Olympic National Park is a park that seems to have it all – wild beaches, majestic mountains, mossy rainforests, gushing waterfalls, and much more. The park is so diverse, and there is so much to explore and discover on your 2 days in Olympic National Park itinerary!
Years ago, I saw a photo of the super lush Hoh Rainforest, and immediately put it on my bucket list. I was in awe of the vibrant shades of green, the moss-covered trees, and the ferns covering every inch of the forest – it looked like a scene from another planet!
After finally getting the chance to visit it in person (spoiler alert: it was incredible!), and having explored some of the other top sights in Olympic National Park, it’s ended up at the top of my list of favorite National Parks (Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Joshua Tree are some other favorites).
Washington has some epic destinations – vibrant cities like Seattle, and two other awe-inspiring National Parks (Mount Rainier and North Cascades) – but Olympic National Park is a place you absolutely MUST visit!
This is because while yes, all the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, but also because of the incredible diversity of ecosystems that the park offers – temperate rainforest, alpine mountains, wild coastline, evergreen forests, and much more. It’s a park that has it all!
The park is HUGE – over 1400 square miles – so you won’t see it all on your Olympic National Park 2 day itinerary. However, you’ll get to experience a little bit of everything, and get to see all the highlights that make this park truly special.
Here’s everything you need to know when planning your 2 day Olympic National Park itinerary – from must-know logistics and travel tips (trust me, you’ll be glad you knew about them!) + all the must-dos in the park!
Before You Go: Travel Tips for Your Olympic National Park Itinerary
First things first – the logistics! There are surprisingly a *lot* of things that will be super helpful to know before planning a trip to Olympic National Park, some of which may not seem super obvious at first (at least, it didn’t to us when we started our planning).
So, before getting into the actual 2 days in Olympic National Park itinerary, here are a ton of tips and things to know about visiting! I know, I know, boring stuff, but TRUST ME – you’ll be glad you read this section!
A few things to know about this Olympic National Park itinerary
This Olympic National Park 2 day itinerary goes in a counter-clockwise direction
This itinerary assumes you’re coming from Seattle. The first day of this itinerary focuses on Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent, and the second day focuses on the rainforests and beaches.
Since it takes around three hours to drive from Seattle to Hurricane Ridge (the first stop on this Olympic National Park itinerary), I highly recommend spending the night in Port Townsend or Port Angeles, so that you are close to the park and ready to go on the first day. I then recommend staying in Forks, which is roughly in the middle, on the second (and third) night.
If you are coming from Olympia, simply go backwards.
The park is HUGE
A lot of people underestimate exactly how big Olympic National Park is – it encompasses nearly a million acres, so it is HUGE! You’ll do a LOT of driving to get around the park. The different areas of the park aren’t even connected, so you’ll need to spend a lot of time traveling in between them.
This 2 day Olympic National Park itinerary is organized to go in one direction, so that you’re being efficient and not wasting a lot of time doing a lot of useless driving.
The weather is VERY unpredictable
I think we experienced all four seasons in one day! We would experience fog in the mountains, pouring rain near the waterfalls, and then bright sunshine on the beaches – all in one day! Pack lots of layers to be prepared for all climates.
I suggest checking out the park’s webcams before visiting so you get a sense of current conditions.
Also be advised that the park has several distinct ecosystems, and the weather can be different in each. For example, it will be at least 10-15 degrees cooler up in the higher elevations of Hurricane Ridge than it is in the beaches and rainforests. Pack and prepare accordingly – bring layers!
Get an America the Beautiful Pass
This pass allows you entry into any federal recreation area, including National Parks, National Forests, National Recreation Areas, and more. At $80 for a year of access, it’s a steal!
It’s also super convenient because you don’t have to find an open ranger station or visitor center to pay your park fee, which is helpful if you want to get into the park early in the morning. Also, do note that some of the attractions are on National Forest land, so this pass covers both.
Not everything is on National Parks land
One thing that I didn’t realize is that not all of the attractions that Olympic National Park is known for are on actual National Parks land. We found ourselves going in and out of the actual park during our 2 day Olympic National Park itinerary.
Before the land was turned into a National Park, it was the home of the Klallam, Makah, Skokomish, Quileute, Hoh and Quinalt people. While they ceded the land to the US government through several treaties in 1855 and 1856, they still live on reservations in the area today.
Some of the places listed on this itinerary – specifically, the La Push beaches – are located on Quileute Nation land and have their own rules and regulations (and rightfully so, as the land belongs to them and they are sharing it with the public).
This may mean that they are subject to their own closures, separate from the park. For example, this area had not reopened after the pandemic closures, even while the rest of the park had.
There’s still plenty to do and see, just be aware. You can keep track of any current and upcoming closures by checking the park website.
There are also a few places that are managed by the US Forest Service, i.e. the Quinault Rainforest. You will have to pay additional entry fees to access these spots, although I suggest getting an America the Beautiful pass, which covers both the National Parks and Forest service.
Check for closures
The park is spread out and it’s going to take a while to drive between its main highlights. Plan ahead by checking for any closures – you don’t want to drive an hour to get halfway to somewhere, only to find out the road is closed the rest of the way.
Additionally, if you have your heart set on seeing something, check for any upcoming closures to make sure it will be open during your visit.
For example, they were doing maintenance work on the trails in the Hoh Rainforest, which was at the very top of my list of things to see! Luckily, we timed our trip for when it was open, but it was closed the week before and after. Good thing we looked first, because otherwise I would’ve been heartbroken!
There’s not much cell service
Much of the park has no cell service, and for those areas where we were able to find a little bit of reception, it was super spotty. Be sure to download offline maps before arriving in the park, as GPS probably won’t be too reliable.
Bring your own food
Again, the park is HUGE and there’s not much in terms of food options within the park. Pack a lunch (grab something to eat at one of the towns), and take it with you to enjoy while you’re out exploring the park. Bring plenty of snacks for the car as well.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many of the restaurants in the towns (specifically in Forks) also close pretty early. We visited in June and we were out to watch the sunset, which was around 9pm, but all the restaurants closed around 8pm. We stocked up on some instant noodles at H-Mart in Seattle, and they came in clutch!
Wildlife in Olympic National Park
Keep in mind that wildlife sightings are common in Olympic National Park, because well, you are in nature after all. The park is home to 56 species of mammals and over 300 species of birds, and I personally thought that seeing all the animals was a highlight of our 2 days in Olympic National Park!
Some of the animals you may see include black-tail deer, Roosevelt elk, cougars, bald eagles, Olympic marmots, otters, seals, sea lions, and more! You may even spot whales and porpoises in the water in the spring, summer, and fall.
Bear sightings are also common – we saw a black bear and her cub on the side of the road. It is important to know what to do in case you encounter a bear – stay a safe distance away, don’t approach it, avoid eye contact, and avoid sudden movements (don’t run – walk away slowly). Carrying bear spray is never a bad idea. For more information about bear safety, read this guide from the NPS.
How many days in Olympic National Park?
Personally, I think that 2 days is the absolute minimum that you need to spend in Olympic National Park in order to see its highlights. Look, the park is massive, so you won’t get to see it all – not even close!
With some ideal planning, taking a 2 day trip to Olympic National Park will allow you to experience the park’s distinct ecosystem, which is what makes it unique. You’ll get to see the top sights that the park is known for, including Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Falls, Lake Crescent, the Hoh Rainforest, and some of its beaches.
This 2 days in Olympic National Park itinerary does not include any long or difficult hikes – if you’re looking to do a lot of hiking, then I would recommend adding an extra day or two.
That being said, there’s plenty to see and do in the park to keep you occupied for a week – if you have extra time to devote (I certainly wish we did!), I’d consider staying for more than two days.
About the regions of Olympic National Park
At nearly a million acres, Olympic National Park is one of the largest National Parks in the country, boasting several distinct ecosystems. You’ll find sandy beaches, towering peaks, glacial lakes, and temperate rainforests within the park.
To help plan your itinerary, I’ve split up the park into four regions:
- Hurricane Ridge: You’ll be in the highest elevations in the park, where you’ll find stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges.
- Lake Crescent and Sol Duc Valley: The area of the park that borders Port Angeles, and the closest to Seattle. You’ll find a crystal clear glacial lake in Lake Crescent, as well as gushing waterfalls, and evergreen forests.
- Pacific Coast: The most accessible beaches in the area are mostly centered around Forks and La Push. The more remote northern coast also boasts some beautiful beaches, but you likely won’t have enough time when visiting Olympic National Park in 2 days.
- Rainforests: You’ll find the largest temperate rainforest in the county in the Hoh Rainforest, as well as the less visited Quinault Rainforest further south.
When to visit Olympic National Park
Most of Olympic National Park is accessible year-round, thanks to its low elevation and location bordering the coast. The exception to this is Hurricane Ridge, which sits at the highest elevations, and may be inaccessible in the winter due to snow.
Keep in mind that there may be seasonal closures in certain areas of the parks, as well as on some road – keep updated on current closures here.
There’s not really a bad time to visit Olympic National Park – the park is beautiful year-round, and offers a different experience based on when you visit. However, outside of summer, you should prepare for rain.
That said, no matter what season you visit, prepare for unpredictable weather! We visited in early June, and I kid you not, we literally experienced all four seasons during our two days in Olympic National Park! From golden sunlight, pouring rain, high winds, and thick fog, we experienced it all.
Note that because the park is so big and has a variety of ecosystems, the weather in one side of the park may be completely different than in another area (kinda like San Francisco microclimates, I guess). We would literally be caught in a torrential downpour in the forests, and then experience the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen – just an hour later!
Be prepared for all conditions by packing layers!
There seems to be two camps of people when you ask when the best time to visit Olympic National Park is – one group who votes for the warmest summer months, and others who pick the cooler weather months, when they virtually have the park to themselves.
Personally, I think late spring-early summer and early fall is the perfect time to visit – you get mild weather (but again, still unpredictable), longer days, and the least amount of closures.
But in any case, here is a rundown of what to expect when visiting Olympic National Park at different times of the year, so you can choose when to visit:
Summer is generally considered the best time to visit Olympic National Park, as the weather is usually mild and pleasant. You’ll see the most sunny days, and the warmest temperatures, and mostly everything is open during these months.
Do note that even with warmer days, with highs hovering around the 70s, nights tend to get a bit chilly, with average lows in the 50s. The mountains also stay relatively chilly, with highs in the mid 50s and lows in the 30s. Be sure to pack a jacket!
That said, it is also the busiest time in the park, especially in July and August. You’ll probably be fighting crowds in the most popular parts of the park (i.e. the Hoh Rainforest), and accommodation prices tend to be the highest and sell out quickly (plan ahead!).
To avoid the crowds, I recommend visiting the busiest areas of the park early in the morning (before 10am). This way, you’ll avoid having to fight for parking, and it will still be relatively peaceful.
We visited in the first week of June, and thought it was the perfect time to go! The weather was warm-ish, and the days were long (sunset was after 9pm), but the crowds hadn’t shown up yet, so the park was still relatively quiet.
Early fall is also an ideal time to visit Olympic National Park – specifically right after Labor Day into early October – as the temperatures still stay relatively mild and the crowds start to thin out.
During the month of October, the foliage in the park starts to transform into vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow, making it a beautiful time to visit! It’s also rutting season, and you may spot active elk on the Peninsula.
However, do note that the weather can be unpredictable in the fall, especially as you get deeper into the season. Average highs in the beaches and rainforests hover between the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit, but it drops into the 40s at night. The highs in the mountains are in the 40s, and can drop into the 20s. Remember to dress warmly!
While the weather in the lower elevations in the park may still stay relatively mild earlier in the fall, snowstorms can start as early as September in the mountains. If you are dead set on seeing the mountains, I suggest visiting in the summer instead. As always, keep tabs on any closures that may be happening around this time.
Winter is the low season in Olympic National Park, and when you’ll see the fewest visitors. One of the people. Someone I follow on Instagram recently visited in the winter, and said it was such an amazing time to go because she felt like she basically had the entire park to herself!
That said, winter is going to be cold, and prone to the most closures, so you might not be able to see all of the park. The highs at the lower elevations in the park are only in the 40s, with the lows dipping below freezing, so pack plenty of warm winter layers.
You’ll also experience the most rain during the winter months – up to 50 inches in the rainforests (hence, why they stay so green)! This makes it not the best time for exploring, but if you do choose to visit, you will absolutely want to bring some waterproof clothing to stay dry.
The mountains are going to see a ton of snow, so be sure to keep updated on any road closures. Also note that Hurricane Ridge is only open on the weekends for winter recreation activities.
While temperatures start to warm up during the spring months, it will still be relatively wet. The rains do turn the landscape into a lush green, and the waterfalls will be gushing with water, so spring is still a beautiful time to visit Olympic National Park!
Expect there to still be snow in the higher elevations in March and April, but it starts to melt off in May. Do note that there may still be snow on the trails until you hit the middle of summer (there was still snow on parts of the Hurricane Ridge trail when we visited in early June). The mountains will still be cold – highs in the 40s, and lows in the 20s, so still bring warm layers!
The rest of the park will warm up and start seeing highs in the 60s, and lows in the mid 40s. Still, expect it to be rainy – bring a waterproof jacket and shoes to stay dry!
Getting to Olympic National Park
Most likely, you’ll be coming from Seattle, as that’s where you will find the closest international Airport (Sea-Tac). From here, pick up your rental car (I recommend booking one on rentalcars.com) and make your way over to the Olympic Peninsula! The trip takes roughly 2.5-3 hours.
FYI, you’re probably going to get varying directions on your GPS based on where in the park you’re looking to head to. For the purposes of this Olympic National Park 2 day itinerary, you’re going to be starting at the Port Angeles Visitors Center, so I’ll explain how to get there.
Have an extra day in Seattle before your after your 2 day trip to Olympic National Park? Here are the best things to do in Seattle in one day!
From Seattle via Tacoma and Highway 101
This route is pretty easy and straightforward – just plug it into your GPS, and drive! There are no ferries to deal with (and no ferry toll to pay).
Once you pick up your rental car at Sea-Tac, head south towards Tacoma. You’ll cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and head north on the Hood Canal (do note that the Hood Canal Bridge closes occasionally for boat traffic). Eventually, you will connect to Highway 101, which will lead you into the park.
From Seattle via the Bainbridge Ferry
Taking the Bainbridge Ferry to get to Olympic National Park takes roughly the same amount of time as taking I-5 and Highway 101. And, in my personal opinion, it is the more fun way! Besides, Washington is known for its ferries (we took several on our trip, during which we also visited San Juan and Whidbey Islands), so you need to experience it at least once in your life!
Once you pick up your rental car (I recommend booking one on rentalcars.com), you will want to head to the Bainbridge Ferry Terminal in downtown Seattle. From here, you’re going to hop on the Bainbridge Ferry. The ferry runs fairly frequently – every 50 minutes or so. Be sure to check out the ferry schedule to plan your departure.
Unlike some of the other ferries in Washington, this one does not require any advance reservations – simply show up to the terminal, pay your fare, and drive straight onto the ferry.
Once you park the car, you can head on up to the passenger decks to check out the view, which is stunning (it has one of the best views of the Seattle skyline)! The crossing takes about 35 minutes, and it is another hour and a half from Bainbridge Island to Port Angeles and the entrance of the park.
Fares are calculated based on the size of your car, and the number of passengers. There is a base fare that includes the car + driver, and each additional passenger is an additional cost. For reference, we paid about $20 for our small rental car (a Nissan Leaf), and three passengers.
From Seattle via Olympia on I-5 and Highway 101
This usually is a longer route, but may be shorter if there is traffic. It is also a route to consider at the end of your two days in Olympic National Park, if you follow this itinerary and depart from either Forks or the southern part of the park (i.e. Lake Quinault).
Other ways to get to Olympic National Park
If you are not coming from Seattle, here are some other ways to get to Olympic National Park:
- From Portland: Take the I-5 to Olympia, where you will connect to Highway 101 to Port Angeles. The trip takes about 4 hours and 15 minutes. Alternately, consider doing this itinerary backwards, as you will be closer to the southern end of the park.
- From Victoria, BC: There are two daily ferry departures that connect Victoria, BC to Port Angeles. The crossing takes an hour and a half. You will pay a fare for your vehicle + driver, with additional passengers at an additional cost. There is a reservation fee as well. Here are the schedules + fares for your reference.
- From Vancouver: Take the I-5 to Seattle and follow the directions above. The trip usually takes about 5 hours and 15 minutes, but you need to add additional time for the border crossing into the United States. You can also take the ferry to Victoria, and another ferry to Port Angeles, but it is probably faster to drive.
- From Anacortes/Coupeville: We went to San Juan Island prior to Olympic National Park, so this is the way we came. This is also the best way to travel from anywhere on Whidbey Island. You will take the ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend – here is the schedule + fares. A reservation is recommended for the busy summer season.
Getting Around in the Olympic Peninsula
You absolutely need a car for your trip to Olympic National Park – there’s not much in terms of public transportation in the area.
While some National Parks have a single road that goes through the entire park (i.e. Joshua Tree or Bryce Canyon), there is no such thing in Olympic National Park. However, Highway 101 basically goes around the entire peninsula, so you can reach most areas of the park that way.
Again, the park is MASSIVE so it’s going to take a bit of time to drive around to all its different attractions. For example, it takes about two hours to drive from Hurricane Ridge to Hoh Rainforest. You’re going to want to plan an efficient route so you aren’t wasting time driving from one end of the park to the other constantly (luckily for you, this is where I come in with this 2 day Olympic National Park itinerary!).
You’ll spend a LOT of time driving, so be sure to use the bathroom whenever you get a chance – you’ll find toilets at all the major sights, but there aren’t many facilities (if any) in between them. And bring some snacks for the road to prevent yourself from getting hangry!
The roads here are pretty well maintained and accessible, and you don’t need a special kind of vehicle to get around. Do note that there are often seasonal closures, and there may be construction going on, so be sure to check up on current conditions. You don’t want to drive an hour somewhere only to be turned away because the rest of the road is closed!
Where to find gas near Olympic National Park
There are gas stations in Port Angeles and in Forks. There are no gas stations within the actual park boundaries – so plan ahead and fill up! You’ll likely be driving around a LOT and the park is pretty remote, so you don’t want to run out of gas.
Entrance fees for Olympic National Park
As with most other National Parks in the US, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee to access most of the sights in the park.
It costs $30 per vehicle to enter the park, $25 for motorcycles, and $15 for walk-in and bicycle entry (per person). Your entry pass is valid for seven consecutive days. You can pay this fee at any visitors center, ranger station, or pay station.
If you plan to visit at least three National Parks over the course of a year, I *HIGHLY* recommend purchasing an America the Beautiful Pass. For $80, it grants you unlimited entry into any federally managed recreation area, including National Parks, National Forests, National Recreation Areas, and more.
Another perk of the America the Beautiful Pass is that you won’t have to make an extra stop or wait in line in order to pay your entrance fee – an absolute time saver during busy months! You can also enter the park before the visitors centers and ranger stations are open. Simply display the pass on your dashboard and you’re good to go!
One thing to note about Olympic National Park in particular is that not all of its main highlights are located on actual National Parks land – you’ll be going in and out. Some of the sights are no-fee areas, while some are on National Forest land. If you have an America the Beautiful Pass, your pass will cover those areas as well.
What to pack for Olympic National Park
As the weather in Olympic National Park is quite unpredictable, you’ll want to be prepared for all situations! We literally experienced all four seasons during our 2 day trip to Olympic National Park, and we were glad we packed all the things to be ready for it all.
Even when visiting in the warmer summer months, it gets chilly at night and in the mountains, so you’re going to want to pack layers.
Here are some things to pack for your trip to Olympic National Park:
- Waterproof hiking boots: Sneakers are a no-no – it’s way too wet and muddy, so they’ll get dirty and your feet will get wet fast! And leave those fancy shoes at home!
- Socks: Depending on the time of year you’re visiting you’ll either pack moisture-wicking active socks, or warm wool socks.
- Rain jacket: At the very least, bring a packable rain jacket that you can just throw in your back. Although…I kinda wish I packed my trench rain coat instead (it’s cute for photos too!).
- Puffy Jacket: A warm jacket will come in handy for those chilly nights! Bring something lightweight and packable, like the Patagonia NanoPuff (my fave!), or the Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Parka (a good budget option).
- Fleece zip-up: Makes a nice, comfortable, and warm layer.
- Base layer: Good to have for chillier days
- Sunglasses: Despite the fact that the area is known to be rainy, it can be BRIGHT up in the mountains! Grab a polarized pair – I love the ones from Goodr, as they’re also cute and affordable!
- Sunscreen: On that note, be sure to bring some SPF – this is my favorite face sunscreen!
- Water: Pick up some water before heading into the park, because there aren’t very many places to fill up. Fill up a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic usage as well.
- Power bank: Your phone is likely going to drain its battery as it tries to connect to cell reception. Plus, you’ll probably snap a bunch of photos and videos! Stay powered up with a portable charger.
- Camera: The park is so beautiful that you’ll snap tons and tons of photos! A phone camera will do, but consider bringing a dSLR for upgraded images. The Sony a6000 is my favorite travel camera!
- Binoculars: For all the wildlife you’ll see!
- Collapsible lantern: If you plan to be out for sunset, be prepared with some lighting for when it starts to get dark afterwards.
- Snacks + Food: There isn’t much in terms of food available in the park, so plan accordingly. You can stock up before entering the park in Port Angeles, or in Forks. Pack some snacks for the car, and stuff to take on hikes (I always pack some of these protein bars). Also, things close early around here, so if you plan to be out for sunset in the summer after 9pm, all the restaurants may close before then. We picked up some instant noodles before we left Seattle, and they ended up being our dinners!
Where to stay in Olympic National Park
To be super efficient, you’ll probably want to split up your accommodations to stay in different towns as you make your way through the park. This is because of how big the park is – by changing accommodations, you won’t have to waste time by backtracking.
I suggest staying in Port Angeles the first night, before starting this Olympic National Park 2 day itinerary. This way you’ll be close to the park, and be ready to go bright and early the next morning!
Then, I recommend staying in Forks the second night (and third night, if you choose to stay another night before driving back), which puts you near the rest of the itinerary.
One thing to note if you’re visiting in the peak season – accommodations tend to fill up quickly, so book ASAP!
Staying in Port Angeles
This is the biggest city near the park, so you’ll want to take advantage of it while you’re staying there. Here, you’ll find the most restaurants, as well as grocery stores and gas stations. You’ll find the most accommodation options here as well – more “upscale” than the ones we found in Forks.
Here are some suggestions for where to stay in Port Angeles:
- Olympic Lodge: This is known as the best hotel in the area, and while it’s not fancy by any means, it’s clean, comfortable, and cozy. It’s also super close to the eastern edge of the park, which makes it super convenient!
- Red Lion Port Angeles Harbor: A recently renovated property with clean and comfortable rooms, plus a location right on the harbor.
- Sea Cliff Gardens: This charming bed & breakfast is located right next to a cliff with spectacular views, comfortable beds, a delicious breakfast, and wonderful owners.
Staying in Forks
Yes, like in Twilight! Forks totally leans into its Twilight fame, with vampire signs, Twilight tours, and more. Even though I’m not a fan of the movies (or books, for that matter), it was really fun to see!
The town itself is pretty small, but it does have a decently sized grocery store and gas station. There’s also a handful of restaurants, but do note that they close at 8pm – so if you are visiting in the summer and hoping to catch the sunrise, usually after 9pm, you need to have alternate dinner plans.
Some suggestions for where to stay in Forks:
- Forks Motel: Where we stayed – it’s pretty basic, but it’s super clean, the beds were VERY comfortable, and the rooms had a microwave and coffee maker (which was useful for heating up our cup of noodles for dinner). It’s also cheap!
- Dew Drop Inn: We considered staying here as well – it’s very similar to the Forks Motel in terms of rooms, amenities, and price.
- Pacific Inn Motel: This one is right across from the Forks Motel, and has spacious rooms that are recently renovated. They also have a Twilight themed room!
Staying inside Olympic National Park
There are four historic lodges in Olympic National Park (well, technically one of them is right outside of it), each of which offer a unique accommodation experience plus the convenience of staying inside the park. However, prices tend to be high and these accommodations tend to book up super quickly!
Also consider the location of the lodges, as some of them are a bit far and inconvenient to the spots listed on this 2 day Olympic National Park itinerary. If you choose to stay in the park and follow this itinerary, I suggest staying at the Lake Crescent Lodge or Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. If you manage to snag a reservation, I say go for it!
The Perfect 2 Days in Olympic National Park Itinerary
Olympic National Park itinerary DAY 1: Mountains, Lakes, and Waterfalls
Stop at the Visitors Center
Whenever I visit a National Park, I like to start off by stopping at the Visitors Center to pick up a park map, and ask about any trail or road closures, as well as any wildlife sightings. It’s a good way to get information to help you plan your visit to the park (and also take a potty break and fill up on water). You can also pay for any park entrance fees, if necessary, as you make your way into the park.
I suggest either stopping at either the Port Angeles or the main Olympic National Park Visitor Center. The latter is located right on Hurricane Ridge Road, which will be your next stop, and also has an Olympic National Park sign that you can stop and snap some commemorative photos with!
First stop – the mountains! Situated at over 5200 feet in altitude, Hurricane Ridge is the highest point in the park that is accessible by car.
To get here, you’ll drive up the curvy and steep Hurricane Ridge Road, which winds up the mountain for 17 miles. It takes about 45 minutes to drive here (and a bit longer if there’s snow). Don’t worry though – the views just driving up the road are already pretty sweet!
Once you get up to the visitor center though, you are in for a treat- the view from here is absolutely INSANE! You’ll be wowed by a breathtaking view of Mount Olympus and the majestic Olympic Mountains, with alpine meadows in the foreground. You might also spot some deer and Olympic marmot as well. On a super clear day, you can see all the way to Canada (yes, really)!
And the best part – you don’t have to hike anywhere, this is just the view from the visitor center!
If you *do* want to hike, however, there are a few options for trails at Hurricane Ridge. The most popular is the Hurricane Hill hike, which is 3.4 miles round-trip with 700 feet of elevation gain, rated moderate difficulty. We originally planned to do this but ended up skipping it because there was still snow on the trail (yes, in early June) and well, we were kinda cold haha.
However, if you do hike to Hurricane Hill, you will be rewarded with incredible views of the Olympics in the south, with the towering Mount Olympus, and Mount Baker in the east. You’ll also see the Strait of Juan de Fuca and British Columbia to the north, and can even see Victoria and the skyline of Vancouver on a clear day! Definitely want to come back to do this one.
If you are looking for a longer/more difficult hike, there are some options for you as well. You can also do the Sunrise Ridge to Klahhane Ridge trail, which offers sweeping views, including of Mt. Angeles. It is 7 miles, with over 2000 feet elevation gain.
Some things to keep in mind when visiting Hurricane Ridge
- Check conditions on the webcam before you go. Hurricane Ridge is up in the mountains, so conditions are usually different than in the rest of the park – and they change FAST! There’s no point in going if the mountains are completely covered in fog and you can’t see anything anyway. In fact, while we planned to come at the beginning of our itinerary, we ended up having to come back on the last day on our way out of the park because conditions were less than ideal. Once you check the webcam – get up here quick! Things can change quickly here.
- It can get chilly up here. Yes, even in the summer! It tends to be at least 10-20 degrees cooler at Hurricane Ridge than it is in the rainforests and beaches, and it tends to be windy. In fact, the name Hurricane Ridge comes from the fact that there are sometimes hurricane-like gusts of wind (up to 75 mph!) that occasionally happens up here. When we visited, it was in the 60s in the rest of the park, but low 50s at Hurricane Ridge. Be prepared with a warm jacket and layers!
- On that note – snow is common if visiting in spring and fall. If visiting during those times and you want to hike, be prepared for snow. When we visited in early June, there was still a little bit of snow on the Hurricane Hill trail, and we weren’t really prepared so had to skip it.
- Bring sunscreen and sunglasses – you’re higher up in elevation so the sun is stronger here.
- If visiting in winter: Note that Hurricane Ridge Road is only open Friday-Sunday (+ Monday holidays), depending on conditions. Chains are also a requirement. For the most updated conditions, call (360) 565-3131. It’s a good time to play in the snow and partake in some winter recreation, like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding.
Olympic National Park is home to several lakes, but Lake Crescent is the most well known. This area is the starting point for several hikes (more on some of those later), but deserves a stop all on its own on your Olympic National Park 2 day itinerary.
At 625 feet, it is the second deepest lake in Washington and boasts crystal clear blue waters, a result of the glacial waters that fed the lake. The landscape is surrounded by fjord-like green hills (also a result of the glaciers that once covered the mountains), and mountain peaks in the distance.
It is especially gorgeous on a sunny day, when the waters of the lake turn into a vibrant, almost turquoise blue! Unfortunately, it was overcast on the day we visited, and the waters were a bit choppy, but I still found it beautiful (it definitely gave it that iconic moody PNW vibe, which has its own kind of charm!)
There’s plenty to do around Lake Crescent, especially in the summer months, when it is popular for water recreation activities. Kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rentals are available from the Lake Crescent Lodge, which is also worth a stop to experience its rustic charm.
Personally, I loved the views from the northern side of the lake, especially from East Beach, so be sure to explore the shores from there as well!
We stumbled upon the Devil’s Punchbowl while we were exploring the northern side of Lake Crescent, and were wowed by its dazzling aquamarine waters. Even on an overcast day, the water was so vibrantly blue that it almost sparkled!
To get there, you’ll hike a portion of the Spruce Railroad Trail, which is where you’ll find the trailhead and parking lot. Initially, we thought that it would be a 5 mile hike, but were pleasantly surprised to discover that in actuality, it is only 2.4 miles round trip.
The hike starts off on a mostly paved, relatively flat gravel trail. Eventually, you’ll come to an old railroad tunnel. While you can go through the tunnel (careful though – it’s super dark in there so a flashlight is a MUST) and connect to the southern end of Devil’s Punchbowl to make a loop, the easiest way to get there is to take the side trail on the left.
The trail gets a bit steeper once you split off from the tunnel, and there was one small super narrow, unpaved section where we had to help each other out. Overall though, it’s a pretty easy hike (although not exactly stroller or wheelchair friendly). Once you see the bridge, you’ve made it!
You’ll be amazed by the crystal clear blue of the natural pool here – it is truly a sight to behold! It almost reminded me of a cenote in Mexico.
The Devil’s Punchbowl is a popular place to go for a swim in Lake Crescent, although the water is super cold. We saw a group of girls jumping into the pool, and while it looked fun, they looked absolutely FREEZING when they came out. It’s probably super refreshing on a warm summer day, though!
If you wish, you can continue along the rest of the Spruce Railroad Trail, but it’s a pretty long hike at 11 miles round trip. It’s supposed to have some amazing views of the lake, though. However, you’re probably going to be limited on time when trying to see Olympic National Park and there’s plenty more to see – time for our next stop!
Next up – waterfalls! The park is home to tons of waterfalls, but you’ll be exploring two of the most well-known at the end of the first day on your 2 days in Olympic National Park itinerary.
Head on over to the historic Mount Storm King Ranger Station (which actually is super photogenic, with symmetrical windows and evergreen trees), which is the starting point for the trail to Marymere Falls.
It is a short, easy, and family-friendly 1.8 mile round-trip hike. Most of the hike is relatively flat, but there are a series of stairs at the end. The trail itself is super lush and green – you’ll hike through old world forests covered in moss and ferns. It was a treat because it was kind of a preview of what’s to come on day 2, when you’ll explore the actual rainforests in the park!
The trail leads you to a viewpoint of the 90-foot tall Marymere Falls, which is surrounded by moss and ferns, and cascades into a small pool below. There are two viewpoints, and I suggest continuing up the stairs to get to the upper lookout for some stunning views of the falls!
If you’re visiting in the spring, Marymount Falls is especially spectacular as the snowmelt from the mountains feeds it with gushing water.
If you’re looking for a bit of a challenge…
Marymere Falls actually shares the same trail for Mount Storm King, which is one of the most famous hikes in the area. If you have a bit of extra time AND are looking for an extra challenge, you can add this one to your 2 day Olympic National Park itinerary.
Be warned that it’s not an easy hike – while it’s only 4 miles round-trip, it’s got a brutal 2065 feet elevation gain. It is steep and relentless, and you’ll also have to climb up a section with super steep, rocking terrain, when you’ll have to pull yourself up on ropes. FYI, the park does not manage these ropes, so use at your own risk. Not recommended for beginning hikers.
At the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Lake Crescents and the surrounding hillsides. It is especially beautiful at golden hour!
This one is high on my list of bucket list hikes, but I opted not to do it this time around as we were on limited time and felt like it was going to be rushed. We were trying to keep our itinerary relatively chill, and didn’t want to throw in a high-effort hike, at least this time around. I really do want to come back to the park to do this one though!
If you do choose to attempt the Mount Storm King hike, be sure you are prepared! Check the weather and trail conditions – it is not recommended in rainy or overcast conditions. Also, a pair of traction cleats may be a good idea, especially if there is a chance of lingering snow at the top of the trail.
Sol Duc Falls
One last waterfall for the day, and this one is truly special! Sol Duc Falls is one of the most unique waterfalls I’ve ever seen – it’s not just one waterfall, it’s actually THREE (or maybe even four?) of them in one.
It’s a 1.6 mile round-trip hike to get there, and the trail itself is really pretty, with a stroll through a dense forest. However, it was dumping rain when we pulled into the parking lot, and even though we waited it out for a bit in the car, it was still kinda pouring when we hiked so we didn’t really get to stop and take it all in because we did it FAST. Still, we really enjoyed this one!
You’ll likely hear the roar of the waterfalls as you get closer and closer to them, and soon enough you’ll find yourself on a wooden bridge on top of the falls. That’s right, you see Sol Duc Falls from above, falling over 50 feet into a slot canyon beneath, and flowing downhill underneath you. It’s truly a unique sight!
The falls were especially impressive because it was gushing with so much water when we went – it was cool to see how powerful nature can be! And if you come on a sunny day, you can sometimes spot a rainbow created by the mist (no such luck this time, though).
Sol Duc Falls is one of the most popular stops on an Olympic National Park itinerary, so you may see crowds, especially during the peak season. Fortunately for us, we hardly saw anyone since we came while it was raining, haha!
Stay the night in Forks
To close out your first day, head on over to the town of Forks. This is where I recommend you spend the night – yes, it’s an hour away from where you’ll be after Sol Duc Falls, but you’ll be in a much more efficient location when you start your explorations the next morning!
The accommodations here aren’t fancy, but we stayed at Forks Motel and it was super clean and comfortable (with VERY comfy beds!), and had all the basics we needed.
Forks is a pretty small town – there are a few restaurants, but do note that they close pretty early (by 8pm). If you plan to be out later because you’re visiting during the summer months and trying to catch the sunset, be sure you pack some food to eat for dinner!
And speaking of sunset – you can catch one at one of the nearby beaches in La Push or Rialto. Or, you can just have a relaxing evening as you prepare for the second day of your busy Olympic National Park 2 day itinerary!
And yes, Forks is THAT Forks, like the one in Twilight. They really lean into their Twilight fandom, which is kinda fun to see (even if you aren’t a Twilight fan – I’m definitely not lol).
If you ARE a fan, then you are really in for a treat here! You can spend your time here checking out some of the notable locations from the books + movies, snap photos with all the vampire signs, and even take a Twilight tour.
Olympic National Park Itinerary DAY 2: Rainforests + Beaches
The Hoh Rainforest is what piqued my interest in Olympic National Park and put it on my bucket list, so it was incredible to finally see it in person! Spoiler alert – it’s even more incredible in person than it is in pictures and will be a highlight on your 2 day Olympic National Park itinerary!
It’s one of the largest temperate rainforests in North America (the largest is actually in Tongass National Forest near Ketchikan, Alaska)! It is super lush, green, and MAGICAL!
The Hoh Rainforest is probably a bit different than what you might think of when you think of a rainforest. You’ll find centuries-old trees (like 300 year old Sitka spruces), moss (and TONS of it), mushrooms, maples, and more. It’s a temperate rainforest, which means that temperatures are mild and they get a TON of rain.
It’s actually the wettest place in the continental US, and gets 12-14 FEET of rain each year! Bring a rain jacket, as rain is common. We visited on a dry, relatively sunny day, though part of me kinda wants to see it on an overcast day (I’ve seen photos of it shrouded in fog and mist and it looks extra magical!)
My #1 piece of advice for the Hoh Rainforest is to get here as early as you can! It is arguably the most popular attraction inside Olympic National Park, and the crowds will reflect that (especially on weekends and during high season). I recommend arriving before 9am so there’s still plenty of parking (the lot is pretty small) and things are still relatively calm. Plus you might catch a sighting of some wildlife, perhaps of the Roosevelt elk that call the rainforest home!
Navigate to the Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center, which is where the trailheads are located. Google may tell you that it’s only 15 minutes from Forks, but it’s more like 45 (the geotag for “Hoh Rainforest” is just in a random corner of it).
The must-do trail here is the spectacular Hall of Mosses, which is only 0.8 miles but took us an hour and a half to complete because we could not stop gawking at the scenery and kept stopping for photos every five seconds.
Seriously though, it is one of the most magical places I’ve ever witnessed – it looks straight out of a fairy tale, with lush greenery, trees dripping with moss, and ferns covering almost every inch of the forest floor. Truly a sight to behold!
If you have extra time, there are a couple of other trails here to consider adding to your list. One is the 1.2 mile Spruce Nature Trail, which features similar ecosystems as the Hall of Mosses, but also takes you along the Hoh River. If you’re looking for a longer hike, you can also fork off to the Hoh River Trail, which goes along the river all the way to Mount Olympus. It’s 17 miles if you go all the way, but you can make it as short or as long as you like.
Ruby Beach is one of the most well-known beaches in the area, famous for its iconic sea stacks, abundance of driftwood, and moody vibes.
The name “Ruby Beach” comes from the red pebbles on the beach that gives the beach a subtle rust color. It’s a super photogenic beach, with plenty of haystacks emerging from the water, giant driftwood logs, and rugged coastline.
It is also super accessible, just a short little walk from the parking lot. Do note that you’ll have to climb over a bunch of logs to get to the beach, though (something to remember if you wanted to come for sunset if you had extra time).
While Ruby Beach is a super popular beach and you’ll likely find other people here, it’s got enough space that it doesn’t feel crowded at all. You can take a walk further along the beach for some spectacular views, or you can just hang out and relax with a picnic.
Afternoon Options: Another Rainforest or More Beaches
For your next stop on your 2 days in Olympic National Park itinerary, I’m giving you two options, based on if you want to see more of the rainforest, or hang out on more beaches:
Option 1: Quinault Rainforest
Thought the Hoh Rainforest was the only rainforest around here? Nope, there’s more of ‘em (four of them in fact)! If you couldn’t get enough of those fairytale rainforest vibes, then I suggest heading over to the Quinault Rainforest as your next stop.
It’s got similar vibes to the Hoh Rainforest – lush and green everywhere you look, with plenty of moss (soooo much moss) and ferns – but is located in the remote southern part of the park, and is therefore a bit more peaceful and less crowded.
I suggest doing the Quinault Nature Loop, a quick and easy 0.5 mile trail that takes you through the mossy forest, with interpretive signs that will help you learn more about what’s in it.
If you have time, also make a stop at Lake Quinault, a glacier-fed lake surrounded by mossy trees and another one of the most beautiful lakes in the area. We totally intended to, but somehow forgot haha. There’s also some of the largest Sitka spruce trees in the world here, which is to not be missed!
Do note that you’ll be on National Forest land, so you will either need to pay a separate day use fee, have a Northwest Forest Pass, or the America the Beautiful Pass (highly recommended as it covers your entry into Olympic National Park as well).
While the Quinault Rainforest is beautiful, it is a bit of a drive and further away from the rest of the park – it’s an hour and a half from the Hoh Rainforest, and about 50 minutes from Ruby Beach. If you don’t want to do so much driving on your Olympic National Park 2 day itinerary, then no worries – it is pretty similar to the Hoh Rainforest. I’m suggesting an alternative for you below.
Option 2: La Push Beaches
If you’re a Twilight fan, then you’re familiar with La Push – “It’s La Push baby, La Push!” is one of the most famous lines in the movies.
In reality, La Push isn’t just one beach but is actually a series of THREE beaches right off highway 110/La Push Road. While the beaches are all pretty close to each other, you can’t just walk in between them – you’ll have to drive to them (and hike into two of them).
One thing to note is that the beaches are on Quieute land, so it is extra important to adhere to their regulations and to respect the land (which you should be doing anyway!!). This might mean that the beaches are closed to the public at times – First and Second Beaches were closed when we visited and we were bummed but we totally understood. Third Beach was open, but we were too lazy to attempt the hike haha (it just means that now I have an excuse to go back!)
Anyway, here are the three La Push beaches and what to expect when visiting each of them:
- First Beach: This is the most accessible of the beaches, and you can just pull up and park right next to the beach. You’ll find a mile-long stretch of coastline with stunning haystacks, large waves, and driftwood. This is probably what they’re referring to as “La Push” in Twilight.
- Second Beach: You’ll need to do a short hike (2 miles round trip from the parking lot) to access Second Beach. The hike itself looks beautiful and takes you through a pretty forest. The beach here is supposed to be super peaceful, with a lagoon and a giant haystack, and is said to be extra pretty at golden hour.
- Third Beach: This is the wildest and the least-visited of the three, as it requires a 3.5 mile round-trip hike to get there. Careful when hiking here, as there are portions of the trails that are super steep and washed out. You’ll also likely have to climb over lots of driftwood. But once you get here, you’ll be treated to some epic scenery and virtually have it all to yourself!
Sunset at Rialto Beach
Rialto Beach may just have been my favorite beach in Olympic National Park. Not only is it super accessible, it’s super picturesque, with iconic sea stacks jutting out from the water, which are especially gorgeous when set against golden light.
If you’ve got extra time and energy, you can hike out to the Hole in the Wall, which is exactly what it sounds like – a rock with a giant hole in it. It’s one of the unique sights in the area, but you’ve gotta time it right because it’s only accessible at low tide. It also requires a 3.5 mile hike in the sand.
Otherwise, you can just sit out on the beach and admire the sunset, celebrating a successful end to your 2 day Olympic National Park itinerary!
The best part? There’s no giant logs or rocks to climb over to get back to your car, which is why I recommend coming here for sunset over some of the other beaches.
Have you ever been to Olympic National Park? What would you add to your 2 day Olympic National Park itinerary?
More Washington guides you may enjoy:
The Perfect 2 Days in Seattle itinerary
One Amazing Day in Seattle
The Ultimate Seattle Bucket List
Most Instagrammable Places in Seattle
Best Seattle Views
Things to do in Leavenworth, WA in Winter
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