Tucked away in the far northwestern corner of the United States is a place where the vast Pacific Ocean and dense old-growth forests collide known as Olympic National Park in the state of Washington. At nearly a million acres, this vast swath of land has been drawing visitors for over a century and its misted mystique will draw visitors for years to come.
Let’s take a good in-depth look at Olympic National Park including a brief history, where to go, what to do, where to stay, and the best time to go.
A Brief History
By National Park standards, Olympic National Park is fairly new. The area was originally known as Mount Olympus National Monument and was created by the Theodore Roosevelt administration in 1909. It would be almost three decades before another Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, signed into law the act that officially created Olympic National Park on June 29, 1938, but the evolution of the area doesn’t stop there. In 1976, Olympic was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve and was designated a world heritage site in 1981.
What to Do and Where to Go Once You Arrive
Those used to concrete jungles and urban landscapes will feel like they are in an alien world at Olympic National Park.
Like any National Park, the number one way to see the wilderness is on foot. Olympic offers several trails and hikes varying not only in length and difficulty but also in the landscape. You can try out a coastal hike, a forest hike or a mountainous hike. Vary your choice of landscape and length to feel like you’re in a new National Park every day.
For those taking their views and exploration in by road have a great option in the Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive. The full loop clocks in at 329 miles and it goes around the entirety of the area plunging you into valleys, hauling you up mountainous terrain, and even giving you a great view of Puget Sound. At an even pace, the trip takes eight hours but we recommend splitting it into at least two days to get the most out of your drive.
The unique and varied landscape of Olympic means that there are a variety of other activities such as swimming, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, geocaching, ranger-guided tours, and you can even go tide pooling, which is observing marine life in their natural tide pool setting. Olympic is also great for star gazing due to its distance from metropolitan areas. If you like the cold try Olympic in the winter for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and other winter oriented activities.
Where to Stay in Olympic National Park
If you want to stay at a park operated campground with full amenities, you are out of luck as there are currently no park run grounds with utility hookups. However, there are some RV appropriate campsites within Olympic such as the Sol Duc Hot Spring Resort as well as Lake Quinault. If you prefer to be a little outside of the action we recommend parking your ride at Elwha Dam RV Park in Port Angeles, Washington. Elwha Dam is not only a great park for visiting Olympic but made our top five list for all RV parks in Washington.
When to Go
Being located on a peninsula in the far Pacific Northwest means the weather can shift and change dramatically and rain is always a possibility. The best way to avoid the worst of these shifts is to visit Olympic National Park in the summer. The park sees over three million annual visitors but considering the park covers nearly one million acres, you shouldn’t be too crowded, even in the middle of peak season.
If you’re ready to be surrounded by massive old-growth forests, wild coastlines, craggy peaks, and more biodiversity than you can shake a stick at then it may be time for you to visit Olympic National Park, a world in itself.