Olympic National Park may be only a couple hours from the congestion and sprawl of Seattle but it might as well be a world away. In Olympic, skyscrapers are replaced with towering spruce and the park’s interior remains wild, remote, and without pavement. The park is massive and diverse, offering visiting families a wide variety of things to do during a multi-day visit. Need some direction in planning your family’s Olympic NP vacation? Here are five experiences you definitely want on your itinerary.
Hike to a waterfall – The most heavily photographed spot in Olympic National Park is Sol Duc Falls and anyone who has stood in their presence knows why- they cascade into the forest with such a silken elegance and power, it is impossible not to be captivated. The hike to the falls is an easy 1.8 mile walk through an impossibly green forest, crossing several short footbridges and meandering streams along the way. The view of this falls is from above, and getting sprayed by mist as you peer over a bridge at the cascade feels like being rained on from below.
Soak in historic hot springs – After your waterfall walk, head back up the road a couple miles to the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and soak in its three mineral pools . The therapeutic value of these springs has been known to Native American tribes for generations and people today still swear by their healing properties. Kids may not care much about soothing aching joints but they will love wading around in the surprisingly slippery warm water, especially when the weather its typical chilly and damp self.
Experience a Pacific Northwestern beach day – The beaches of Hawaii and Florida may have a leg up on Olympic National Park in the “sunny and palm tree lined” department but that doesn’t mean that Olympic’s beaches aren’t stunning or worthy of exploration- quite the contrary! These beaches are raw and wild, with a relentlessly pounding Pacific and thick temperate rainforests forming a barrier to the east. The tide pools of Beach 4 are filled with massive anemones, brilliant purple urchins, and the most sea stars I have ever seen in one place. Kids will love climbing on massive spruce and fir driftwood logs which were formerly tossed around like toothpicks by stormy seas until smooth and silvery gray (just make sure the tide is out and waves are a good distance away).
Walk through the rainforest – When most people think of rain forests, hot and humid swaths of jungle typically crowd their minds. The temperate rain forests of Olympic are impressively wet, receiving about 150 inches of rain per year, incredibly lush, and much cooler than their tropic counterparts. One of the best places for families to receive an introduction to this rare ecosystem is on the Hall of Mosses trail inside the Hoh Rain Forest. This 0.8 mile loop trail winds through a pristine old growth forest where families will marvel at trees growing from the logs of fallen giants, mosses hanging like forest curtains, and a stream so clear that you can see a tiny forest of water plants growing along its bottom.
Breathe in that fresh mountain air – No vacation to Olympic National Park is complete without a trip up to see the mountains that are its namesake. The easiest spot to reach is Hurricane Ridge, just 17 miles for Port Angeles. The views at this mile high location are spectacular whether they are of Sequim and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the snowy Olympic peaks looming in the distance, or the brilliant wild flowers blooming in the short lived summer sun. Snow often lingers into July, delighting kids on winter withdrawal, and alpine-loving wildlife is abundant.
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for exclusive travel deals!
IMG Cred: Sharlene Earnshaw