Olympic National Park is in Washington state. It is made up of diverse regions including rugged Pacific coastline, rain forests, and mountains covered with glaciers. To visit Olympic National Park properly you really need at least three days. The regions of the park are spread out a good distance and the driving time to get from one region to another is what make the park visit so time consuming. If you have a limited amount of time to visit the park, perhaps one or two days, then I recommend two highlights found in Olympic National Park. These two highlights that I will explain below with tips on exploring those areas are the Hoh Rain Forest and Ruby Beach.
For a detailed map of Olympic National Park, you can go to this NPS link: https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/upload/OLYMmap1.pdf\
The Hoh Rain Forest
Yes, there is a rain forest in Olympic National Park. I don’t think many people even know that it exists. Actually, there is more than just one rain forest in Olympic, there are multiple. Hoh is the most popular rain forest. You can see in the photos below why it is so popular. It is an enchanting forest that is so lush and green that it seems surreal.
The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the most popular destination inside Olympic National Park. It is a solid two-hour drive from the National Park’s visitor center in Port Angeles. The best tip we got at this National Park from a ranger was to arrive at the Hoh Rain Forest Parking by 7 am. He said that on weekends it is full by 8 am. I don’t know what it is like on weekdays. But I would imagine that parking could still be a problem during the midday on a summer weekday since it is so popular, and the parking lot is not large. We arrived just after 7am and were able to get parking. It was filled by 8 am. By the time we were leaving the parking lot just before noon there was a line of almost 100 cars waiting to enter the parking lot. They allowed one car to enter when one car left. Therefore, the line went back down the road quite a distance. I don’t think the people in line had a clue how long a wait they were in for. I would suggest avoiding the wait and get to the parking lot by 7 am.
Once you have arrived at the Hoh Rain Forest area, you will find a visitor center, bathrooms, and hikes starting from the parking area. There are three trails that start from the parking area: Hoh River Trail (16 miles), Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 mile loop), and Hall of Mosses (.8 mile loop). We hiked the Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Nature Trail. You can see photos from those hikes below.
The Hoh region is named after the Hoh Tribe. The region is lush and green. It will make you feel like you are stepping back in time when you enter the Hoh Rainforest. Be sure to bring along a raincoat. It rains a great deal here, which is why it is so green, lush, and categorized as a rain forest. We visited in July and were lucky to miss the rain. But if you do get rain during your hike, then consider yourself lucky to be experiencing the authentic rainforest experience.
Kalaloch and Ruby Beach
Ruby Beach is another highlight found within Olympic National Park. https://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/visiting-kalaloch-and-ruby-beach.htm
According to reviews on Trip Advisor, Ruby Beach is the #1 attraction in Olympic National Park. You will want to plan ahead, because again, parking can be problematic. It is a very small parking lot considering the number of people driving in to visit this beach every day. We saw several visitors drive into the parking lot, drive around for a bit and after not finding parking, leave the area. Plan to start one of your days at Olympic at this location to ensure that you find a parking spot.
Ruby Beach is a beautiful place and also a bit surreal. The fog rolls in and clouds over the monstrous like rocks that line the beach giving it a mystical look. You must go to this beach, so you can get goosebumps for yourself when you step onto Ruby Beach.
The rugged coastline of Ruby Beach makes for great climbing for kids and some adults too. Our kids climbed up many of the rock structures along the beach. They also spent a considerable amount of time making structures out of the ample driftwood that has drifted onto the beach. It is beautiful driftwood, and I would have loved to take a piece to make a piece of furniture, but once again, nothing can be taken out of a National Park. It is there for all to enjoy and remain. Therefore, when you come with your kids or grandkids there will be plenty of driftwood for them to enjoy and use for play building while you spend time at Ruby Beach.
We camped at the Port Angeles/ Olympic KOA in our fifth wheel camper. I highly recommend this location. It is a clean campground with very nice facilities. My kids loved renting pedal carts from the KOA office to get around the campground. It was a fun place with very nice staff. It is minutes from the Port Angeles Visitors center and is conveniently located near shopping and restaurants.
Enjoy your visit to Olympic National Park and be sure to take plenty of photos. You won’t want to ever forget your time in this magical place!