My name is Kendra. I was born and raised in California. I’ve never lived anywhere outside of California, but I’d love to expand my horizons someday. I’m currently in the greater Sacramento area. My love of national parks, like Olympic National Park, and inspiration to visit them was Yosemite. Believe it or not, I didn’t visit a national park until I was 30. I grew up in the boonies: literally nothing by dirt and trees, about 45 minutes – 1 hour from Tahoe.
Ever since I moved to Sacramento, I started feeling like I was missing something. That something was being out in nature. That’s how I grew up. Literally, I would go outside with my dog, go looking for snakes and lizards, and get chased by a bear. It was a great childhood!
Anyway, I wanted to start exploring more of California and I totally forgot about Yosemite. It’s literally 3 hours away from me, but I’d never been. I started doing some research about the park and became obsessed with it before I even visited. One day in June of 2021, I took myself on a 3 hour drive to Yosemite for a day. When I got there, I was blown away. Pictures don’t do it justice. It blew my mind how big this place was.
I drove up to Glacier Point and walked out to the edge where you see Half Dome in all of its glory, right in front of you. It’s so close, it feels like you could touch it. Needless to say, I was so moved I started crying. Being able to see Half Dome in person made me so unbelievably happy. I kept thinking: “Wow, this was in my backyard this entire time?!” During that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head. It said: “This is it. This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to see them all.” That was the start of my mission to see all of the national parks in America.
Why Olympic National Park is So Incredible
I’ve only visited Olympic National Park once and that was about a month ago, but I loved every second of it. Honestly, I now want to move to Washington just so I can visit any part of the park at any time. Olympic National Park is definitely in my top 3 favorite parks right now. What I love about this park, and what makes it so unique, is that it’s broken up into quadrants.
You have the Port Angeles side where you can see Canada in the distance. You have rainforests, beaches, waterfalls, mountains, etc. I’ve never been to a national park with this much diversity in its landscapes. I’ve heard a lot of people saying that it’s their favorite national park and I can definitely see why. It’s incredible.
I spent 3 days at Olympic National Park. I hopped around in the quadrants, but everything I saw, I loved. I really wanted to visit Hurricane Ridge but it was closed due to road construction. Whenever I go back, I’m heading there. From my research and what I’ve seen, it gives you amazing views of the mountains.
Top Places to Visit in Olympic National Park
I highly recommend visiting the Hoh Rainforest, the Port Angeles side of the park and Rialto Beach. There is also Second Beach and Ruby Beach, which have stellar reviews. At the Hoh Rainforest, I highly recommend the Hall of Mosses and Spruce Nature Trail. In Port Angeles, you can check out Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Falls, Marymere Falls, Lake Crescent and Madison Falls.
Then at Rialto Beach, you can just spend the day hanging out. If you walk all the way to the end, you can reach the Hole in the Wall which is exactly what it sounds like. It looks really cool, plus there are tide pools everywhere! You’ll see starfish, anemone’s and more.
I loved all of those places but I’d have to say Rialto Beach was my favorite. I love the ocean in general, so maybe I’m biased. I will never get tired of listening to the ocean waves. My fiance and I brought our beach chairs and some snacks. We just sat among the driftwood listening to the waves.
Where to Stay in Olympic National Park
We stayed in Forks, Washington on our trip to Olympic National Park. I had done a lot of research and based off of what I had learned, Forks was the best option. It’s right smack dab in the middle of everything (kind of). Basically, it’s within a decent distance to all parts of the park. If you wanted to go to Port Angeles, it’s about an hour drive. To the Hoh Rainforest is 45 minutes. To the beaches, it’s 20-30 minutes.
Port Angeles looked absolutely amazing to stay in, but it’s a long drive to the western parts of the park. Forks had a few motels/hotels and mostly camping around the area. We were in an RV, so we stayed in an RV campground and it was perfect!
As far as amenities, there’s not much in Forks. There’s a small downtown area with very few shops. If you’re a Twilight fan, there’s a few Twilight themed shops. If you’re looking for something that has more amenities, Port Angeles appears to be a good option from what we saw.
How to Get Around the National Park
My suggestion is to drive yourself around. That way, you’re on your own time schedule, and can come and go as you like. If you want to spend more time at one destination, you can. It also offers more flexibility. There were a few buses passing through Forks and through parts of the park, but this is somewhat remote. I didn’t see them passing through a lot. There is also no shuttle system in the park. I’d say just drive your way through the park. It’s much easier!
Best Time to Visit Olympic National Park
The best time to visit Olympic National park depends on what people are looking for. We went in summer, and it was pretty hot and humid – about 93 degrees, which is not normal for the area, according to the locals. It was fun, but it was so busy! Winter is the least visited time for the park, so that would be a great time to go with no crowds. However, the park gets a substantial amount of rain each year.
I would’ve liked to have gone in spring. Seeing the rainforest with overcast clouds and rain looks absolutely beautiful. The green colors of the forest just pop out at you! In my opinion, autumn and spring are the best times to visit.
Need to Know Before You Go
Olympic National Park is big, really big. Depending on how long you are staying, make sure you make a list of all of the top places you want to see. Keep in mind, some of the high profile spots will be busy and the parking lots fill up really fast. My suggestion is to always get to the park early (before 9 am).
I made the mistake of getting to the Hoh Rainforest after 10 am. There was a line to get into the rainforest and we waited for about 40 minutes to get in. The parking lot was full, so the rangers had to wait for people to leave. The majority of spots in the park have small parking lots, so assume they’ll be full.
Rialto Beach, for example, has a super small parking lot. We got in at 8 am and there was hardly anyone there. By the time we left, around 5 pm, it was bumping! Also, there’s no cell service, and limited services in general, so make sure you plan for that as well.