How To Tackle Olympic National Park in 3 Days

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When visiting national parks, it’s important to have a realistic time frame. Some parks, like Hot Springs National Park, Gateway Arch National Park, or Petrified Forest National Park, don’t require more than a day of exploration. But other locations, like Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Glacier, need more time.

Today, we’re taking you to Olympic National Park in Washington. It’s one of the largest national parks in the U.S., so our 3-day itinerary is chalked full of activities to make your visit memorable and worthwhile. Let’s dive in!

Where Is Olympic National Park?

Olympic National Park is in northwestern Washington near Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula. Highway 101 circles the park, providing easy access to the various ranger stations, trailheads, and visitor centers.

The park is one of three national parks in Washington. Mount Ranier and North Cascades are the other two.

A truck camper parked on the side of the road overlooking Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park.

How Big Is Olympic National Park?

Olympic National Park covers almost one million acres, making it the 13th largest national park in the U.S. Ninety-five percent is designated wilderness.

With a park this size, it’s difficult to visit in just a day or two. We highly suggest spending at least three days to have time to explore each section.

Olympic National Park includes glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rainforests, and a wild coastline.

There’s the Sol Duc Valley, Lake Crescent, the Elwha River Valley, Hurricane Ridge, the Hoh Rainforest, the Queets Rainforest, the Quinault Rainforest, Kalaloch Beach, and Rialto Beach. It’s impossible to see these spectacular locations in just a few days.

Can You Visit Olympic National Park In 3 Days?

Because Olympic National Park is so spread out, it is challenging to travel from one side to the other in a single day.

It takes one or two hours to go from place to place, and although the drive is beautiful, you want to be out exploring the area and not just sitting in the car the whole time. So, we’ve created a 3-day itinerary to help you make the most of your visit.

We also suggest buying the Olympic National Park audio tour from GuideAlong. It’s a wonderful way to learn about the park while driving to the different locations.

There are over 420 audio points, and highlights include the Dungeness Spit, the Hoh Rainforest, Hurricane Ridge, Lake Quinault and Rainforest, Rialto Beach, Ruby Beach, the Sol Duc Valley, and more.

The Welcome to Lake Crescent sign in Olympic National Park.

Day 1 In Olympic National Park – Hoh Rainforest

The lush green canopy of the Hoh Rainforest is a sight to behold. It’s one of the remaining temperate rainforests in the U.S. and one of the park’s most popular destinations. Located on the west side, it’s about two hours from the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles.

We suggest packing a picnic and hiking the Hoh River Trail, an 18.5-mile trail that ends at the Blue Glacier moraine. However, you can take it as far as you like before turning around.

Cedar Grove and 5-Mile Island are popular turn-around areas. The Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Nature Trail are short loop trails nearby, too.

Keep your eyes open along the trails for Roosevelt elk, black bears, river otters, barred owls, salamanders, snakes, or the endangered Northern Spotted Owl. Test your knowledge of trees as you navigate the forest and see what you can identify. Towering spruces, cedars, maples, and firs will make you feel like David amongst Goliaths!

After spending the morning and early afternoon in the Hoh Rainforest, head to Kalaloch to view the famous Tree of Life. It’s a Sitka spruce tree that seems to float between two cliffs. Because of erosion, most of its root system is exposed, and a cave has formed beneath it. It’s a magical and spectacular sight.

The Kalaloch Lodge is a great place to have dinner after a long day exploring Olympic National Park. You’ll enjoy beautiful views and tasty cuisine, much of which is locally sourced.

Finally, Ruby Beach is just a short ride north from the Tree of Life. It’s the perfect way to end your day. As you walk along the shoreline, look for harbor seals and porpoises.

You might even spot a whale or dolphin off the coast. If the tide is low at this time of day, go tide pooling. Enjoy the stunning sunset before returning to your campsite, hotel, or rental.

A large tree that has fallen over in Olympic National Park forest with its roots in the air.

Day 2 In Olympic National Park – Sol Duc Valley

Today, pack a picnic lunch and head to the Sol Duc Valley in the northwest section of the park. It’s 40 minutes west of Port Angeles, off Highway 101 on Sol Duc Road. The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and Sol Duc Campground are both here.

Drive to the Sol Duc Falls trailhead at the end of Sol Duc Road. This 1.6-mile out-and-back hike will take you through old-growth forests and lush rainforests. At the end, Sol Duc Falls cascades 48 feet into the canyon below.

If you’d like to add another hike, this section of Olympic National Park has the Lover’s Lane Loop (5.8 miles), Mink Lake Trail (5.2 miles), and Ancient Groves Nature Trail (0.6 miles). Although these trails vary in length, they’re mostly flat and easy.

Eat an early lunch and then drive to the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort for an afternoon of relaxation. An adult session is 1.5 hours and costs $18. You’ll have access to three mineral hot spring soaking pools and one freshwater pool. Children aged 4-11 and senior adults cost $12 per session.

If you’re up for it, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort offers boat tours, paddleboard rentals, and bike rentals. As you explore, enjoy the beauty of the lakes in this region and the Quinault Rainforest. Then, return for dinner at the Roosevelt Dining Room and savor an entree of salmon, duck, pasta, or steak.

Finally, we suggest booking a sunset boat tour of Lake Quinault. It’s about an hour and a half tour and provides opportunities to see bald eagles or river otters. This is a great way to end day two in Olympic National Park.

Jason and our dog standing at the foot of a waterfall.

Day 3 In Olympic National Park – Coastline

For the third day of your trip, we suggest you leave the national park for a few hours and drive out to Cape Flattery and the Makah reservation. This is a stunning drive to the northwest corner of the U.S. Jason is ⅛ Makah, and his grandfather was born on the reservation.

The 1.2-mile Cape Flattery Trail is an easy hike, and the 19.3-mile Cape Flattery Tribal Scenic Byway is excellent for road bikers. For lunch, grab a bite at the Warmhouse Restaurant, where you’ll see Jason’s grand-uncle’s fish hanging behind the register!

In the afternoon, drive back into Olympic National Park and revisit the beaches. Rialto Beach is about 60 miles from the Warmhouse Restaurant. It features rocky beaches, giant drift logs, pounding waves, and views of offshore islands.

If the tide is low, enjoy searching for marine life in the tidepools or strolling the shoreline. Walk to the famous Hole-in-the-Wall, a sea-carved arch about 1.5 miles north of Rialto Beach.

The coastline in Olympic National Park on a blue bird day and some rocks in the distance of the ocean.

When Is the Best Time To Visit Olympic National Park?

We wouldn’t recommend spending less than three days in Olympic National Park. We didn’t even mention the Hurricane Ridge area, which was damaged in a fire. The visitor center is currently closed, but when this section opens again, you’ll want to add another day to your itinerary.

If you can spend four or five days in this beautiful northwest corner of Washington, you’ll get to see, do, and experience Olympic more leisurely and have some mornings or afternoons of rest.

We also suggest visiting when the visitor center and ranger stations are open in the summer. That way, you can obtain maps, ask questions, and get up-to-date conditions on trails and road closures.

The rainy season begins in the fall, so avoid heading to the Pacific Northwest after September.

Are There Places To Camp Inside Olympic National Park?

There are several places to camp inside Olympic National Park. Backcountry camping is permitted, but you need a Wilderness Permit for all overnight stays in the Olympic wilderness.

Tent campers or RVers wanting to stay in a developed campground have several options. Fairholme, Kalaloch, Mora, Hoh Rain Forest, and Staircase campgrounds take summer reservations.

You can also book an RV site at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort or the Log Cabin RV Resort. When choosing a campsite, consider the distance you’ll need to drive to visit the various locations.

If you want to spend most of your time in the Hoh Rainforest or Sol Duc area, stick to the western side of Olympic National Park.

Pro Tip: Check out Olympic National Park Camping: How to Score a Spot when you start planning your trip.

A picture of the words RV PARKING painted on pavement.

You Can Visit Olympic National Park In Just 3 Days!

Although Olympic National Park covers almost one million acres, you can experience the lush landscape and rugged coastline in three days. Be ready for a whirlwind adventure, though. You’ll want three full days to make the most of your visit. But it’s worth it!

Have you ever visited Olympic National Park? Would you add anything to our 3-day itinerary?

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