Olympic National Park Camping: How to Score a Spot

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Are you planning to go camping at Olympic National Park? If so, it’s going to require some effort on your part.

Unfortunately, snagging a reservation in a popular location like Olympic National Park isn’t always easy. Luckily, you can do some things to make it easier.

Today, we’re sharing tips for scoring an epic spot for a trip to Olympic National Park.

Ready to get started? Let’s go!

About Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park sits in the northwest corner of Washington State. It was established on June 29, 1938, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Its diverse landscape covers 1,442 square miles and is nearly a million acres.

In addition to being one of the 63 national parks, it is also a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site. The park has also received the title of an International Biosphere Reserve. 

Visitors flock to the park to see the Hoh Rainforest, the Pacific coastline, and Mount Olympus. The rainforest is 

One of the park’s highlights is the Hoh Rainforest. This temperate rainforest is one of very few worldwide and receives more than 12 feet of rain annually. You can enjoy exploring the moss-draped trees and how they decorate the trails.

While visiting the park, it’s easy to explore the incredible coastline. This allows you to witness the astonishing tide pools filled with aquatic life. Additionally, the dramatic and rugged cliffs are a fantastic experience.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Olympic National Park?

Timing is crucial when planning your visit to Olympic National Park. Typically, summer provides the best weather and accessibility throughout the park. This generally runs from late June until early September each year.

This dreamy weather is perfect for exploring the park and camping under the stars. Unfortunately, it’s also the busiest time of year.

Coming during this time means larger crowds and difficulties getting a campground reservation. Large crowds also typically mean busy trails. Sadly, others will likely scare off animals and ruin your hopes of a potential wildlife sighting.

If you can push back your visit to late July or even August, the crowds thin considerably. The further into the year, the less chaotic the park becomes.

This way, you can easily explore the coastline or your favorite trail. With fewer people, it’s easier to enjoy the sounds of nature.

The foliage is on display throughout the park from late September to early November. The bright colors paint the landscape and create an incredible view.

While much of the park is evergreen trees, there’s still a generous amount of changing leaves. Even if you’ve already visited the park before, it’s like a completely different park throughout fall.

Is It Hard to Get a Campsite in Olympic National Park?

Like many campgrounds lately, getting a campsite at Olympic National Park can be challenging. It only gets more difficult if you’re trying to camp during summer. Getting outdoors and visiting national parks have become incredibly popular in recent years. Many of these travelers are choosing tent or RV camping for their accommodations.

Despite having more than a dozen campgrounds, only a handful accept reservations. Fairholme, Kalaloch, Mora, Hoh Rain Forest, and Staircase campgrounds accept reservations. Snagging one of these reservations may require you to make your reservations several months in advance. Many of these locations start taking reservations six months in advance.

However, the rest are first-come, first-served campgrounds. This can make it very hard to know how to plan as you may arrive and be unable to find a place to park for the night. Luckily, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of snagging a spot.

Can You Camp Anywhere in Olympic National Park?

NPS estimates that approximately 50,000 adventures take advantage of the park’s wilderness camping. However, this doesn’t mean you can set up camp just anywhere. There are specific rules and regulations that you must follow. Luckily, you can find more than a thousand established campsites along the trails of Olympic National Park.

Any individuals wishing to camp in the park’s backcountry must acquire a permit. This helps officials to manage and protect the land. In addition, campers must know and follow the park’s regulations. If you choose this adventure, you must know the rules, especially regarding fires.

Additionally, practice Leave No Trace principles during your adventure. Don’t create new campsites or damage the land. Your goal should always be to leave nature as you found it. As the famous saying goes, “Take only pictures and leave only footprints.” 

How to Score a Spot at Olympic National Park

While scoring a spot at Olympic National Park can be difficult, it’s not impossible. Here are several tips to help you succeed in your mission.

Plan Ahead

As mentioned earlier, if you want to camp at Olympic National Park, it requires some advanced planning. Some are seasonal, and others are open year-round. The availability of some campgrounds will significantly depend on when you’re visiting.

While most of the campgrounds are first-come, first-served, there are several that allow reservations. If you’d like to stay in a campground that accepts reservations, you must know when reservations become available. Sometimes, they’re available as much as six months ahead of time.

If you desire to stay here, you’ll need a list of potential sites or campgrounds planned out. Get on the system when reservations are available and book your spot. This may require you to stay up late to wait for them to become available.

Know the Campgrounds

Before you attempt to make a reservation, you need to familiarize yourself with the various campgrounds. Inside the national park, the campsites are extremely rustic. There are no water connections, electrical hookups, or shower facilities. If you require these amenities, you’ll need to stay elsewhere.

Additionally, it’s essential to know the length restrictions for the campground. In general, most of the campgrounds restrict RVs to less than 21 feet. However, you can find a handful of spots at the campgrounds that accommodate rigs up to 35 feet long.

Whether it’s the amenities or the length restrictions, ensure they’ll work for your needs. If not, you could end up with a campsite you can’t use. Squeezing your large camper into a tiny spot won’t end well for you or your rig.

Check Availability

If there are no sites to reserve during your visit, keep checking. You never know when someone will cancel their reservation and open up a site that works for you.

Be Flexible

Another tip for scoring a spot at Olympic National Park is flexibility. Summer and holidays will be chaotic at all campgrounds, and it is tough to get a reservation.

If you shift the dates of your trip, you may have better luck. Unfortunately, you may not have this luxury if you must consider school, athletic, or work schedules.

It’s also worth considering flexibility when it comes to camping styles. While you may not be able to get a campsite, there may be availability for backcountry camping. This is a very different camping style, but it can be an incredible opportunity. You may fall in love with it or discover that you prefer it.

Arrive Early

With roughly half of the campgrounds being first-come, first-served, arriving at the campground can be helpful. Typically, wishful campers form lines outside these campgrounds, hoping to snag a spot from a guest leaving. You must arrive well before check-out to get the best place in line.

However, it’s important to note that just because someone leaves or a spot opens up doesn’t guarantee anything. The site may be too small for your rig. You’ll then need to cross your fingers that another camper packs up and leaves soon.

Visit During Off-Peak Season

We mentioned being flexible earlier, but it’s also essential to consider visiting during the shoulder or off-peak seasons. Summer sees the highest number of visitors and can be very chaotic. Even if you can secure a reservation, do you really want to camp on top of your neighbors? Probably not.

Crowds typically tend to be thinner during the spring and fall. While the weather may not be as enjoyable, the peace and quiet are worth the sacrifice. Even if you cannot secure a reservation, you’ll stand a better chance in the first-come, first-served campgrounds.

Be Patient and Persistent

The best tip we can offer you is to be patient and persistent. While it’s not 100% true, good things typically come to those who wait. Don’t give up if you want to visit Olympic National Park. Use the resources we’ve shared and check multiple times each day for changes in availability.

Don’t get discouraged if you cannot secure a spot at your favorite campground. Additionally, consider expanding your search radius for campgrounds. Staying in a nearby campground is better than canceling your trip altogether. You can still have an unforgettable trip even when things don’t go as planned.

Is Camping in Olympic National Park Worth It?

Camping in Olympic National Park can be incredible. If you’re lucky, you can call it home during your trip and have easy access to all it offers. Whether for a single night or a more extended trip, camping in Olympic National Park is worth it. Just make sure you use the tips we’ve shared to help you secure a campsite. What are you waiting for? Get to planning that epic trip!

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