Seattle gets all the glory when people are planning their vacation, but one of the most stunning places in Washington is Olympic National Park. You’ll find hikes, hot springs, and even a rainforest. When you want to take a long Seattle day trip, spending one day in Olympic National Park is a perfect choice.
I’ve traveled all over the state, but I keep visiting Olympic National Park over and over. This is by far one of my favorite parks in the country due to how beautiful and peaceful it is, and it’s a park you’ll want to put on your Washington bucket list. I last visited in October 2020 and have plans to explore more of the park this summer.
If you only have 1 day in Olympic National Park, you’ll want to make the most of it. This guide will give you tips for planning your trip as well as a list of the best things to do in Olympic National Park.
The facts in this article have been checked and updated as of March 2021.
Tips for Visiting Olympic National Park in One Day
Here are a few tips to help you plan your Olympic National Park one day trip. I always recommend checking the official website before you go so you’re aware of any potential closures and know how to see Olympic National Park in one day. For example, as of early 2021, Shi Shi Beach and Second Beach are currently closed to the public.
How to Get to Olympic National Park
Many people may wonder can you see Olympic National Park in one day, and the answer is yes! The trip takes about three hours to get from Seattle to Olympic National Park depending on which route you take. There are various ways to get there, whether you’re on a Vancouver weekend getaway or on a Pacific Northwest road trip. Here are the most common routes.
- Route 1 – take the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island (most common route if you live in Seattle)
- Route 2 – take the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston (fastest route if you live north of Seattle)
- Route 3 – drive up the peninsula without taking a ferry (easiest if you’re headed to the west part of the park or coming from the south)
The park takes up a large portion of the northern part of the peninsula, and there are multiple entrances. You’ll want to check out an Olympic National Park map first to see where you want to visit during your Olympic National Park day trip.
A common mistake first-time visitors make is thinking they can drive through the park. There aren’t any roads that go through the park. That means you’ll need to plan in advance where you’ll be stopping. This is especially important to know if you only have one day in Olympic National Park.
An easy way to take a day trip to Olympic National Park is to book a tour from Seattle. They’ll do all the driving and take you to all the top spots on your Olympic National Park day trip from Seattle.
The Best Time to Visit Olympic National Park
You can visit the park anytime during the year, but you should note that it gets snow during the winter. This means some hikes won’t be accessible, and you’ll need to bring the right gear if you do any winter hiking. Most of the animals will also be hibernating, so keep that in mind.
The best time to visit Olympic National Park is during the spring and fall. There will be fewer crowds than summer and you’ll be able to see wildflowers in the spring and foliage in the fall.
That said, if crowds don’t bother you, then by all means visit during the summer, when you’ll get the driest weather. You’ll get to enjoy plenty of beautiful summer hikes during this time. You just should just plan on arriving at the park early to get a parking spot.
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Olympic National Park Entrance Fees
You can visit parts of this US national park for free, but to get to the heart of the park you’ll have to pay. Here are your different options.
- Private vehicle – $30 per vehicle (good for 7 days)
- Hiking/biking in – $15 per person
- America the Beautiful pass – $80 (good for a year, so if you plan on going to at least 3 parks anywhere in the United States in the next year, this pays for itself)
Lodging Near Olympic National Park
You can easily do a day trip to Olympic National Park. However, you may decide you want to stay late and spend the night instead of making the drive back. Here are a few recommendations.
- Lake Crescent Lodge – This is one of the few places you can stay that’s actually in the park. There’s no better place to rest your head during your Olympic National Park vacation than this lodge on a beautiful lake. (rates start at $139 per night; book your room on Booking.com or read reviews on TripAdvisor)
- Port Angeles Inn – You’ll have a view of the water and Canada while being only about 30 minutes outside of the park. (rates start at $72 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Quality Inn Uptown – Another great choice that’s close to the water and the park so you won’t have to drive too far after your day of exploring. (rates start at $86 per night; book your room on Hotels.com or Booking.com)
Prefer a vacation rental? Here are a few options.
- Spectacular Waterfront House – The perfect cozy waterfront home on Hood Canal awaits your visit and sleeps up to six people. (rates start at $230 per night; book your house here)
- Hideaway Home – This hideaway hut has an unobstructed water view looking toward the northwest and sleeps up to four guests. (rates start at $200 per night; book your house here)
- Quiet Retreat Cabin – This peaceful cabin is secluded for a tranquil escape, located a few miles west of Port Angeles, and sleeps six people comfortably. (rates start at $135 per night; book your cabin here)
Top Things to Do With One Day in Olympic National Park
Only have 1 day in Olympic National Park? You’ll find plenty of activities for what to do with one day in Olympic National Park. You can also choose to go on an Olympic Peninsula loop drive.
Stop at the Visitor’s Center to Learn About the Park
Every time I visit a national park, I make sure to stop at the visitor’s center first. This is a great way to get a feel of the park and look at the map of where you want to go.
I also highly recommend speaking with one of the rangers first to be informed of any closures. For example, I’ve often found out from the helpful ranger that several trails weren’t currently accessible. If you’re spending only one day at Olympic National Park, stopping here to plan your trip will help you make the most of your time.
If you collect national park stamps, this is also the place to collect them. They’re often in the back of the center, but just ask a staff member if you don’t see them.
Note – as of March 2021, all visitor’s centers are currently closed. However, some do have a staff member outside who can help answer basic questions.
Admire the Spring Wildflowers
During the spring, the wildflowers in Olympic National Park are some of the best in the state. I love the contrast of the purple and yellow flowers with the green forests in the background. You’ll see thousands of these as you drive on the roads leading into the mountains and recommending adding this to your list of what to see in Olympic National Park in one day.
The wildflowers are one of the main reasons why I highly recommend visiting Olympic National Park in spring, particularly if you’re into photography. If not, this is a great time to get out for an easier hike as the snow starts to melt.
Animals also tend to come out of hibernation around this time of year, so you may see some furry faces in the park. Just use caution and keep your distance from them, especially black bears.
Visit a Lush Rainforest
The Hoh Rain Forest is where you’ll want to head to experience this unique climate in the Pacific Northwest. It rains up to 170 inches per year here, and you’ll feel like you’re in a movie (Ferngully, anyone?) as you walk through all the moss-covered trees and ferns.
This is on the west side of the park, so allow some time to get here if you’re coming from Seattle to Olympic National Park. I highly recommend putting this on your one day Olympic National Park itinerary though, as it’s unlike anything else in the state.
You should note that it may rain here even if it’s dry and sunny in other places of the park, so you might want to throw a light rain jacket in your car just in case.
Relax at Lake Crescent
You can easily do an Olympic National Park day trip, but I recommend spending several days here to see the entire area. Book a stay at Lake Crescent Lodge, which may have one of the best views on the Olympic Peninsula. Can you imagine waking up to this view and having coffee in that chair?
There are plenty of hikes to do here, and water activities like canoeing are also popular. You can even go sailing on this lake on the days where there’s enough wind. Lake Crescent is also a great area to have a picnic at during the warmer months.
One of my top recommendations for when people want to know how to spend one day in Olympic National Park is to go on a hike. While summer is the most popular time to visit, there are many great Washington winter hikes you can do here as well (just make sure to pack your winter hiking clothes!).
There are many Olympic National Park hikes to choose from depending on the length you want. You can do everything from short, flat hikes to long, steep hikes. A full list of where to go hiking in Olympic National Park is on the park’s website. Here are a few I recommend.
- Hurricane Hill – This is one of the best hikes in Olympic National Park, it provides incredible views of the mountains and valleys below. (3 miles roundtrip)
- Sol Duc Falls – This short hike leads to a stunning waterfall, so most skill levels will be able to access it. (1.6 miles roundtrip)
- Ozette Triangle Loop – If you’re mainly visiting Olympic National Park to go hiking, you’ll love the challenge of this long hike. (9.5 miles roundtrip)
Spot Wildlife Throughout the Park
There are many animals in Olympic National Park that you can spot depending on what time of year you’re there. Deer are everywhere, and black bears may also be spotted.
However, those who go deeper into the park during the summer will want to be aware of this. This is another reason to stop at the visitor’s center first, as they’ll let you know where bears were recently spotted.
You can also see giant elk and mountain goats in the forests. When you get closer to the water, you might see seals, otters, and even whales if you’re lucky.
Take a Swim
On the same day that you hike to the top of a mountain that may still have snow, you can also swim in Olympic National Park. Lake Crescent has dedicated swimming areas so people of all ages can enjoy taking a dip.
One of the best places to go swimming is at Fairholm Beach. You’ll have access to bathrooms, a cafe, and a general store for any small needs you may have.
I like stopping here after a morning of hiking to relax for a little bit before exploring the rest of the park. Having lunch here is a great option if you want to eat somewhere scenic during your one day in Olympic National Park.
Visit a Waterfall at Marymere Falls
If you’re looking for an easy hike in Olympic National Park with a beautiful reward at the end, head out to Marymere Falls. This trail is 1.8 miles roundtrip and greets you with a giant waterfall at the end. Marymere Falls is also one of the best waterfall hikes in Washington, as it’s easily accessible by most people.
Due to the ease of this trail, it often gets crowded during the summer. If your goal is to take pictures of it or get pictures of your family in front of it, I recommend going early in the day. The last time I went midday, I had trouble not having other people in my photo.
Visit the Coast
One of my favorite reasons for coming to Olympic National Park is that you can go hiking on top of a mountain and then head down to the beach on the same day. Rialto Beach is a popular place on people’s Olympic National Park itineraries. This area is a beautiful place to catch the sunrise or sunset.
Hole-in-the-Wall is a unique sea arch structure about 1.5 miles north of Rialto Beach that’s fun to visit. You can also walk in the sand at Mora Beach to visit a slightly less crowded beach.
This part of the Pacific Ocean is a popular place to go surfing in Washington, so you may see some surfers putting on a show while you’re there.
Enjoy Views of Canada
You’ll be so high up when hiking at places like Hurricane Ridge that you’ll be able to see Canada! It’s close enough that my cell phone provider actually switched to ROGERS (a Canadian company) and I had to turn my data roaming off while I was hiking.
Many people don’t realize just how close the southern part of Vancouver Island and the north part of the Olympic Peninsula are (only about 25 miles). It’s fun to look over at Canada and take a few pictures before heading back down the hill.
If you do decide to extend your 1 day in Olympic National Park, you can take the Black Ball ferry from nearby Port Angeles to visit Canada (just make sure to have your passport on you!). The ride only takes about an hour and then you’ll be in the heart of Victoria, British Columbia.
Stop at All the Viewpoints
I dare you to drive all the way to Olympic National Park without stopping at least half a dozen viewpoints. I loved seeing the fog over the valley in the early morning. Every time you think you’ve seen something amazing, you’ll turn a corner and see another view you have to stop to take pictures.
One Day Olympic National Park Itinerary
Spending one day at Olympic National Park is a must when you’re in the area. If you leave early for your one day trip to Olympic National Park from Seattle, you can fit in most of these activities to be able to experience a good variety of what the park has to offer.
- Morning – Start your trip to Olympic National Park in a day as early as possible so you can get to the park by 8 or 9 am. I recommend swinging by the visitor center first to confirm your plans with a ranger, particularly if you plan on hiking.
- Mid-morning – Hit the trails or drive out to the coast to visit the beach.
- Noon – If your main goal during the day is to explore as much as possible, pack your own lunch to save time. Otherwise, Port Angeles is the largest city around with the most options for food.
- Afternoon – Enjoy a relaxing afternoon visiting Marymere Falls or walking around Lake Crescent.
- Evening – Depending on how far you need to drive, you may need to head home to catch the ferry. If you have time, stay in the park to watch the sun go down over the Olympic Mountains (and have your camera ready!).
No matter how you spend your one day in Olympic National Park, you’re sure to enjoy it. While it’s a park that deserves to be explored in full, have fun with what you do see on your Olympic National Park one day trip and start a list of what you want to see next time!