Olympic National Park is a distillation of all the glorious natural wonders that the Pacific Northwest is famous for. The park is split between a long, narrow section along the Pacific Coast and and a large area in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula. The coast section gives visitors a stunning experience of the vast Pacific Ocean, and the opportunity to view the small fish, crab, and sea anemone that colorfully carpet the regions in between the rocks. The central section gives visitors the opportunity to explore Mount Olympus, which rises from 293m to 2432m making it the tallest and most prominent mountain in the Olympic Range. The surrounding area is covered in misty, green temperate rainforest, densely filled with evergreen trees, moss, and ferns, treating visitors to more shades of green than most thought possible.Many of us here at Campika have our roots in the Pacific Northwest and we have a special love for this park.
This southwestern portion of Olympic National Park is perfectly named because it is exactly that: Enchanted! Lush old-growth forests, moss covered understory, towering snow-capped mountains, waterfalls cascading down hundreds of feet down sheer rock faces, will delight hikers of this fairytale-like landscape. You wouldn’t be surprised to meet a fairy or gnome around the emerald, moss-covered boulders. Nicknamed “The Valley of a 10,000 Waterfalls,” this magical glacial valley is best savored by exploring it on a multi-day backpacking trip, although it can be hiked in one day. Permits are required and bears are commonly seen.
Although the it’s the highest peak of the entire Olympic Mountain Range, rising to 7,990 feet and ascending over 6,900 feet in elevation in only 5.5 miles, it is often wrapped in clouds or views are blocked by other nearby peaks. Besides taking an airplane ride or ascending adjacent peaks, the best view of Olympic National Park’s crown jewel is from Hurricane Ridge.
Hurricane Ridge Viewpoint and Visitor Center
Amazing panoramic views of the Olympic Mountain Range, including Mt. Olympus, await you at Hurricane Ridge Viewpoint. Although this is the most easily accessed mountain area within Olympic National Park, drivers should expect snow even in July. The Visitor Center is worth a stop to learn about the area through exhibits, get maps, advice, and snacks. This area hosts numerous trails, from ridgetop traverses to paved Hurricane Hill Trail. As its name implies, weather is very changeable in the Olympics and this area sometimes receives gail-force winds
During the winter months, this area boasts snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and weather permitting, Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club operates two rope tows and Poma lift for skiing and snowboarding. Springtime visitors are treated to wildflowers carpeting the subalpine meadows.
Kalaloch Tide Pools and Ruby Beach
While Olympic National Park is home to the tallest peak of the Olympic Mountain Range, thousands of marine species also call this park home. Visit the tide pools at low tide to experience a deep appreciation for the abundance of life in the clean, cold waters of the Olympic National Park. Sea stars in just about all the colors of the rainbow, spiny brittle stars, rock crabs, wolf eels, pricklebacks,, barnacles, clams, sea snails, and more await your discovery in this special place. Please be sure you ask rangers about the tide pool etiquette so no harm will come to these amazing creatures and you can enjoy them to the fullest. Look for nesting colonies of common murres and tufted puffins on the offshore islands that are part of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
Mora and Rialto Beach
Sea stacks, pounding waves, giant drift logs, birds and marine life characterize Rialto Beach. Sea stars and anemones adorn rocks like jewels while birds refuge on the sea stacks off shore. This unspoiled, wild coastline delights visitors of all ages. Don’t miss Hole-In-The-Wall, a sea-cared arch about 1.5 miles north of Rialto Beach within the Olympic Wilderness. Just inland of Rialto Beach, the Mora Area will make you feel small amid towering trees, lush undergrowth, and the roar of the Pacific Ocean in your ears.
This is the quintessential laid-back coastal backpacking experience. Hike, check out the colorful critters in the tidepools, then set up your tent on the beach with an unobstructed view of the blazing sunset. This 9.2 hiking loop can be complete in one day, but is best enjoyed by camping for a couple of nights. The trail, shaped like an equilateral triangle, has two sides through woods out to the coast, and the third along the coast, where you’ll find campsites. Permits are required for this hike.
Sol Duc Valley and Hot Springs
The Sol Duc Valley, located in the northwest region of Olympic National Park, is full of special experiences. Hike through old-growth forest, enjoy subalpine lakes, and wonder at the snow covered peaks of the Olympic Mountain Range. While the Sol Duc landscape is breathtaking, even more amazing is the Sol Duc River with Coho salmon running through its waters, jumping falls to their breeding grounds. It’s wonder of nature to behold. Witnessing the Coho’s determination leaves yous similarly determined to protect them and these lands so vital to their survival. The Sol Duc Valley has a number of longer hiking tail both in the valleys and in the mountains. The High Divide Loop passes through Seven Lakes Basin is a popular 2-3 day hike with outstanding views of Mount Olympus. Soak away muscle fatigue in outdoor mineral pools fed by the area’s natural hot springs at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. The resort also offers a variety of activities, massages, and dining.
Hoh Rainforest and Visitor Center
Mosses and ferns blanket the understory while a lush,green canopy of both deciduous and coniferous trees rises skyward. There are more shades of green here than there are words for. A walk through this temperate rainforest and you will understand why Washington is called the Evergreen State. Annual precipitation for the Hoh rainforest is an astounding 12-14 feet! The Hoh Rain forest is part of a stretch of Pacific Northwest rainforest that once stretched from the central coast of California to southeastern Alaska. It is one of the last and finest examples of temperate rainforest on the planet. Start exploring this extraordinary area at the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center. Two amazing loop trails begin here: the Hall of Mosses Trail, 0.8 miles, and the Spruce Nature Trail, 1.2 miles. The Hoh River Trail, the major hiking route, leads 17.3 miles to Glacier Meadows on the shoulder of Mount Olympus.
Staircase Old Growth Forest
Located in the southeast corner of the park, the Staircase area will tranport you back to a time when humans did not rule the Earth. Magnificent old-growth Douglas Firs stretch hundreds of feet skyward. The sparking North Fork Skokomish river murmurs as it threads its way among the ancient trees and lush, green valley. Among these giants, hundreds of years old, hikers are inspired to soak in the quiet dignity of the ancient trees and to reflect on things greater than ourselves. There are precious few places left on the planet whose sheer grandeur and natural silence beckon reflection and offer a new perspective as this place does.
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