Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park, west of Seattle in the Pacific Northwest, is one of the largest and least developed parks in the United States.

Lake Quinault in the Olympic National park, photo (c) Donna DaileyLake Quinault in the Olympic National Park.

Photo (c) Donna Dailey.

At 922,651 acres, the Olympic National Park is one of the biggest and yet one of the least developed in the United States. Its remote location on a vast peninsula in the Pacific Northwest (west of Seattle and south of Vancouver Island) also means it is one of the least visited of America's National Parks.

Yet it is also one of the most scenically stunning, with glacier-covered mountains in the interior that are as rugged and almost as hard to access today as they have ever been.

The History of the Olympic National Park

The Olympic National Park began life as the Olympic National Monument in 1909, and was designated a National Park in 1938. In 1976 it became an International Biosphere Reserve, and then in 1981 UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. Further protection to the land was provided in 1988, when large parts of the Olympic Peninsula became the Olympic Wilderness.

The Olympic National ParkThe Olympic National Park

The Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway, or U.S. 101, almost encloses the Olympic National Park and the adjoining Olympic National Forest, making it easy to get to, and the Park's six entrances are permanently open. Good roads don't go very far into the National Park, and its main attraction is as a spectacular place for hiking.

Bobcat in the Olympic National ParkBobcat in the Olympic National Park

Wildlife in Olympic National Park

When you see a marmot here, familiar from many places in North America, you might in fact be looking at a unique species. The Olympic Marmot is found nowhere else on earth. It's one of what they call the 'endemic 16', 16 species of plants and animals that are found nowhere else in North America. This high number is due to the fact that in prehistoric times the area was cut off from the rest of the continent by glaciers.

Roosevelt Elk Herd in the Olympic National ParkRoosevelt Elk Herd

For this same reason, though, other animals that are common elsewhere, like the grizzly bear, are not found even today in the National Park. Wild goats are common too, and you might be lucky enough to see a Roosevelt Elk, a type of elk only found in the Pacific Northwest. Deer are more common, particularly the Colombian black-tailed deer.

Hiking in the Olympic National ParkHiking in the Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park Itinerary

If you're planning a trip to the Olympic National Park, we strongly recommend this trip-planning guide and itinerary from Just Go Travel Studios. Click on the image to learn more about what it contains.

Best Times to Visit Olympic National Park

About 75% of the Park's visitors enter the Park from June through September, which is also when the weather is at its best. The scenery is magnificent here, so most people want to visit during the summer months when skies are usually clear and there's less chance of rain.

That said, it can rain at any time of year here, so dry days are not absolutely guaranteed, even in July and August. Most rain does fall from November through April, though, so if you want to avoid the crowds (such as they are) and have a chance of good weather, then May/June, September/October can be good times to visit. They can be cold, so go prepared, and even damp and misty days here can be very atmospheric and scenic too.

Further Information
Olympic National Park website 

More Olympic Peninsula pages

  • Sequim

    Little Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington is a delightful place to stop if driving the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • Port Townsend

    Port Townsend is noted for its Victorian architecture, sits at the top of the Olympic Peninsula, close to the Olympic National Park and 55 miles from Seattle.

  • Port Angeles in Washington State

    Port Angeles in Washington is the largest town on the Olympic Peninsula. It stands on the Pacific Coast Highway and is the gateway to the Olympic National Park.

  • Olympic Peninsula Wineries

    Olympic Peninsula wineries are not in the heart of Washington wine country but the vineyards near the Pacific Coast Highway are worth a visit.

  • Olympic Peninsula Travel Guide

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel reviews an Olympic Peninsula Travel Guide published by the Beautiful Pacific Northwest website.

  • Olympic National Park Accommodation

    Olympic National Park accommodation consists of campgrounds and trailer parks, and most visitors to the park stay in nearby lodges and resorts.

  • Guide to the Olympic Peninsula

    Moon's Spotlight Guide to the Olympic Peninsula covers hotels, restaurants, and sights, including Forks, the Olympic National Park and other places.

  • Forks Washington

    Forks is a small city in Washington State, known as the gateway to the Olympic National Park, and as the home for the Twilight series of books and movies.



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