A road trip across the Olympic National Park in Washington state is a great way to explore this diverse national park. Can’t choose between mountains or beaches? Fret not. Olympic National Park has glacier-capped mountains, temperate rainforests, and over 70 miles of wild coastline.
Things to do in Olympic National Park
For our road trip, we started in the mountains at Hurricane Ridge. It is the most easily accessed mountain area within Olympic National Park. We took a ferry from Seattle to Port Angeles and then drove up to Hurricane Ridge that saved considerable time. Fun fact – You can transport your vehicle on the ferry.
If you are visiting during the winter months, check for road conditions/closures before. Per state law, all vehicles must carry tire chains during the winter season and National Parks strictly abide by this law. Fortunately, I went there in April 2017 and the roads were open despite the snow. Current status – There is limited access to Olympic National Park due to the government shutdown and recent storm damage.
While the drive to Hurricane Ridge itself is very scenic, the summit is gorgeous. Everything was enveloped in snow. It was dramatic and mesmerizing. That’s the effect of being in the mountains. They leave you speechless and spellbound.
Next stop, a pristine mountain lake. Lake Crescent is massive and every meandering turn beckons you to pull over. You can rent cabins overlooking Lake Crescent and wake up to this alpine beauty. It is definitely on my bucket list item for this year.
Travel to Forks, Washington to see the actual town where author Stephenie Meyer based her Twilight saga novels. You may not be spoilt for choice in terms of accommodations and restaurants, but isn’t what small-town charm is all about?
Hoh Rain Forest
I was excited for this one, to visit one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S. You are surrounded by a lush green canopy of mosses, ferns, and all kinds of vegetation that entangle in one another almost camouflaging. A unique ecosystem that makes you wonder whether you’ve been teleported. Take the nature trails – Hall of Mosses Trail (.8 miles), and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles).
Sunset at Ruby Beach
The Olympic Coastline is breathtakingly beautiful and Ruby beach is the crowning glory. There are huge sea stacks, piles of driftwood logs, tide pools, and beautiful bluffs. If you wait till the sun starts to go down, you will be rewarded with gorgeous shades of pink/purple skies slowing turning crimson. We sat there for hours just watching the waves crash and sky change its colors. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to end our day in Olympic National Park.
A rocky beach with cobbles instead of soft sand, Rialto Beach is the most accessible beach in the Olympic peninsula. Just off the parking lot, you can walk to the beach. It may not be as spectacular as Ruby beach, but we’ve heard it’s popular for whale sighting. A 2-mile walk leads you to Hole in the Wall – a sea carved arch.
A beach hike through a forest sounded quite interesting. The forest opens up to the beach and that is a beautiful sight. Other than that the beach itself is no different than the ones you have already seen. Also, you will have to scramble over driftwood logs to get in and out of the beach.
As you can tell, this road trip takes you on a whirlwind tour of three ecosystems. I did this itinerary in two days so I found myself in the mountains in the morning, traversing through a rainforest in the afternoon and then finishing with sunset at the beach. It was pretty unbelievable and exciting to describe what I felt about it.