Destination Guides Experiences Travel Planning

Hiking Olympic National Park: Favorite Hikes and Tips for Visiting

My friends and family like to joke that I love nature, but nature’s hates me. Honestly, they aren’t far from the truth. I really love hiking and camping and being outdoors, but it can be a struggle for me. I’m allergic to all insect bites, grass, have bad hay fever, and I’m generally accident prone. I refuse to let those things stop me and still love to go on Nature adventures. One of those past adventures was an amazing weeklong trip with Partners in the Parks while I was in college. We spent a week exploring Olympic National Park and it was awe-inspiring. I even managed to make it through the week without getting injured! A friend of mine recently visited Seattle and was asking for hiking tips for Olympic National Park, and that inspired me to share my favorite hikes and some tips with you all!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase via my link I get a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps support my blog and provide free content for you! Read my disclosure policy here. 

What is Partners in the Parks?

Partners in the Parks is an organisation through the National Collegiate Honors Council that allows students from Honors colleges across the country to come together for weeklong trips to experience the beauty of America’s National Parks. I was fortunate enough that my University(the University of Florida—Go Gators!) even covered the program fee so I just had to get myself to the site. If you are a current student in an Honors college, this is an AMAZING opportunity that I highly recommend. The programs are all incredible and you get to meet people from all over the country.

Why did I pick Olympic National Park?

When I was selecting my program, there were a lot of options. I chose Olympic partially because the program dates worked for me, but I also had never been to Washington state and wanted the chance to visit. My sister had recently been to Seattle and loved it, so I planned my trip with some extra time on the back end to let me explore Seattle a bit. I also wanted a program that wasn’t too difficult(some are full backpacking, carry all your food and gear, advanced hikers-only type trips). While I had gone hiking and camping beforehand, I knew I needed a more moderate program. So, at the beginning of August, two days after returning from a trip to London, I packed my bags and headed off to Seattle!

My Favorite Hikes in Olympic National Park

Hoh River Trail

The Hoh Rainforest is one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders I have been lucky enough to experience. The Hoh Rainforest is a breathtaking temperate Rainforest and the trail follows the Hoh River to the Mt. Olympus Blue glacier if you hike it’s full 32-mile length. The group I was with just did a day hike to Tom Creek and back which is about 6 miles total. The hike to Tom Creek is easy-going. No drastic elevation changes, awesome scenery, and more like a fun stroll in the woods.

PJ Lake

This hike was the shortest hike on our trip, and also one of the hardest. It was completely worth it though when we reached the lake. The lake is clear and pristine, plus you can look up to the top of the mountain and see the glacier that feeds the lake. The hike features some pretty intense elevation changes(although it’s nothing like the Waipio Valley I did in Hawaii) and if you hate switchbacks, you won’t be thrilled. The best part is just making it to the lake at the end and relaxing for a bit. The group I was with even opted for a quick swim in the (freezing!) water because it was a warm August afternoon.

Coastline Hike

This one isn’t a specific trail because there are a bunch, but I HIGHLY recommend you take a day to hike along the beach/coast. The Olympic Peninsula has a rugged coastline where the beaches are littered with rock clusters. This creates the perfect environment for the formation of tide pools. The tide pools are teeming with life. The bright neon sea anemones contrast with the well camouflaged crustaceans to create an interesting balance of color and mutualism. Be sure to wear waterproof shoes with good grip though! The rocks can get a bit slippery when you climb them to see the pools.

Obstruction Point to Deer Park

This was the longest hike we did on our trip and it had the widest range of scenery. Starting from obstruction point, we spent the first portion of the hike above the tree line on rocky terrain and had to navigate the occasional snow field(yes even in August). From there, we started making our way back into the trees and hiked through a serene forest. The best part of the hike is the panoramic view of the Olympic mountain range that you can enjoy throughout the first few hours. The other cool part is camping at Deer Park campground for the night once you reach it.

Quick Hit, Can’t Miss Experiences

  • Visit Hurricane Ridge on a Clear Day
  • Watch the sunrise from the top of a mountain
  • Stop at the Visitor Center
  • Learn from the Park Rangers
  • Visit the Kalaloch Big Cedar Tree*

*the tree actually collapsed in storm in 2014, but it is still a sight to see!

Tips for your Visit

  • Dress in Layers
    • The climate in the Olympic Peninsula can be a bit all over the place at times. I was there at the beginning of August and the temperatures at night(and at higher altitudes) dropped quite low. It also got rather warm during the day time. I suggest some great Columbia shirts as they wick moisture and are comfortable. I love this multi-layer North Face for when I’m hiking because it’s quite warm and also doesn’t take up any space when I’m not wearing it.
  • Bring a rain layer
    • If you know anything about Washington State, it’s probably that it rains a lot. Hell, even one of the hikes I recommended is in a Rainforest. I got very lucky on my trip and had minimal rain, but on the days it did rain, my rain jacket and rain pants came in handy.
  • Invest in Quality shoes
    • Most of the trails in Olympic National Park are lengthy and have some form of elevation change. This means your shoes will be put to the test. I personally love my Columbia Hiking Boots because they have a bunch of support, are light enough to not weigh me down, and are super durable. They were perfect for every hike on this trip, except the coastline hike. For the coast, I wore my Vibrams Five Fingers. They are waterproof, have the appropriate amount of grip and were perfect for this hike. They even stopped me from slipping and falling, which I tend to do often!
  • Stay Hydrated
    • Whether you are just going on a day hike or doing a through hike to a campground, bring plenty of water. I love my Camelbak daypack for day hikes personally. My sister loves her fanny pack version(great if backpacks bother your neck). For through hikes, you can put a water bladder in your backpack to carry with you. Make sure you bring plenty of water because staying hydrated is important to your health and safety while hiking.
  • Protect yourself from the Sun
    • This one is extra important because with the weather, you may not always think to take sun precautions. When I visited, it was still cool out and if I hadn’t known better, I wouldn’t have apply adequate sunscreen. Reminder: It doesn’t have to be warm to get a sunburn. Be sure to pack your sunscreen, a good hat, and a pair of sunglasses!
  • Bring a camera
    • The views you will encounter cannot be adequately captured with a phone camera! Do yourself a favor and invest in a good camera for your trip. Be sure to extra batteries and make sure you have the necessary precautions in place to keep it weather safe! I didn’t have my Nikon DSLR yet when I visited, but my friend took hers and it was perfect for capturing photos.

I absolutely loved my trip to Olympic National Park and I hope everyone gets the chance to visit this breathtaking place.

From one Misguided Millennial to the world, happy adventuring!

Leave a Reply