies a range of boutique shops and art galleries. I always love stopping here during the morning on an Olympic National Park loop drive, as the town is still fairly quiet.

There are some stunning historic buildings downtown to check out if you like architecture. These include Carnegie Library and the Jefferson County courthouse. There is plenty to do in and around this historical landmark town, including diving, sailing, kayaking, and biking. You’ll also find several hikes and breweries to visit on your Olympic Peninsula road trip if you feel like extending your day here.

3. Sequim

lavender sequim

Sequim is best known as the “Lavender Capital of North America.” It’s a 25-mile drive from Port Angeles and is a must-see for any visitor. In fact, people come from all over the state to see the lavender when it’s in bloom.

If you’re visiting the Olympic National Park during June and July, take some time to explore the famous lavender farms. Sequim hosts the annual Lavender Festival during July, and many people come from Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula just for this. At this time, you can purchase remarkable things made from the local lavender farms. 

You can also stop year-round at stores such as Purple Haze Organic Lavender Farm and Olympic Lavender Company. Your car will smell amazing if you buy this at the start of your trip and leave it in there all weekend! Your kids will also love this part of a family-friendly vacation in Washington.

4. Dungeness Spit

dungeness spit Olympic Peninsula road trip

Nestled right outside Sequim on the coast sits a natural sand spit. It’s a fascinating 5.5-mile sand spit reaching out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the northern shores of the Peninsula. (note that an entrance fee of $3 per family/group is required)

The body of water surrounding the sand spit is Dungeness Bay, which is a remarkable yet fascinating geologic formation. The spit is home to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and a plethora of wildlife and bird species. Stopping here is a great way to take a break from driving and stretch your legs.

5. Port Angeles

Port Angeles waterfront

Port Angeles is a darling historic coastal town that’s home to almost 20,000 people. The city has a fascinating Marine Life Center found along the waterfront. Here, you can learn about the various species that call this area home. 

There are plenty of things to do in Port Angeles, including stopping in local shops. Because it’s a seaside town, there is an abundance of water sports and fun activities. These include scuba diving, stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, kayaking, and much more. 

There are some amazing restaurants here as well, as kid-friendly breweries such as Barhop Brewing and Artisan Pizza. This makes it a great stop for lunch on your Olympic Peninsula road trip.

If you’re here on a Saturday, make sure to check out the farmer’s market. You can find everything from homemade lip balm to produce to fresh-baked bread to take home with you.

6. Hurricane Ridge

hurricane ridge Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge is one of the best hikes on the Olympic Peninsula, so you’ll want to put this on your drive around the Olympic Peninsula. I recommend stopping here whether you’re visiting for the weekend or just on an Olympic National Park one day trip.

The area provides beautiful views of the Olympic Mountain Range and the majestic Olympic Peninsula coastline. The mountains are ideal for anyone who loves the outdoors and want to get some exercise.

To get to the visitor center from Port Angeles, drive south for about 17-miles along Hurricane Ridge Road. I recommend stopping here to confirm what trails are open and find out any important information before you get out there.

You can also take a look at the National Park Service website and check the road conditions in the morning. As of May 2021, the visitor’s center is currently closed, but there may be a ranger outside to help answer questions.

7. Elwha River Valley

The Elwha River Valley dam was removed and restored back to the natural Elwha River as part of the rehabilitation process. It’s located in the southwest of Port Angeles and is the perfect place for any nature lover who’s looking for a quick stop.

Visitors can now enjoy the stunning scenery at the Elwha River Valley and see how the ecosystem has flourished. Many trails take you to waterfall hikes, old homestead sites, and the Olympic Mountain range views

8. Lake Crescent

lake crescent

The iconic Lake Crescent area is one of the most rewarding stops on your Olympic National Park road trip and one you’ll want to put on your Washington State bucket list. It’s nestled north in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains and is always a peaceful place to stop. If you’re lucky and the water is still, you’ll get the most stunning reflection of the mountain’s skyline. 

You should try to visit Lake Crescent in the morning when the lake is at its calmest. Some must-see things to do in the area include hiking, fishing, sailing, or sitting on the shore and admiring the beautiful surroundings. You could also rent a kayak from Lake Crescent Lodge to adventure out onto the waters during your Olympic Peninsula road trip.

9. Sol Duc Hot Springs

sol duc falls

One of the most relaxing things to do on the Olympic Peninsula is to stop at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. You can choose to spend the night here or just visit for the day. Day passes are available to guests if there’s enough availability, and there’s dining on-site for when you get hungry.

If you’re looking for a short but scenic Olympic Peninsula hike, check out Sol Duc Falls. This trail is 1.6-miles roundtrip and leads to a beautiful waterfall. You could do this hike first and then come back to the hot springs to relax for the afternoon.

10. Hoh Rainforest

rain forest things to do in olympic national park

Hoh Rainforest is one of the natural wonders of Olympic National Park, and a must-see during your Olympic Peninsula road trip. The old-growth temperate rainforest is eerie and full of green mosses, trees, and ferns. This is one of the most popular parts of this beautiful national park.

It’s formed from the damp moisture in the air and the high rainfall it receives. The forest experiences an average of 140 inches of rain per year. Visitors enjoy the majestic walks and hiking trails in the Hoh Rainforest. 

I recommend stopping at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center first to get a map of the area while driving the Olympic Peninsula loop. You can tell the ranger how much time you have and what type of activities you’re looking for so they can make the appropriate suggestions of what to do.

11. Forks

If you’re a huge Twilight fan, Forks is a must-visit. There are a variety of businesses still capitalizing on the famous books and movies. Spoiler alert – don’t be surprised that Forks looks nothing like it does in the film. It’s still fun to see the random signs and memorabilia around the city.

Forks has some unique things to do on the Olympic Peninsula, such as the Hall of Mosses, an area of moss-covered trees. You can also visit One Square Inch of Silence, which claims to be the quietest outdoor spot in America.

12. Ruby Beach

ruby beach olympic peninsula drive

The Olympic Peninsula provides an abundance of stunning coastline and beaches. Ruby Beach is one of the best Olympic Peninsula beaches. The area has stunning sea stacks standing out against the turmoiled waters. This beautiful rugged beach is like no beach you’ve seen before. 

You can enjoy a stunning walk along the coast, with a plethora of marine life that is easy to spot from the rocks. It offers a 0.25-mile easy trail and is a perfect place for spending the afternoon exploring or going on a short hike.

If you’re a bird-lover, you’ll absolutely love the variety of birds you can spot in the area. You may also see a plethora of sea life when the tide goes out, such as crabs, geoducks, and starfish.

13. Lake Quinault

lake quinault Olympic Peninsula itinerary

Lake Quinault is another beautiful lake to stop at when you get to the end of your Olympic Peninsula road trip. There are some huge trees to check out here, so make sure to leave enough time to walk through the forest. In fact, the world’s largest Sitka Spruce is here, so you’ll want to get a picture of the massive tree.

The Quinault Rain Forest Trailhead is an easy place to take a hike and observe the trees. If you need a light snack, coffee, or the internet to check-in, you can stop at the Quinault Internet Cafe for a bit.

14. Vance Creek Bridge

vance creek bridge

For the last stop on your 3 days in Olympic National Park, make a stop at Vance Creek Bridge. This bridge was originally built in the 1920s for a logging railroad and was the second-highest railroad bridge in the country for years. While it’s now decommissioned, it provides for some beautiful photography shots to end your Olympic National Park loop drive.

While you can no longer walk on the bridge due to safety concerns, it’s fun to visit and imagine how life was when it was in use. The rumor is a local company has been in talks to stabilize the bridge and make it become a spot to bungee jump from, so stay tuned if you love adventure.

The Ultimate Olympic Peninsula Road Trip Itinerary

This guide will help you plan a spectacular Olympic Peninsula trip if you’re looking to explore the Peninsula. If you’re coming from out of state, you could spend one day in Seattle first and then head up to Port Angles to begin your vacation. Let’s explore the ultimate three-day itinerary with plenty of things to do in the area. 

Day 1: Spend the Day in Port Angeles and Olympic National Park

port angeles sign

Where to Stay:

  • Port Angeles Inn is near the waterfront and close to different shops and restaurants in Port Angeles. (rates start at $75 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
  • Olympic Lodge is a cozy place to stay close to Olympic National Park with an outdoor pool and bistro. (rates start at $125 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)

Start your trip to the Olympic National Park and then head to the gateway city of Port Angeles. 

You can take a full-day excursion from Port Angeles to explore Hurricane Ridge and Marymere Falls during your Olympic Peninsula loop road trip. Or head off early in the morning, on your own, on the Hurricane Ridge Road. You will make your way along the winding 19-mile road to the alpine meadows of Hurricane Ridge

Stopover at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center for breakfast before you start your expedition. To fully appreciate this spectacular area, you will undoubtedly want to do some hiking. Hurricane Ridge is the créme de la créme when it comes to day hikes on the Olympic Peninsula. 

If you want to have an amazing outdoor experience, drive a little further to Hurricane Hill Trail. There, the Olympic National Park rangers conduct interpretive programs and hikes, and they have some amazing summer hikes to go on during your drive around the Olympic Peninsula.

For experienced hikers, set out at the Obstruction Point a little further. The Obstruction Point sits at 6,105 feet and offers some of the park’s most panoramic vistas and wildlife-rich trails. 

After a great day of exploring, head back to Port Angeles to relax and enjoy a meal in town.

Day 2: Explore Elwha Valley and Lake Crescent

lake crescent

Where to Stay:

In the morning on your Olympic Peninsula drive, leave from Port Angeles and head west on the Highway towards the Elwha River Valley. Here you will adventure to an old ice glacier-carved valley. 

You will have the option of plenty of things to do here. From beautiful hot springs to a river that was once a dam to the abundance of elk population, there is plenty to explore during your Olympic Peninsula road trip.

When you arrive, find the Whiskey Bend Trailhead Hike. It’s a seven-mile hike up and along the Elwha River Valley. You should also check out the Geyser Valley, Grand Canyon of the Elwha, and Goblins Gate

If you’re looking for some more accessible hikes, make your way to Glines Canyon Overlook. This is where the restoration project underwent removing the dam and adding it back to the longest river course in the Olympic Peninsula.

You can hike to a series of hot springs and alpine lakes found along the Hot Springs Road. This is a great place to relax during the mid-point of your Olympic National park road trip.

Once you’re finished with your hike, drive west to Lake Crescent. This majestic body of water reflects the surrounding greenery and mirrors magnificent mountains. This is also the perfect place to have lunch or a picnic. 

You can also take nature walks along the Olympic Discovery Trail and then spend the night in the area. Alternatively, you can decide to head west to Forks for the night so you’ll be further west at the start of the next morning.

Day 3: Visit Forks, Hoh Rainforest, and the Olympic Coast

wild flowers olympic national park

Where to Stay:

While you may decide to head home at this point, you can also extend your trip by one more night if you want to be rested first. Here are a few nearby recommendations.

Forks is a great place to explore the Olympic Coast and the Hoh River Rainforest. Make sure to visit all the Twilight memorabilia around town if you’re a fan of the series.

Start your day by exploring the enchanting and whimsical temperate Hoh Rainforest. There are stunning nature trails, walking you through moss-covered floor paths. 

There are two short loop trails through the lush rainforest that start near the Visitor Center. These include the Hall of Mosses Trail (0.8 miles) and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles). For the more advanced hikers, there are challenging multi-day hikes to the Mount Olympus summit. 

Once you’re done exploring this magical rainforest, you can head out to one of the access points on the wild Olympic Coast. Explore the vast coastlines at Rialto Beach. From Rialto Beach, it’s an easy hike to Hole-in-the-Wall. You can also take a guided tour of the Hoh Rainforest and Rialto Beach. Also, Ruby Beach is a worthwhile stop. 

Alternatively, go in the opposite direction and stop at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. Instead of exploring the coastline, you can explore mineral hot springs and waterfalls. If you’re interested in more hikes, Sol Duc Falls, Mink Lake trails, and Lovers Lane are some popular ones. 

On the way back, make sure to put Lake Quinault on your Olympic Peninsula road trip itinerary. This beautiful lake is a great place to go on some easy hikes on the Olympic Peninsula and relax before you end your trip.

You’ll also want to stop at Vance Creek Bridge to take some pictures of this unique bridge. Finally, make your way back home with your camera filled with memorable images and a happy heart.

There you have it – some of the best places to stop during an Olympic Peninsula road trip! Take your time exploring this region, as it’s certainly one of a kind.

2 thoughts on “How to Plan the Perfect Olympic Peninsula Road Trip

  1. Shruti Mehta says:

    Thank you so much for this detailed article! We planned our trip using this and we had a perfect scenic weekend!

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