Seattle to Olympic National Park: The Ultimate Scenic Road Trip
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If you’re traveling to Washington state, then the opportunity to road trip from Seattle to Olympic National Park is an opportunity that you can’t pass up.
Whether you are a beginner or avid hiker, camper, or just your every day adventurer, this park will blow your mind.
2.5 million people actually visit Olympic National Park every year, according to NPS (National Park Service), with increasing numbers of visitors each year
You can easily spend weeks exploring the entirety of Olympic National Park, if not months! Several folks actually live and work there year round, which would absolutely be the dream in my opinion.
Getting there from Seattle can be quite the feat depending on the time of the year with ferry schedules, entrance closures, etc.
Good thing you decided to make a plan.
Seattle To Olympic National Park: How to Get There
The best time of year for this trip would be spring through fall where you can see everything from snow, to wildflowers, and the beautiful changing of the leaves.
However, no matter what time of year you are coming, you’ll have to first settle on which entrance you want to direct your road trip from Seattle to. The park and surrounding peninsula is gigantic and you can’t drive straight through the park.
The Different Olympic National Park Entrances and Where They Are on The Olympic Peninsula
So, before we dive into all the different parts of the park and their entrances, keep in mind that there are 2 parts to the Olympic Peninsula:
- The national forest
- The national park
You can get into parts of the forest without a pass but you will need one for the park part. I actually recommend to get the “America The Beautiful” Annual Pass that covers entrance fees to all national parks in the U.S. for a one time fee of $80. We get the pass every year and it is 100% worth it.
As you plan your trip to the Olympic Peninsula, here are the different entrances you can use to get there:
- Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles: Northern Olympic Peninsula (near the ferry station for Victoria, BC and Vancouver Island, BC Canada)
- Hurricane Ridge: Located about 17 miles south from Port Angeles (in the northern part of the park)
- Heart O’ The Hills: Go through this entrance and beautiful area on your way to Hurricane Ridge.
- Lake Crescent: In the northern parthe peninsula.
- Mora Range Station: Near Rialto beach in Forks, WA (towards the Pacific coast)
- Kalaloch: On the pacific coast
- Quinault Rainforest: Take a right turn on your way up to Kalaloch and check out the rainforest and lake before in this entrance.
- Hoh Rainforest: 31 miles south of Forks off U.S. Highway 101
- Staircase/Hoodsport: In the south Hood canal (stop at the Lake Cushman Lookout spot on your way)
You don’t need to make any sort of reservations when coming to the park for day time activities. However, if you are looking to find lodging within the park, you can look at the various lodges and their availability on their website to make reservations. If you want to go camping, then you will need to go to NPS for reservations.
How to Respect Native Land When Visiting
The Olympic National Park isn’t only beautiful, it’s also stolen land.
There are 8 tribes that inhabit the Olympic Peninsula and they continue to recognise a relationship to the park based on their own traditional land use, origin, beliefs, and practices.
The 8 tribes are:
- Lower Elwha Klallam
- Jamestown S’Klallam
- Port Gamble S’Klallam
When visiting the Olympic National Park and Forest, as well as any park and destination in America and other countries, be sure to research the land and indigenous people of that area (you can use a tool like Native Land Digital to do this). Google the tribe names of each area and visit their websites for any special information on accessing those lands (some will restrict access).
A couple of things to remember when visiting:
- Leave No Trace: Plan ahead before you go, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be respectful of other visitors.
- Show your support and donate to the tribes of that land, or to the Native American Rights Fund works to protect the natural resources of Native lands.
From Seattle to Port Angeles and Hurricane Ridge
When you’re coming from Seattle, you’re going to take the Seattle to Bremerton ferry. Be sure to book your ferry ahead of time and try to arrive 15-30 minutes before departure so you aren’t blocked by long lines. The total time for the ferry ride will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on weather and water conditions.
Once you arrive in Bremerton and get off the ferry, you can choose to do some sightseeing around the area or on your way to the peninsula. If sight seeing is something you want to do along the way, I recommend stopping to check out Scenic Beach on the Hood Canal off of 3 North (off the Newberry Hill Road exit).
If you want to skip the sights, continue straight onto 305 North. From 305 North, take 3 North towards Olympic Peninsula.
From there, take 104 west and 101 north to North Race Street in Port Angeles, a left on North Race Street then continue on Mt. Angeles Road. Then a slight right onto Hurrican Ridge Road where there is the entrance that will ask for your entrance fee or park pass.
Click the below map image to go straight to the directions and start your journey.
From Seattle to Kalaloch
Kalaloch beach is a beautiful and wide pacific coast beach with a lodge, camping grounds, and in close proximity to both the Quinault Rainforest and the Hoh Rainforest.
If you’re looking for some of the most iconic hiking trails, check out the Enchanted Valley via the East Fork Quinault River after your time playing on the beach in Kalaloch.
To get to Kalaloch, you have 2 options. You can take the Seattle to Bremerton Ferry and take an hour longer to get there, or take all land highways starting I-5 N.
Click the map image below to go straight to the directions, plan ample time to get out for stops and take gorgeous pictures of scenery, and don’t forget to pack snacks!
From Seattle to Hoh Rainforest
You either access the Hoh Rainforest by going north on 101 from Kalaloch or from the other direction driving on 101 South from Forks, WA.
If you plan to go to Hoh Rainforest, I suggest you also try to knock out everything else on that side of the park. You can definitely do Hoh Rainforest, Kalaloch, and Quinault Rainforest in 1 day due to their close proximity (definitely recommend you spend . However, everything else in the park is hard to reach from this side since you can’t drive through it.
Similar to getting to Kalaloch, the fastest route is via land highways only but you can still get there via the Seattle to Bremerton ferry if you want to experience the ferry ride and plan on going to the other entrances like Hurricane Ridge. I absolutely love riding the ferry and camping in the summer near both of these would make for a beautiful week.
Refer to the below directions for both routes. Click the image to go straight to real time navigation.
From Seattle to Hoodsport
The Hoodsport location consists of the Staircase Ranger Station, Lake Cushman, gorgeous views of mountains, tons of hiking trails, and the Skokomish River. On your way there, be sure to stop at the Lake Cushman Lookout spot and catch the below view.
We love this location the most because of how much of a hidden gem it is. It is one of the least visited locations in the park since it is farthest away from the coast, but one of the most rewarding. We also love the Olympic Bakery near this location’s entrance that you can’t pass up if you decide on visiting this area.
To get to Hoodsport from Seattle, Start on I-5 N to 16 West and take the Tacoma Narrows bridge across. Click the below map for the full directions and start your live navigation.
What to Expect
Before you hit the ground running *literally*, be sure you are prepared for your trip before you go.
Follow the below trip preparedness checklist to make sure you aren’t hit with any last minute surprises that could completely derail your trip:
- Have you planned out your route and made the necessary reservations (ferry, lodging, etc)?
- If you’re renting a car, is it equipped for some of the gravel roads and dirt roads in the park or equipped for the season you are going (winter can be tricky as many parts of the park may not be plowed)?
- Have you visited the Olympic National Park website for any entrance closure information and any weather alerts to be aware of?
- Have you purchased your park pass?
- Have you dressed appropriately for the weather and activity you want to do when you get there?
- Have you packed snacks, first aid, etc? Don’t forget water!
Have Fun Exploring The Olympic Peninsula
Alright, I think we’ve prepared you as much as possible. If you follow all the advice in this article, you are sure to have an amazing time!
After you go, share with us your experiences below in the comments! We love to keep our content as up to date as possible.
Happy hiking and road tripping!
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Dani is an entrepreneur and one of the creators of hikingandroadtrips.com. She is obsessed with everything outdoors, especially hiking, traveling and will take any opportunity to #getoutside for adventure or to just vibe with the earth.