Considering the seemingly never-ending natural beauty of Washington State, it is sometimes easy to forget about the wonders of the Olympic Peninsula. Sprawling nearly one million acres, Olympic National Park contains three distinct ecosystems – glaciated mountains, rugged Pacific coastline and lush temperate forests. Best part? You can explore it all. Not sure where to explore first? Don’t worry – that’s where we come in. Join us as writer and photographer Joe Duffy takes an adventure to Olympic National Park.
First things first – Getting There
My favorite way to get to Olympic National Park from Seattle is to take the Bainbridge Island Ferry. Departing from the Seattle Ferry Terminal near Pioneer Square, the ferry offers a great way to start your trip. The ferry ride boasts expansive views of the Seattle skyline and the Puget Sound, so make sure to pack your camera. It even has a small cafeteria on board, so grab a cup of coffee or a cold beer, sit back and enjoy the ride.
If you’re looking for an authentic outdoor experience, you can’t beat pitching a tent and sleeping beneath the stars. That’s why I love staying at Fairholme Campground. Nestled right on the west shore of Lake Crescent, Fairholme is a fairly large, first come first serve campground with all the basic amenities including potable water, picnic tables and fire pits at each of it’s 88 sites.
You also have direct access to Fairholme beach, so pack a swim suit and some sunscreen. Last but not least, make sure to stop in at the Fairholme Store to rent paddle boards or enjoy an ice cream cone. They’ve also got you covered in case you forgot any of your 10 essentials.
First time camping? Check out this Camping Checklist courtesy of REI.
Things to do in Olympic National Park
Once you’re set up with a space to sleep, there’s a ton of stuff to do in this area, and I’m excited to share my favorites with you.
Mount Storm King
Mount Storm King – located just half an hour from Fairholme Campground, Mount Storm King is a four mile (roundtrip) hike with 2065’ of gain – which is to say it is a pretty steep hike. This one isn’t for the faint of heart but trust us when we say the sweeping views of Lake Crescent are well worth it.
If you’re looking for something a little more relaxed, check out Marymere Falls. Located at the same trailhead as Mount Storm King, this two mile loop offers two viewpoints of the 90-foot-high waterfall.
Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc Falls are a must see – just a half hour drive from Fairholme and you’ll be in the heart of the Olympic National Park. Just a mile from the parking lot, a leisurely stroll through an old growth forest will have you gaping at the awe-inspiring falls in no time.
Looking for a bit more adventure? We’ve got you covered. Check out Cape Flattery, the northwestern most point of the contiguous United States where the Strait of Juan de Fuca joins the Pacific Ocean. This is just a surprisingly accessible 1.5 mile round trip hike that offers incredible views of the rugged Pacific coastline and the Tatoosh Island Lighthouse. On your way back to camp, stop at Calvin’s Crab House in Neah Bay for a delicious plate of fish and chips!
Pyramid Peak Hike
Hungry for another hike? Hit up Pyramid Peak. This hidden gem is a seven miler that takes you through shady old growth forest up to a World War II lookout built for spotting enemy air and watercraft. From the top, you’ll have expansive views of Lake Crescent and the straight of Juan de Fuca. Don’t forget to pack a snack!
What are you waiting for? Now that you’ve got a plan, all that’s left is to go. Check out a few of our recommendations and better yet, discover a few of your own. Olympic has something for everyone, so head out there and enjoy yourself. All that’s left is to go!
Looking for another hike to tackle in the area? Check out our adventure to Klahhane Ridge.