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12 Top-Rated Hiking Trails in Olympic National Park

Written by Brad Lane
Jan 16, 2019

With glacier-packed peaks, ancient forests, and a rugged coastline, Olympic is arguably one of the most diverse national parks in the country. A true choose-your-own-adventure place to visit, Olympic National Park is spread out over nearly a million acres on the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington. Millions of tourists flock there each year, particularly in the drier summer months.

Much of Olympic National Park remains a roadless wilderness, leaving the park's many hiking trails and campgrounds as the only way to discover the rugged beauty within. Hiking and backpacking reign supreme, from family-friendly hikes through a rainforest to steep trails up a mountain. A few of the views found along the way include towering sea stacks, moss-covered trees, and pointed horizons.

Internationally renowned hiking trails like the Hoh River Trail belong on everyone's bucket list, and the views from Hurricane Ridge often define a part of any visit. Throughout every region of the park, miles of hiking trails are waiting to transport you into the wild and wondrous world of Olympic. Find the best options with our list of the top hiking trails in Olympic National Park.

1. Hoh River Trail, Hoh Rain Forest Editor's Pick

Hikers on the Hoh River Trail

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

One of the few and finest examples of temperate rainforest in the United States, the Hoh Rain Forest is one of the most popular places to visit in Olympic National Park. Located in the southwest region, 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 you can imagine. Giant Sitka spruce and western hemlocks add to the ethereal environment of the Hoh Rain Forest, including their canopies, which tower more than 300 feet into the air.

One of many great ways to experience the Hoh Rain Forest can be found on the 17.4-mile Hoh River Trail. Following the banks of the glacial-fed Hoh River, this iconic hiking trail caters towards family-friendly day hikes and overnight adventures. The first 13 miles of the Hoh River Trail are relatively flat as the path navigates the sights, sounds, and overwhelming presence of the rain forest. 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.

Adjacent to the Hoh River Trailhead, starting points for two other family-friendly hikes in the rain forest also begin. 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

One of the most popular coastal areas within Olympic National Park, Rialto Beach is lined with massive driftwood logs and outstanding natural features. Separated from the neighboring Second and Third Beach by the Quillayute River, Rialto Beach can be enjoyed with a short walk from the beach access point.

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. Hikers and backpackers can head as far north as their energy levels or overnight permits allow, and just over 1.5 miles up the beach, the unique Hole-in-the-Wall rock feature is a great destination.

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, and to get an even closer perspective on this awe-inspiring horizon line, the Hurricane Hill trail is a family friendly hike worth checking out. Spanning for 1.6 miles from the Visitor Center, Hurricane Hill's wide path caters to the crowds in summer and provides plenty of room to stop and appreciate the surrounding mountain scene.

Crossing through open forests with encompassing views the entire way, the trail 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. Back at the Visitor Center, Hurricane Ridge provides a variety of other networking trails to explore.

4. 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 environments of Olympic National Park, the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail provides universal access to the moss-strewn landscape. Near the shores of Lake Quinault and the Quinault Ranger Station, the trail from the bathroom-equipped parking area immediately encounters 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. 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.

5. Sol Duc Falls Trail, Sol Duc

Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc Falls | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Providing quick access to the stunning Seven Lakes Basin on the north side of the park, the Sol Duc Falls Trail entices backpackers and family hikers alike. The trailhead for Sol Duc Falls can be found just beyond the inviting facilities of the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and the adjoining campground, one of the best campgrounds in Olympic National Park.

It's a moderate mile hike to reach the falls from the trailhead, and the 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 provide multiple angles to appreciate the view. The falls also make a good turnaround point for a fun day hike, though users can continue as far as they feel comfortable, with permits required for any overnight travel.

6. Ruby Beach, Kalaloch

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On the southern Wilderness Coast, Ruby Beach presents the epitome of rugged Washington coastline. Accessed via a somewhat steep and paved trail from the parking lot, the first accessible view of Ruby Beach is enough to take your breath away.

Various sea stacks tower in the distance, accompanied by the distinct squawk of seagulls. The sprawling shoreline with a dense collection of driftwood invites northern or southern travel, and new discoveries can be made with each changing tide. An absolute pleasure for anyone that likes long walks on the beach, the sunsets experienced at this southern section of the coast are some of the best in the nation.

7. 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. Combining the beauty of lush forest environments and rugged beachscapes, the Ozette Triangle Loop begins near the Ozette Campground at the Cape Alava Trailhead and treks into the forest from here.

The ocean shore is audible before it becomes visible, and after three miles of forested hiking, the 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. Available for overnight adventures (permit required), the Ozette Loop is also a manageable day hike given the proper time.

8. Third Beach to Strawberry Beach, Mora

Headland trail feature near Third Beach

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

A popular coastal destination on the west side of the park, and one of the most iconic ocean hikes in the country, the route from Third Beach to Strawberry point is a bucket-list backpacking destination. Accessed from the small village of La Push, 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 can be found heading south to Strawberry Point.

Less than two miles after accessing Third Beach, hikers and backpackers encounter impassable parts of the shoreline, where rugged headland trails are required to continue down the beach. The two headland trails needed to access Strawberry point are well-marked as they lead hikers off the beach, and both utilize innovative features like ladders and ropes to navigate the steep terrain. It's a total of six miles to Strawberry Point, though it might feel like more, with stunning views that can stop you in your tracks. Anyone traveling this iconic beach route will want to set aside plenty of time to complete the hike.

9. Marymere Falls

Marymere Falls

Marymere Falls

Adjacent to the incredibly scenic and easily accessed Lake Crescent on the north side of the park, Marymere Falls provides a family-friendly waterfall adventure. Beginning at the Storm King Ranger Station with a half-mile paved path, the trail continues farther through an old-growth forest before reaching the 90-foot Marymere Falls at just under a mile. Multiple vantage points can be accessed, and plenty of time can be spent appreciating the immediate area. 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.

10. 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

Accessed from one of the best campgrounds in Olympic National Park, Graves Creek Campground, and a long gravel road not accessible to RVs, the East Fork Quinault River Trail takes users deep into the rain forest environment. This 13-mile trail in the southern region of the park 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.

11. 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 this rugged route, as well as the surrounding pointed horizons of the Olympic Mountains. Benches are placed strategically along the route to catch your breath, and awesome views line every step of the path.

12. 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 you 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.

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

Washington 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.

Other Adventures in Washington: 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, and come winter, expect to find plenty of action at all the top-rated ski resorts in the state.

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