Olympic National Park, in Washington State, offers a wide range of vistas and climates to visitors.
Temperate beaches, humid rain forest valleys and frigid mountain peaks are just a few of the offerings on display. More than 95 percent of the park is designated wilderness, making it a popular destination hikers and campers, or for visitors who want to be one with nature.
The park is easily accessible from U.S. Highway 101, making it an easy trip from Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia, Washington. The closest airport to the Olympic Peninsula is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and the park is also accessible by ferry from Victoria, British Columbia.
The Olympic National Park Visitor Center is located in Port Angeles, Washington, and offers fascinating interactive exhibits on the park's history and natural beauty. A half-hour video is shown regularly to help visitors get oriented with the park.
Camping in Washington State is an extremely popular activity especially in Olympic National Park; Each year, almost 40,000 people do it!
All overnight visitors must obtain a Wilderness Camping Permit, available at the Wilderness Information Center, Quinalt Wilderness Office, Forks Recreation Information Station and Staircase Ranger Station. It is recommended that visitors call the WIC for information on permits ahead of time; the phone number is (360) 565-3100. The fee is $5 for groups, plus $2 per person per night, except for children under 15 years. An annual pass costs $30, plus $15 for additional household members.
Olympic has a vast array of hiking trails suitable for all levels. They cover three major areas: the Coast, the Valleys and the Mountains. Here are listed only a few of the many trails covering these areas:
The Coast: The Ozette Loop is an easy 9-mile trail in the North Olympic Coast, featuring miles of wilderness coast and the possibility to glimpse bald eagles. In the South Olympic Coast, more advanced hikers can experience fantastic ocean views and wildlife viewing opportunities on the 17-mile South Coast Route.
The Valleys: The Elwha River Trail is a moderately difficult 28.4-mile hike through the park's largest watershed in the Northeast Valley. Further south, the Dosewallips River Trail is another moderate hike through 14.9 miles of river and ancient forest.
The Mountains: In the northwest, the moderate 18-mile High Divide Loop offers fantastic vistas upon Mount Olympus, along with elk and bear sightings. Avid climbers can scale Mountain Olympus, also in the northwest,
from late June through mid-August. The four to six mile climb from Glacier Meadows to the summit is rated moderate to difficult,
and takes place in a glacial climate.