I return from every national park thinking it was the best one…and I’ve done it again. Olympic National Park (ONP) in Washington state brought out my inner geek. So many ecosystems in one place! There are mountains, rainforests, and beaches with tidepools.

My family of four with two daughters aged 20 and 17 loved our trip. I’ve been asked to share our itinerary and details! I am OCD master planner and have our trips charted in advance. That may sound miserable to many – but it allows us to get up and head to the things we want to see without wasting time deciding which way to go. 

Before traveling to ONP, I recommend the following tools:

  1. The National Park Service app – it will show you trails in each area of the park with distances and difficulty levels.



2. The Tide Alert app – this will help to track tides to find the perfect time to go tide-pooling.

3. America the Beautiful Park Pass – you could also pay the $35 admission fee for only ONP, but this pass will let a carload of four enter ANY national park for one year…plan more trips!

We flew to Seattle (Sea-Tac) airport and rented a vehicle for our journey. Initially, I thought of visiting Mt. Ranier and North Cascades National Parks while we were close – but I didn’t want to short-change Olympic. We spent the whole week in ONP and there was still plenty we did NOT see. 

Day 1: Fly to Seattle, Drive to Hoodsport

When getting to ONP from Seattle, you have options. You can use the ferries to bring your car across the bay from Seattle, or you can drive around. We chose to drive around. Our flights got in around 3 pm. I wanted to get at least halfway to our Day 2 destination so I decided on Hoodsport for the first night’s stay. 

We stayed at Glenn Ayr Resort – a simple and clean hotel room. Home to clam and oyster harvesting.

Hoodsport is also next to the southeastern entrance to Olympic National Park. When we arrived, we still had the energy to explore!

Hike: Staircase Rapids Loop Trail – an easy 2-mile hike with rainforests, moss, and green as far as you can see! A rough road to get to it near the end, but well worth the trip. You will drive by Lake Cashman which can be explored with more time to spend in this area! 


Day 2 – Travel to Port Townsend and Sequim

One goal on this trip was to see an orca! We were traveling in the right season to have a good chance. We drove from Hoodsport 1.5 hours to Port Townsend to board the Puget Sound Express whale watch tour. A pricey adventure, but well worth it. We had an indoor table reserved with a box lunch followed by homemade Blueberry Buckle dessert. We could go out on top of the boat to watch for wildlife and see the sights. We did not see any humpbacks, but we did see orcas! We witnessed a pod of orcas killing a seal…ugh. We also saw many birds, sea lions, and dolphins. This company also has a tour that launches from Port Angeles

Sequim Lavender Farms – Sequim (pronounced SKWIM) is home to miles of lavender fields. There are many to choose from, but some are highlighted on a Sequim Lavender Trail, a driving path through the district. We stopped at 2 or 3 farms and it was beautiful! We found some nice-smelling gifts. We traveled in mid-June and the lavender was just blooming – peak season is mid-July. 

We ended our day settling into a VRBO near Port Angeles where we stayed for 2 nights. This location is near the Hurricane Ridge entrance to Olympic. 



Day 3 – Hike Hurricane Ridge

We woke up in our cute cottage in the woods and ventured into Port Angeles for a hearty breakfast. The plan was to drive up to Hurricane Ridge and hike the trail. Things to consider for this hike – the weather! We had partially sunny skies, but as we neared the top of the ridge, we were in the clouds. Still gorgeous! But would be best on a clear sunny day.

Hurricane Hill Trail – The 3.2-mile trail is paved and labeled EASY – but I disagree. It is a smooth trail, but it is a steep climb and we were feeling our knees and hips for a day or two after. We saw deer, marmots, and even a bear! The scenery is breathtaking and I wouldn’t miss this hike. Once we neared the top, the trees were frosted and we got snowed on. 


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After the bike hike, we drove back down the mountain, pulling off to see the sights. We were tired from travels and time change, so we returned to our VRBO to rest! Many restaurant options in Port Angeles to choose from. 

Day 4 – Lake Crescent and Sol duc Hot Springs

We continued around the ONP loop toward our next destination to stay one night in Sol duc Hot Springs. 

Lake Crescent – A gorgeous lake with many opportunities to swim, hike, and explore. There are opportunities to kayak and paddleboard. We opted not to hike to Devil’s Punchbowl because it is a great swimming hole – but not in 60-degree weather and ice-cold water. We chose to walk the Marymere Falls Trail which was 1.6 miles and a beautiful hike. 

In the evening we slipped over to the Elwha area of the park and hiked a very short trail to Madison Falls.

We worked our way toward a cabin at Sol duc Hot Springs. On the way, we viewed the Salmon Cascades. No salmon were leaping upstream in June. In the fall, it is reportedly a great place to watch the salmon venture upstream with the chance of seeing a bear pluck them from the air.

We hiked the 0.6-mile Ancient Groves Trail to see huge, moss-covered trees and a beautiful trail. The grand finale was hiking the Sol duc Falls Trail 1.6 mile round trip to the best waterfall on the trip!

That night we stayed in at Sol duc Hot Springs. It is an old resort and one of the few inside of ONP. There are mineral springs that flow into the resort and you can soak in the hot bubbling water. They have it pumped into a pool-like setting and the unmistakable smell of sulfur fills the air. The resort has no cell signal, TVs, or Wifi – FYI. The kids thought the world might end…

Day 5 – Beach Day!

The west coach beaches are not a sunny oasis with white sane. They are moody, rugged, and tough filled with driftwood and rocks that stretch to the horizon after a forest hike. There are many beautiful beaches along the coast, and you can pick and choose which to visit. You’ll find unique features at each one.

Rialto Beach – This beach is the northernmost beach that we visited. During low tide, you can hike down to the Hole in the Wall to see a rock formation with a natural rock window to the ocean. The hike is pleasant as you walk down the beach, but the shifting sand and rocks can make it tiring. Watch tide levels if you hike to Hole in the Wall because if high tide comes in, you will be trapped. Keep your eyes open for banana slugs on every trail! We saw a lot near the beach.

Ruby Beach – My favorite and a popular beach. Short easy trail to the beach. Mountains of driftwood to climb on or sit on and listen to the waves. 

There are many beaches to visit that stretch down to Kalaloch and beyond. One of my main goals in Olympic was to visit tidepools. My research told me that the best locations are Ruby Beach and/or Kalaloch #4 – but you can tidepool at any beach. 

Let’s Talk Tides…

Using the app, the first low tide on this day is a negative tide at -1.58ft which would be perfect for tide pooling. High tide is 5:22 PM, the next low tide at 2.47 ft at 10:56 PM would not be as good.

The best chance of seeing sea life is during a negative tide. Each day there are two low tides and two high tides. My understanding was that you are more likely to find treasures under a one-foot low tide, but best at a negative tide. I used my Tide Alert app and during our week of travel – the negative tide was at 6 am. An early morning, but well worth it!

While my youngsters slept, I ventured off to Ruby Beach on my own at 5 AM. It was the most amazing experience of my life! I was surrounded by sea stars and sea anemones as the sun rose. 

At the end of the day, we stayed at the Pacific Inn in Forks for two nights. For Twilight fans, Forks is the home to Bella and Charlie and the Quileute Tribe (werewolves) in nearby LaPush. LaPush Beach is where Jacob takes Bella to talk about vampires and the werewolf treaty! Fun.

Day 6 – Hoh Rainforest

We left our hotel in Forks early to beat the rush to Hoh. It is about a 40-minute drive from Forks, and one of the most popular places to visit in Olympic National Park. If you don’t arrive early, you will be trapped in a line of cars a mile long at the entrance and struggle to find parking. Plan to enter before 9 am at the latest. We got there about 8 am without any issues. The visitor center is the central hub of many trails, making it a congested area that fills up. 

The Hoh Rainforest is a magical moss-filled forest. I expected to see fairies buzzing around. Trees are coated with green and tinkling creeks and water are running nearby. A herd of Roosevelt Elk roam the region and we were lucky to see them by the river on our drive. And more banana slugs! We hiked The Hall of Mosses Trail (1 mile) and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles)

Day 7 – Quinault Rainforest

We took our time leaving Forks and ventured down the coast to the southern loop of the park. This region is less busy but equally beautiful. The rainforest is equally awe-inspiring as the Hoh Rainforest. The Quinault region has a beautiful lodge next to a lake. We stayed at a beautiful VRBO cabin just outside of town. We hiked a couple of trails to the Kestner Homestead. We drove the Quinault Rainforest Loop Drive, and saw Merriman Falls, and Bunch Falls along the road. And saw the world’s largest Sitka Spruce Tree. And more slugs… 


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Day 8 – Seattle

We left ONP and drove to Seattle to fly out first thing the next morning. This was a bonus day. We could have flown home today or explored more of the park. 

Things I would still have loved to do is drive up to Cape Flattery or spend more time near Kalaloch. I would have chosen to spend the extra day seeing Mt. Ranier since we were so close – but I got out-voted!

We entered the traffic and busy streets of Seattle. We did a fly-by of the Space Needle (picture out the car window! LOL) and spent plenty of time at Pike Place Market. 

Well – that’s it! It’s an amazing park and I recommend taking your time to see the sights. You could shave off 1-2 days by combining some of these activities, but we were able to unwind and rest in between adventures. 

Olympic National Park is one to visit! Happy Travels.

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