×

14 Top-Rated Hiking Trails in Olympic National Park

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Nov 26, 2021

We may earn a commission from affiliate links ()

Olympic is arguably one of the most diverse national parks in the country. It comprises nearly a million acres on the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington. And with glacier-packed peaks, ancient forests, and a rugged coastline, it's a true choose-your-own-adventure place to visit. Millions of tourists head to the park each year, particularly in the drier summer months.

No roads enter the heart of the park, leaving hiking trails as the only way to discover the rugged beauty within. Great routes to follow are on all sides of the park, and memorable backpacking trips traverse the interior. A few of the views found along the way include towering sea stacks, moss-covered trees, and pointed horizons.

Olympic hiking trails cover it all. From family-friendly hikes through the rainforest to bucket-list adventures atop snow-covered mountains, everyone finds some magic on the trail. Towns like Port Angeles and Forks offer good base camps for exploring, but the best way to get the full Olympic experience is to spend the night at one of the park's many campgrounds.

Find your next postcard-perfect Pacific Northwest adventure with our list of the top hiking trails in Olympic National Park.

1. Hoh River Trail, Hoh Rain Forest

Hikers on the Hoh River Trail
Hikers on the Hoh River Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the few and finest examples of temperate rainforest in the United States. It's also one of the most popular places to visit in the park. It's in the southwest region, a 30-mile drive from Forks.

The Hoh Rain Forest receives roughly 12 feet of precipitation each year with the heaviest downpours occurring between October and April. The result is a lush, forested landscape of plants upon plants, including an abundance of ferns, mosses, and nearly every shade of green on the spectrum. Giant Sitka spruce and western hemlocks add to this ethereal environment, including their canopies, which tower more than 300 feet into the air.

One of many great ways to experience the Hoh Rain Forest is the 17.4-mile Hoh River Trail. This iconic hiking trail follows the banks of the glacial-fed Hoh River and caters toward family-friendly day hikes and overnight adventures. The first 13 miles are relatively flat as the path navigates the sights, sounds, and overwhelming presence of the rainforest.

Hoh River Trail
Hoh River Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For day hikes, visitors can tour this part of the trail as far as they'd like before heading back. For overnight adventures (permits required), the trail continues, gaining significant elevation before reaching its terminus at the base of Mount Olympus and its Blue Glacier.

Two other family-friendly hikes start at the Hoh River Trailhead, adjacent to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. Both the Hall of Mosses and Sitka Nature Trail feature a looped route, each roughly a mile long. Alongside an accessible gravel path and occasional boardwalk, each trail travels through a rich environment with interpretive information along the way.

2. Rialto Beach, Mora

Rialto Beach
Rialto Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Rialto Beach is one of the most popular coastal areas within Olympic National Park. It's on the north Olympic coast near the village of La Push and separated from the neighboring Second and Third Beach by the Quillayute River. Massive driftwood lines the pebbly shoreline at Rialto, leading to some of the most outstanding coastal features on this side of the country. The beach is easily accessible from a beachside parking area.

Sea stacks, sea birds, and a rocky shoreline define much of the time spent on Rialto Beach, including an edge-of-the-world feeling the farther you explore from the parking area. It's a popular stretch for backpacking on the coast, and several backcountry campsites line the trees opposite the ocean. And because the parking area is so close to the beach, a small congregation of spectators always gathers come sundown.

Hole-in-the-Wall, Rialto Beach
Hole-in-the-Wall, Rialto Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For a truly memorable adventure, head north on Rialto Beach for 1.5 miles to the aptly named Hole-in-the-Wall rock formation. Here, a world of tide pools and sea stacks make for easy photographs. This photogenic natural tunnel and the surrounding tide pools are best explored at low tide.

3. Hurricane Hill, Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center
Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The view from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is an often-defining sight of many Olympic experiences. To get an even closer perspective on this awe-inspiring horizon line, the Hurricane Hill trail is a family-friendly hike worth checking out.

The Hurricane Hill trail spans 1.6 miles from the visitor center, gaining approximately 700 feet. Its wide, paved path caters to the crowds that gather in the summer and provides plenty of room to stop and appreciate the surrounding mountain scene.

The trail crosses through open forests with encompassing views the entire way, and navigates three moderate switchbacks before reaching the top of Hurricane Hill. Be sure to take some time to appreciate the panoramic landscape before turning back, including distant views of Vancouver Island on clear days.

Hikers on Hurricane Hill
Hikers on Hurricane Hill

Back at the visitor center, Hurricane Ridge provides a variety of other networking trails to explore. The Cirque Rim trail is another popular family-friendly hike. This paved trail navigates above the visitor center and offers a panoramic view of Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

4. Marymere Falls

Marymere Falls
Marymere Falls | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Marymere Falls is a family-friendly waterfall adventure on the northwest side of the park, near the incredibly scenic Lake Crescent. The most common starting point for the hike is the Storm King Ranger Station. From here, it's less than a mile trek through an old-growth forest before reaching the 90-foot Marymere Falls

A boardwalk wraps up and around the opposing rock formation, affording multiple vantage points of the falls. This extended viewing platform allows for several photo opportunities and plenty of time spent appreciating the immediate area.

Lake Crescent Lodge, near Marymere Falls
Lake Crescent Lodge, near Marymere Falls | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Rather than hiking the same trail back, hikers can hop on the Moments in Time Nature Trail to make a loop back to the ranger station and parking area. This interpretive trail also branches off to connect with Lake Crescent Lodge and its brilliant shoreline.

5. Ruby Beach, Kalaloch

Ruby Beach
Ruby Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Ruby Beach presents the epitome of the rugged Washington coastline on the southern Wilderness Coast. It's a steep and paved trail from the parking lot, but it's the first accessible view of Ruby Beach that takes your breath away.

Various sea stacks tower in the distance, accompanied by the distinct squawk of seagulls. A dense collection of driftwood invites northern or southern travel along the sprawling coastline, and each changing tide reveals new discoveries.

This wild and rugged beach is an absolute pleasure for anyone that enjoys long walks next to the ocean. And with its western orientation, sunsets also tend to be nothing short of stunning at Ruby Beach.

6. Sol Duc Falls Trail, Sol Duc

Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc Falls | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Sol Duc Falls is a popular hike on the northwest side of the park, accessible from the Lake Crescent region. It's the fall's proximity to the trailhead, less than a mile away, that adds to its popularity. But as a churning example of the rapidly moving Olympic environment, its natural beauty also attracts a lot of attention.

The trailhead for Sol Duc Falls is just beyond the inviting facilities of the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and the adjoining campground. These facilities are both a 12-mile drive from Lake Crescent.

Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc Falls | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The short route navigates a lush forest environment encompassing towering trees and many shades of green. The falls are a picturesque attraction, and the boardwalk and viewing area provides multiple angles to appreciate the view. Expect other photographers sharing the space when visiting in the summer.

The falls make a good turnaround point for an easy day hike, though users can continue as far as they feel comfortable. The trail eventually enters the illustrious Seven Lakes Basin, with permits required for any overnight travel.

7. Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail, Quinault

Interpretive Information of the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail
Interpretive Information of the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For a great introduction to the rain forest environment, the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail provides universal access to a moss-strewn landscape. This lush landscape is on the southwest part of the peninsula and is managed by the US Forest Service. It's near the shores of Lake Quinault and the Quinault Ranger Station.

From the bathroom-equipped parking area, visitors immediately encounter interpretive information and ancient trees. The path continues for a half mile on a rolling and packed-gravel trail, following the tumbling waters of Wallaby Creek before eventually looping back to the parking area. Along the way, several interpretive plaques share information on the constantly evolving environment.

For extended adventures, the Nature Trail connects to the larger Quinault National Recreation Trail System of the area, including portions on the scenic Lake Quinault shoreline.

8. Rain Shadow Loop

View from Blue Mountain summit
View from Blue Mountain summit

Not far from Hurricane Ridge on the northeast side of the park, the Rain Shadow Loop and corresponding Blue Mountain summit provide equally outstanding views. Accessed from the Deer Park Campground and Deer Park Road (open seasonally), the Rain Shadow Loop is a moderately graded half-mile hike that leaves visitors standing on top of the world.

Wide-spanning views of the national park's many resources are easy to see, including mountain peaks, forested slopes, and abundant waterways punctuated by nearby cities. For hikers looking to extend their adventures, the Rain Shadow Loop provides an excellent jumping-off point for longer hikes into the Olympic interior.

9. Kalaloch Coastal Hiking

Tree of Life, Beach 2
Tree of Life, Beach 2 | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For a memorable beach adventure, head to the Kalaloch area of the Wilderness Coast. Here, several miles of sand entice small and big adventures alike. The most common spot to access the sand is from the Kalaloch Campground, which has day-use parking available. Here, the Kalaloch's beaches (Beach 1, 2, 3, & 4) stretch to the north for seemingly endless adventure.

Beach 1 and Beach 2 along the Kalaloch coast offer easy beach walks, particularly at low tide when the beach is especially wide. It's a great stretch for families and anyone looking to experience the coast without trekking too far. Along this stretch, take some time to find the Tree of Life near the campground.

Beach 3 and Beach 4 offer more adventure. These beaches also offer a more rugged landscape, with vibrant tide pools to explore when the ocean is out. And beyond Beach 3 & 4, a loose secret known as Beach 6 offers further adventure. Beach 6 is approximately four miles up the coast from the campground.

10. High Divide Trail (Seven Lakes Basin Loop)

High Divide Trail
High Divide Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Seven Lakes Basin Loop is one of the most popular backpacking trails in the park. It's on the park's northside and is most commonly accessed via Sol Duc Falls. The full Seven Lakes Basin Loop spans approximately 19 miles, with its most stunning section taking place on the High Divide Trail approximately halfway through.

The route climbs into the Olympic Mountains, eventually to the summit of Bogachiel Peak (5,474 feet). Here, if the clouds allow, an outstanding view of Mount Olympus and Blue Glacier rewards the overnight travel. And even if the clouds persist, several glistening lakes line the trail, offering scenic landscapes no matter the forecast. Black bears are also known to inhabit the plentiful meadows lining the route.

Black bears on the High Divide Trail
Black bears on the High Divide Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Ultra trail runners may accomplish the route in a single long day, but the general public usually takes somewhere around three to four days to complete the loop. Permits are required to spend the night, and based on its popularity, they are hard to get. Reservations are available on a six-month rolling basis.

Sol Doc isn't the only entrance into the Seven Lakes Basin. The Hoh Rain Forest is an alternative route, utilizing the Hoh River Trail to the Olympus Guard Station. From the Guard Station, it's a switchbacking 6.5 miles up to the High Divide Trail. This route passes by the magnificent Hoh Lake.

11. Ozette Triangle Loop, Ozette

The Ozette Coast
The Ozette Coast

On the northern Wilderness Coast, the nearly 10-mile Ozette Triangle Loop is one of the most popular coastal routes in the park. It begins near the Ozette Campground at the Cape Alava Trailhead and treks into the lush forest and rugged beach landscapes from here.

After three miles of forested hiking, the ocean shore is audible before it becomes visible, and the actual introduction to the ocean is nothing short of spectacular. To complete the loop, hikers continue south on the beach to the equally scenic Sand Point and return to the trailhead via the Sand Point Trail.

There's minimal elevation gain on the Ozette Loop, making the 10-mile hike manageable in a day. Permits are also available to make the trip a backpacking endeavor. One of the biggest challenges of the trail is its remote location, near the northwestern tip of the contiguous United States.

12. East Fork of the Quinault River Trail, Quinault

The East Fork of the Quinault River Trail
The East Fork of the Quinault River Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This lush river trail is accessible from the Graves Creek Campground in the southern region of the park. The approach includes a long gravel road from Lake Quinault, not accessible to RVs. Upon making it to the trailhead, users are ushered deep into a rainforest environment.

The 13-mile trail follows a rolling contour alongside a wild river, ultimately leading to the aptly named Enchanted Valley deep inside the park. A historic and retired mountain chalet can be found precariously close to the riverbank in Enchanted Valley, adding only an aesthetic value to the scenic surroundings.

Bears and other wildlife are prevalent within Enchanted Valley, and proper food storage is required to spend the night. Permits are required to spend the night.

13. Mount Ellinor Trail

The view from Mount Ellinor
The view from Mount Ellinor

Hikers wanting to visit the views afforded by the Mount Ellinor Trail have two options to access the elevated terrain. The Lower Trailhead accesses a 6.2-mile out-and-back adventure, which begins with a more moderate grade. The Upper Trailhead requires a Northwest Forest Pass to park at and enables a 3.2-mile route up and down the mountain with nothing but steep switchbacks the entire way.

Take a moment to appreciate the trail work needed to create and maintain either rugged route. The surrounding pointed horizon of the Olympic Mountains, in view the entire way, also deserves some admiration. Benches are placed strategically along the route to catch your breath and take in the elevated nature.

14. Third Beach to Strawberry Beach, Mora

Headland trail feature near Third Beach
Headland trail feature near Third Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The route from Third Beach to Strawberry point is a popular coastal destination and bucket-list backpacking route. It's accessible from the small village of La Push, south of the Quillayute River and Rialto Beach.

The trail to Third Beach begins with a 1.3-mile trek through a tall forest environment before revealing the dramatic shoreline. Day hikers may be content with this short jaunt to Third Beach, including staggering sea stacks of all shapes and sizes, though more coastal splendor is found heading south to Strawberry Point.

Less than two miles after accessing Third Beach, hikers and backpackers encounter impassable parts of the shoreline. Here, rugged headland trails appear in the forest opposite the ocean. These trails circumnavigate the wake and lead to the next open beach. Two of these headland trails are needed to access Strawberry point, and both utilize innovative features like ladders and ropes to navigate the steep terrain.

Third Beach coastline
Third Beach coastline | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

It's a total of six miles to Strawberry Point, though it feels like more thanks to the challenging headland trails. But the stunning and remote ocean views are well worth any effort. Anyone traveling this iconic beach route will want to set aside plenty of time to complete the hike.

Where to Stay near Olympic National Park

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • For a first-class stay in Port Angeles, lending almost immediate access to Hurricane Ridge, the Red Lion Hotel Port Angeles features pillow-top beds and an absolutely scenic location. Overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and a short walk to the daily ferries departing to Victoria, British Columbia, the Red Lion also provides an outdoor pool, fitness center, and adjoining restaurant.
  • Farther east on the peninsula in Sequim, also known as the Lavender Capital of North America, Quality Inn & Suites at Olympic National Park provides instant access to the surrounding splendor and a multilingual staff to help accommodate all visitors.
  • Southeast of the park in Union, lending access to the rainforest environments of Olympic, the Robin Hood Village Resort provides an awesome vacation destination, with waterfront cottages and motel rooms. A historic property in a beautiful setting, Robin Hood Resort also provides on-site dining and electric fireplaces.

Budget Hotels:

  • A variety of affordable hotel options can be found near Olympic National Park, particularly on the east side of the peninsula. In the Lavender Capital of North America, the Econo Lodge Sequim is a popular budget option that doesn't skimp on service. Featuring great access to the north side of the peninsula, including Hurricane Ridge, Econo Lodge also provides clean rooms and a continental breakfast.
  • On the southeast side of the peninsula, closer to Seattle, the Belfair Motel has a good reputation for friendly service, clean facilities, and one of the best overnight rates around.
  • Near Belfair and closer to Tacoma, the Super 8 by Wyndham Shelton is pet-friendly and caters to the budget traveler who enjoys a comfortable bed.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

imageWashington Parks: The best campgrounds in Olympic National Park pair nicely with the many hiking trails throughout, and our Olympic National Park visitor's guide can help inspire more adventures. Some of the other best state and national parks in Washington include the mighty Mount Rainier, also with its own best hiking trails and top-rated campgrounds. Farther north in the state, close to the Canadian border, the best campgrounds and hiking trails of North Cascades National Park lend to even more elevated terrain to explore.

imageOther Adventures in Washington: If you're new to hiking you may want to have a read through our article on hiking for beginners.The state of Washington is made for adventure, and among its best hiking trails and top-rated campgrounds, interested explorers can also find a dense selection of hot springs, waterfalls, and reasons to visit. For paddling enthusiasts, the best white water rafting adventures in Washington should catch your attention.

Discover destinations, find outdoor adventures, follow the journeys of our travel writers around the world, and be inspired.

More on Washington