Olympic National Park is one of the nation’s most versatile national parks. Whether you’re looking to scale mountains, walk among the tide pools, or explore the forests, Olympic offers something for every taste.
Visitors flock to the park to experience some of the clearest night skies with great views of the stars. Olympic is also an excellent spot for wildlife viewing, especially migrating whales off the coast at specific parts of the year.
There are even more reasons to visit this spectacular park. Keep reading to learn the best time to visit Olympic and some helpful travel tips to plan your perfect national park vacation.
Why You Should Visit Olympic National Park
If the draw of Olympic’s diverse landscape isn’t enough to get you excited about visiting the park, there are some practical reasons this park should be on your itinerary.
Olympic is one of the closest parks to a major city. The park is less than three hours away from Seattle! As a bonus, if you choose Seattle as your gateway to national parks, Mount Rainer is less than two hours away.
There are plenty of activities and places to stay at this 922,651-acre park. Boating is one of the most popular choices for recreation in the park, especially kayaking and canoeing. Fishing is also available at some of this park’s lakes and rivers.
Overall Best Time to Visit Olympic National Park
The overall best time to visit Olympic Nation Park is the summer. Warmer weather allows more accessibility throughout the park, where inclement weather may cause closures later in the year. Many visitors take this time to visit the higher elevation of the park.
Certain parts of Olympic, like the Hoh Rain Forest, receive rainfall at all times of the year. Thunderstorms come along with the warmer weather in summer.
However, the weather during this time is the most stable compared to other months. Even though spring is one of the most unpredictable seasons in the park, it’s the second most popular time to visit Olympic.
If you’re interested in whale watching, consider planning a trip in April or May. No matter what time of year you head to Olympic, check the conditions of traveling to the park.
Cheapest Time to Visit Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park has the same low fee whenever you go to the park. The cheapest time to travel to the park is the off-season: fall and winter. During this time, travel costs decline, with holidays being the exception.
There are other ways to stay within budget while staying at the park. If you already have the equipment, camping is usually cheaper than staying in a lodge.
Even if you stay in some of the park’s accommodations, it’s possible to save money by packing food rather than purchasing it at the park. Another thing to consider when planning a cheap vacation is whether or not you’d like to visit Olympic more than once.
If you live in the area, it’s worth more trips, plus an annual pass is only twenty-five dollars more than the entrance fee, so you’ll get your money’s worth in two visits.
Least Busy Time to Visit Olympic National Park
Summer is the most crowded season, but it’s also the best time to visit. On the other hand, the least busy time in the park is the fall and winter months.
Visit during these times to avoid the heaviest traffic in Olympic National Park. There are other ways to avoid congestion in the park caused by many visitors, even during peak travel.
Arrive early or later in the evening if you plan to stay overnight. Get reservations ahead of time to ensure you have a place to stay. At any time of year, it’s a good idea to avoid holidays if you want to come to the park when it is least busy.
Early fall, once school is back in session, will be your best bet for the least busy time to visit while still being able to experience all the park has to offer.
Worst Time to Visit Olympic National Park
While the park is open year-round, the most likely time you’ll face closures in the national park is in the winter. For this reason, winter is considered the worst time to visit Olympic.
The precipitation is much higher at this time of year. Winter isn’t all bad. Some of the heavy precipitation resulting in snow are suitable for skiing.
The park opens some weekends in winter when conditions are deemed safe. Check the status of roads for closures. The eastern portion of the park receives much less precipitation than the west because of the rain shadow effect.
Clouds from the Pacific are too heavy to pass over the Olympic Mountains, releasing moisture. By the time the clouds reach the other side, they produce much less rain, resulting in a drier climate on the mountain’s opposite side.
Things to Consider
One of the most popular ways to explore Olympic is by day-hiking through the park. There are miles of trails to explore whichever park area you want to visit first.
Hiking Tips for Olympic National Park
Before hitting the trails, consider some tips for a safe and more enjoyable trip for yourself and those visiting after you. Follow the National Park Service’s Seven Principles of Leave No Trace for the best experience in the park.
Plan and Prepare
Research the area before going and be aware of special regulations when moving on the park’s trails. Pack proper clothing and supplies, including a way to pack out any trash you create on the path.
Stay on the Trail
Use designated paths to experience the park’s beauty. Going off-trail can cause damage to the delicate ecosystem of this park.
Proper Waste Disposal
Hikers should use toilets provided in the park whenever possible. If that’s not possible, be sure to bury any human waste and carry out toilet paper.
Leave Nature Be
Don’t disturb rocks or plants during park excursions. There are also cultural artifacts at this park that should be preserved, not disturbed.
Campfires and Cooking
Consider bringing a lightweight cooking stove as campfires can create a more lasting impact than this cooking method. If you do have a campfire, never use it to burn trash, and keep water on hand to put it out.
Wildlife needs ample space to feel comfortable, and if they don’t, they can act aggressively. Stay a safe distance from this park’s animals and secure your food so that they are not drawn to your location.
Consideration for Other Visitors
Be respectful to other guests in the park. Keep your volume low and share the trail so everyone can enjoy nature at this park.
Types of Hiking at Olympic National Park
Four unique types of hiking are available for navigating through this park’s distinct ecosystems. The specifics of spending time in these areas inform what you might want to bring and how you prepare.
No matter where you’re hiking, you want to bring rain gear if you spend time in this national park. Water and snacks are also a must-have for even the shortest of trails.
Temperate Rain Forest Hikes
Olympic National Park’s temperate rain forests are some of the most easygoing in the park. These trails are mostly flat as well. Rain forest hikes at this park are great for beginners and are close to the park’s infrastructure.
Olympic’s mountain hikes are more challenging than others, with more elevation gains. There are still many short trails to explore. Just expect some incline.
Lowland Forest Hikes
Lowland forests in the park offer many trailheads to explore this type of ecosystem. If you’re looking for the longest trails, consider focusing on lowland forest hikes during your visit.
If you want to explore the coast, there are plenty of hiking trails at Olympic. Before walking along the beach, get a tide chart. Some areas become inaccessible during high tide. Plan ahead and don’t get caught off guard by rising waters.
Where To Stay in Olympic National Park
Even if you stick to short trails, there’s more to see here than you could do in one day. Staying the night in the park is a great way to get the most out of a visit to the park.
Spending at least two days means you’ll get to see the variety of species and scenery. Olympic has a nice variety of places to stay in the park.
Regardless of how you plan on traveling, making a reservation at Olympic National Park is the best way to ensure your place to stay. These are some places to consider if you plan to stay in the park overnight.
Driving up camping, as well as RV camping, is available at Olympic. Other areas are for tents only if you’re looking for something more secluded. Some of these campgrounds are more rustic than others.
Not every campground here has amenities like running water. Remote campgrounds may close during the off-season, but some year-round options are available.
There are four spots around the park providing accommodation for visitors. Book a room at either park’s lodges to stay along the water. The Lake Cresent Lodge has many comfortable rooms with views of the lake.
At Kalaloch Lodge, there are cabins in addition to rooms to stay along the ocean.
For mountain views, consider reserving accommodations at Log Cabin Resort. Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is right between the trees and the place to go if you want to experience the park’s hot springs.
Frequently Asked Questions
These are some of the most frequently asked questions about Olympic National Park. If you have a specific question, the answer may be here.
What are the dangers at Olympic National Park?
The weather at this park can be variable at different times of day and in different areas of the park. Be prepared for all types of weather here. If you’re planning on visiting the coast, keep an eye on the tides.
Wildlife is the other significant danger here. Keep your distance from all animals. Even deer can pose a threat if provoked, using their hooves and antlers to attack.
Before arriving at the national park, check the Alerts & Conditions of the area for up-to-date information about closures and advisories in Olympic.
Can you see the Milky Way from Olympic National Park?
Yes, the Milky Way can be seen from Olympic on clear nights. Since a lot of this park is densely forested, you might need to head to an area with open skies like Hurricane Ridge or the coastal beaches.
Do you need bear spray in Olympic National Park?
Olympic’s rules allow you to carry bear spray, but they don’t recommend it. No bear attack has ever been reported in the park. The black bears that reside here can easily be scared off by loud noise and, in general, are shy creatures.
Are there grizzly bears in Olympic National Park?
Grizzly bears are not present at Olympic National Park, only the black bears mentioned above. Shy black bears rarely pose a threat but are something you should be aware of in the park.
Bears aren’t the only wildlife risk; cougars also inhabit the park. You must also be careful when you see mountain goats at this park since they can be aggressive.
Many of these goats are no longer afraid of humans since they have been fed. Do not feed any of the wildlife at this national park. Mountain goats may also show interest in humans because of their sweat.
These animals need salt in their diet, and your sweat contains a lot of it. If a mountain goat does approach you, back away slowly, only yell, and cause a commotion if it continues to approach.
What do you wear to the Hoh Rain Forest?
Wear multiple layers, even in warmer months of the Hoh Rain Forest. Look for gear that will keep you warm even when wet. Bring rain gear when exploring this area, including waterproof boots.
Sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats, which protect from the rain and the sun, are also recommended here. Don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray either.
Do I need reservations to enter Olympic National Park?
Reservations to enter the park aren’t required. If you want to spend the night at Olympic, making reservations is a good idea as places to stay fill up quickly, especially during summer.
Who named Olympic National Park?
The name of the park comes from the Olympic mountains in the park. Mount Olympus is the tallest of these mountains. The mountains were given these names by an English explorer referencing another mountain in Greece. In Greek mythology, Mount Olympus is considered the home of the gods.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Olympic National Park?
Overall, the best time to visit Olympic National Park is the summer months. You’ll have the most access to the park during this time.
But there are plenty of other reasons to visit the park at different times of the year! You’re sure to have an unforgettable experience in the park whenever you visit Olympic. Happy travels!