Visiting Washington’s Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is one of the most majestic and inspiring places in the United States. It is located in western Washington state and includes a variety of landscapes and unforeseen beauty, over twelve park regions, and a huge variety of activities to enjoy. In this stunning area you can find three separate temperate rainforests, seventy-three miles of wild, protected coastline, over 600 individual lakes, an entire mountain range, hundreds of miles of dense old growth forests, and a slew of unique water features, such as waterfalls, hot springs, and rivers and streams flowing directly into the Pacific Ocean. 

Photo of Joel Holland (Harvest Hosts CEO) and Bill Zhang (Harvest Hosts Vice President of Marketing) on their trip to Olympic National Park in September 2017

Annual rainfall levels vary throughout the park, and the rainy areas, mountains, and rain shadow all contribute to the vast and varied landscapes seen here. These forest, coastal, and mountainous ecosystems combine to create the unique, rich beauty that we know as Olympic National Park. From start to finish, the park is truly spectacular at every turn. Add in the fact that it is just hours from Seattle and close to the small city of Port Angeles, and you have a perfect recipe for the perfect national park.

Photographer: Bill Zhang, Harvest Hosts Vice President of Marketing

Each year, over three million people vacation to Olympic National Park, and many of these people travel here via RV. With many impressive campgrounds to choose from and tons of RV-friendly amenities, visiting this wonderful place in your home away from home is sure to enrich your overall experience.

Park Description and History

In 1937, after a visit to what was Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Monument, and a meal in the Lake Quinault Lodge, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his support to establish the area as a national park. The following year, he signed the bill officially designating Olympic National Park. In 1953, an additional area of the Pacific Coast was added into the park designation. 

Today, Olympic National Park continues to bewilder, excite, and astound first time and recurring visitors alike. Due to the extensive size of the park, visitors often discover a new area or new trail each visit and find themselves returning again and again.

Park Regions

Because it is so large, Olympic National Park is actually divided into many sections, with some being coastal, and others being inland and located in the rainforests, valleys, and mountains. When describing certain specific activities and places to visit, we will always be sure to specify which park area the activity can be found in. The regions of Olympic are as follows:

Coastal

The coastal regions encompass several areas found along the westernmost portions of the park. Keep in mind that these areas are spread out over a few hundred miles and include:

  • Kalaloch Beach

  • Ruby Beach

  • Rialto Beach

  • Mora 

  • Ozette

Rainforest

This unique biome is best described as an area with a moderate temperature range that receives a large annual sum of rainfall. Olympic is home to some of the most lush temperate rainforests in the lower 48 states, including the:

  • Hoh Rainforest

  • Queets Rainforest

  • Quinault Rainforest

Mountains, Valleys, and Old Growth Forests

Similar to the rest of the park, the environments on each side of the mountainous region are rather varied. While all of Olympic is photogenic, the mountains in the park are particularly beautiful. These areas include:

  • Elwha River Valley

  • Lake Crescent

  • Sol Duc Valley

  • Hurricane Ridge

  • Deer Park

  • Staircase

Things to Do

With such a vast park with so many individual areas, it’s no surprise that there are many different activities to enjoy here. Popular activities include hiking, beachcombing, and scenic driving, as well as boating, swimming, wildlife viewing, backcountry camping, stargazing, climbing, winter sports, and much more. Follow along to read about all the activities Olympic has to offer and where and when to enjoy them.

Hiking

Hiking is one of the greatest ways to experience Olympic National Park. With twelve major park areas and over 600 total miles of trails, there is no shortage of excellent hikes, perfect for enjoying the splendor of the park. Hikes range from easy to intermediate to difficult, and there is a mixture of all three types of hikes in each area of the park. Favorite park trails for many include Ruby Beach Trail (easy), Third Beach Trail (intermediate), Hall of Mosses (easy), Hoh River Trail (intermediate), Olympic Hot Springs (intermediate), Marymere Falls (intermediate), Appleton Pass (strenuous), Sol Duc Falls(easy), Mount Storm King (strenuous), Flapjacks Lake (intermediate/strenuous), and hundreds more.

Scenic Driving

Auto touring is one of the most popular ways to see Olympic National Park. The abundance of roadways connecting the many areas of the park offer excellent scenic views and tons of stopping points for photos. These scenic drives are perfect for those with less time to spend in the park, or even those who do not want to hike long distances or may be short on time. There are plenty of beautiful park sights visible right from your personal vehicle, so be sure to check out a few of these drives.

Specific routes or tours include Deer Park Road, Quinault Valley Rainforest Loop, Olympic Hot Springs Road, Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, Obstruction Point Road, Hurricane Ridge Road, Hog River Road, the Pacific Coast Highway, and the all-encompassing Olympic Peninsula Loop.

Water Activities

Because there is so much water (lakes, rivers, ocean, etc.) in Olympic, water activities here are quite popular. These include swimming, boating, fishing, visiting hot springs, tidepooling, and more. Be sure to speak to a ranger or do some more extensive research on each of these activities before planning your trip.

Wildlife Viewing

Due to the varied climates and environments in the park, the wildlife is just as varied. With each new biome comes different species not found in other areas. Popular species here include otters, sea lions, dolphins, seals, otters, whales, intertidal species, dozens of species of amphibians and reptiles, salmon, hundreds of species of birds, deer, elk, bears, and so much more. Be sure to consult a park ranger to find out which animals you are most likely to see in season throughout the year and where to view them.

Camping in the Park

Camping inside of the park has many benefits, especially for a park of this size. Entering and exiting the park, as well as navigating around the different park areas, can be tiresome and time consuming, which makes in-park camping much more alluring to park visitors. However, three of these campgrounds are reservation-only during peak season. There are a total of fourteen campgrounds within Olympic National Park, but only nine of them are accessible to RVs, while several of them only accept smaller rigs under twenty-one feet in length. In addition to campgrounds within park boundaries, there are a ton of private campgrounds outside the park bounds, as well as free camping options. However, here we will just be focusing on the campgrounds inside the park.

Fairholme Campground

Fairholme Campground is located near Lake Crescent and the Fairholme boat launch. A few lucky campers are able to obtain sites next to the lake. This campground is first-come, first-served only and accepts RVs up to twenty-one feet in length.

Heart O’ the Hills Campground

Heart O’ the Hills Campground provides shaded campsites due to the old growth forest surrounding it. This campground is first-come, first-served only and provides campsites for RVs up to thirty-five feet in length.

Hoh Campground

Hoh Campground is one of the most popular campgrounds due to its location and scenic beauty. The temperate rainforest conditions ensure mild summer temperatures. This campground is first-come, first-served only and serves RVs up to thirty-five feet in length.

Kalaloch Campground

Kalaloch Campground is a coveted oceanside campground and is reservation-only during the summer and peak months, but first-come, first-served the rest of the year. Campers may place reservations online on a six month rolling basis, and RVs up to thirty-five feet in length may stay here.

Mora Campground

Mora Campground is now a reservation-only campground during the summer and peak months. However, any unreserved or cancelled sites are sold daily at the Mora Ranger Station on a first-come, first-served basis. For the rest of the year, the sites here are also first-come, first-served. RVs up to thirty-five feet in length may stay here.

Ozette Campground

Ozette Campground is situated directly next to coastal Lake Ozette, making it perfect for avid boaters or anyone wanting to enjoy water activities. This campground is first-come, first-served only and is primitive during the winter months. RVs up to twenty-one feet in length may stay here.

Sol Duc Campground

Sol Duc Campground is reservation-only during the entire season of operation. This is largely due to the popularity of its location near the hot springs and its proximity to the backcountry. It offers seventeen RV sites for RVs up to thirty-five feet in length.

South Beach Campground

South Beach Campground is a scenic campground overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This first-come, first-served campground has direct access to the beach. It provides scenic views for RVs up to thirty-five feet in length.

Staircase Campground

Staircase Campground is located near the Skokomish River and becomes primitive during the winter months. This campground is first-come, first-served only for RVs up to thirty-five feet in length.

Harvest Hosts near Olympic National Park

On your way to or from Olympic National Park, be sure to stop at one (or all!) of these awesome Harvest Hosts locations. Each is unique and will provide you with a unique perspective of different regions within the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.

Azebrasis Ranch II

This small ranch property in Montesano, Washington, operates a large garden and also sells some quilts, quilting supplies, and other crafty things. The RV area is spacious, and they have a fire pit and water available for camper use. Pets are permitted but must be kept on leash. About two miles down the road, there is a carriage museum with other unique items on display. Currently, they offer three reservable, pet-friendly spaces for RVs of any size.

Photo submitted by Harvest Hosts member Jenna Ziccardi

Hoodsport Winery

Located in Hoodsport, Washington, Hoodsport Winery is a small boutique winery featuring nine different white and red varietals of wine, as well as fruit wines and cordials. In addition, they also sell truffles, gourmet jams, and coffees. They offer tastings, and their property features wonderful views of the Hood Canal and Olympic Mountains. Currently, they have two reservable, pet-friendly spaces for RVs under forty-four feet in length available.

Red Hawk Stables

Located in Sequim, Washington, Red Hawk Stables is the closest Harvest Hosts location to Olympic National Park. This facility offers guided horseback trail riding at a variety of price points, as well as pony rides for younger children. They also have a petting zoo, complete with chickens, pigs, ducks, horses, rabbits, goats, and geese. They have two pet-friendly spaces for RVs under twenty-nine feet in length. Don’t miss this awesome location when going to or coming from Olympic!

Photo Credit: tripadvisor.com user

Olympic National Park is one of the most awe-inspiring and breathtaking places in the United States. Nowhere else can you find gorgeous coastal regions, vast lakes, roaring waterways, towering waterfalls, soaring mountains, glowing temperate rainforests and temperate old growth forests all in one small region. The beauty of Olympic is what keeps park visitors returning year after year take in the scenery once again. It’s a place you must see for yourself to truly understand, so consider Olympic National Park for your next national park camping adventure.

Photo captured by Joel Holland, Harvest Hosts CEO

Joel Holland’s trip to Olympic National Park

In September of 2017, Harvest Hosts CEO Joel Holland and Harvest Hosts Vice President of Marketing Bill Zhang visited Olympic National Park together, along with some of their friends. The following are some beautiful photos they and some of their friends took during the trip, providing even further inspiration to plan your next trip to this wonderful national park.

The adventure crew, consisting of (from left to right) Aaron Silverman, Brandon Hawkins, Bill Zhang, Chas DeVeas, and Joel Holland, standing next to a fallen giant
Captured by Joel Holland, Harvest Hosts CEO

 

Captured by Brandon Hawkins

 

Photo: Bill Zhang (Harvest Hosts Vice President of Marketing)
Photographer: Brandon Hawkins

 

Captured by Brandon Hawkins

 

Photographer: Brandon Hawkins

 

Photo: Joel Holland (Harvest Hosts CEO)
Photographer: Aaron Silverman

 

Photo captured by Joel Holland, Harvest Hosts CEO

 

Photographer: Bill Zhang, Harvest Hosts Vice President of Marketing

 

Captured by Bill Zhang, Harvest Hosts Vice President of Marketing

 

Photographer: Bill Zhang, Harvest Hosts Vice President of Marketing

Have you visited Olympic National Park? How was your experience there? Which national park is your favorite? Feel free to share all about it below!

*Cover image gathered with permission from Olympic NPS flickr, captured by photographer Javin Elliff

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