At 922,651 acres, Olympic National Park is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island by about 150,000 acres. In other words, it’s big — very big — and the list of things to do in Olympic National Park is almost endless. Truly, to scratch the surface of this rugged wonderland you’d need at least a week, plus some time to explore the surrounding Olympic Peninsula — home to beautiful coastlines, small towns, wineries, farms and more.
Where Is Olympic National Park?
However, of the over three million people per year who visit Olympic National Park (making it the seventh most visited National Park in the country), most are unable to devote a week or more of their time.
So to help those of you with less time on your hands, I compiled this guide to five must-visit places in and around Olympic National Park (“in and around” becasue there’s also plenty to see outside the bounds of the park too) that’s peppered with insider tips and extra info to help ensure you have the best time possible. Enjoy!
Things To Do In And Around Olympic National Park
Visit Marymere Falls
Olympic National Park is home to over 3,000 miles of rivers and streams. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see some of the breathtaking waterfalls that feed them or that lie along their path. One of the park’s must-visit waterfall is Marymere Falls, which is the perfect combination of awe-inspiring and easy to access.
At about 19 miles from Port Angeles (the Olympic Peninsula’s largest town), Marymere Falls isn’t too deep in the park and is quicker to reach than some of the park’s other most notable waterfalls (like Sol Duc Falls). From the trailhead at Lake Crescent’s Storm King Ranger Station (more on that below), the falls is accessed via a 1.8 mile roundtrip, 0.9 mile each way, walk down a well-maintained and moderately trafficked trail. About 95% of the trail is nearly flat, with the exception of a set of stairs and uphill portion near the end (see photos above for details).
While the 80-foot waterfall is the icing on the cake, the walk through the mesmerizing, moss-covered forest to reach it is reason enough to visit!
Pro Trip: To get to the Marymere Falls trailhead, program your GPS to take you to “Storm King Ranger Station.” From there, you can’t miss the signs leading to the trail.
Pro Tip: To have Marymere Falls and the trail leading to it more to yourself, try visiting during shoulder season (May or October), during a weekday, or earlier in the morning.
The tiny Storm King Ranger Station makes for a great photo opportunity
More Info: For more information on Olympic National Park’s best waterfalls, click here.
Visit Crescent Lake and Crescent Lake Lodge
The Sunroom at Lake Crescent Lodge
While visiting Marymere Falls, be sure to stick around to enjoy Lake Crescent (the Marymere Falls trailhead is along the lake’s central southern shore).
This deep, glacial lake is one of Olympic National Park’s crown jewels and is a stunning sight to see no matter the time of year. Walk out on the dock opposite the Storm King Ranger Station (mentioned and pictured above) and marvel at the crystal clear water (in the photo above you can see trees resting on the lake’s bottom, about 30 feet down). From there it’s only a two-minute drive to Lake Crescent Lodge, a historic lodge built in 1915 that today continues to house guest exploring the park. If you’re not spending the night, visit for a drink or lunch after your walk to Marymere Falls. Grab a seat at the bar or take a load off in one of the couches surrounding the crackling fire (the lodge’s lobby feels especially cozy when the weather is cool and rainy in late spring or fall). You can also enjoy a drink or lunch in the lodge’s beautiful sunroom, which features sweeping views of the lake.
Get out on the water! If you’d like to get out on the lake during your visit, Lake Crescent Lodge offers two options: a guided, two-hour kayak tour for those looking to learn about the lake’s history, ecology and more (single kayaks for $50, double kayaks for $75) (call the lodge ahead of time to ask about times and availability) and kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals for those looking to explore on their own (starting at $20 per hour).
Pro Tip: On your way to or from Crescent Lake while driving down US-101, be sure to stop at Granny’s Cafe. The quaint roadside eatery is a local favorite — not just becasue it’s the only place around, but becasue the staff are friendly and the food is good. If you’re not too hungry, just stop in for a coffee or their famous soft serve ice cream.
Visit Tongue Point Marine Life Sanctuary
Located within the Salt Creek Recreation Area, the Tongue Point Marine Life Sanctuary is a must-visit if you’re looking to take in the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula’s rugged coast. It’s also very close to Olympic National Park and you can easily stop here to explore before or after visiting Marymere Falls and Lake Crescent (combining the three makes for a nice day).
Thanks to highly fluctuating tides, the shoreline here changes dramatically. At low tide, an array of tidal pools, often filled with various forms of sea life, are left amidst the rocks. Exploring them and the beach is a great way to spend an hour. There’s also a level, short trail along the cliff above the beach that’s a nice place to walk and take in an elevated view.
Pro Tip: It’s important to plan your visit around low tide, as low tide is the only time you can access the beach and tidal pools (plus the scenery is just more impressive). You can find out what time low tide will be during your visit on this website.
Visit Hurricane Ridge
At an elevation of 5,242 feet, Hurricane Ridge is one of the most accessible and popular places to get up high and take in a never ending view of Olympic National Park.
The views at the summit, however, are not guaranteed. As you might have guessed from the name, the weather here can change frequently (especially in winter, spring and fall) and winds can clock in at 70mph and above. But even if it isn’t a perfectly sunny day, it’s still worth the trip to the top. While at the summit, I only got a peak at the surrounding mountains as the clouds shifted, but didn’t mind because the rainy and foggy drive to the summit was truly one of the highlights of my trip.
During fair weather, the summit of Hurricane Ridge is also a popular starting point for a variety of hikes (more information on hikes can be found here).
Pro Tip: As mentioned, weather conditions can change frequently and sometimes the Park Service closes the road (usually due to snow, sometimes due to wind or fog). So before you head out, call the park’s designated Hurricane Ridge phone number (360-565-3131) to hear a current recorded message of weather conditions and road closures.
Extra Info: To take a guided hike at Hurricane Ridge (or at other destinations around the Olympic Peninsula) check out Olympic Hiking Co.
Visit Graysmarsh Berry and Lavender Farm
The Olympic Peninsula is home to so much more than the Olympic National Park and some of America’s best wilderness. The peninsula’s northern shore in particular is home to several lavender farms that make for a unique and relaxing reprieve from activities in the mountains and forests.
My favorite farm, and one not too far from the park, is Graysmasch Berry and Lavender Farm. This picture-perfect, 1,000-acre, waterfront farm is open from June though September and offers visitors the opportunity to pick their own lavender, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and more. There’s also a farm shop selling berry preserves and lavender products. The picking season varies (you can find full details on their website), but in brief: pick strawberries in early June, lavender in mid-July through early August and blackberries in August and September.
Extra Info: If you’re looking for more non-wilderness activities and want to experience what else the Olympic Peninsula has to offer outside of the park, head to Camaraderie Cellars. This winery and tasting room is located down a quiet street at the base of the foothills of Olympic National Park and is the most memorable place to sample locally produced wine.
Bonus: Stay At Domaine Madeleine Bed & Breakfast
The Rialto Beach Cottage (the room I stayed in for seven nights).
Domaine Madeleine’s Rialto Beach Cottage faces a large lawn and a view of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca.
If you’re going to enjoy Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula, you need an enjoyable place to stay. Domaine Madeleine, the five-room bed and breakfast where I stayed for seven nights, is so enjoyable that you may not want to leave. In fact, during my trip, there were a few days where I never left the Domaine Madeleine property and simply enjoyed the serenity, the views and feeling that I had found the perfect place to hide away from the rest of the world.
Ultra-secluded yet located within easy driving distance to Olympic National Park and all of the places mentioned above, Domaine Madeleine is a 10-acre property that sits atop a high bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca (in the distance across the water you can see the lights of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada shining at night). During my visit, I stayed in their Rialto Beach Cottage, a beautiful room separated from the main house that’s surrounded by towering trees and features a view down a long, private lawn and out over the water (pictured above).
When you’re ready to pry yourself away, Domaine Madeleine is run by two attentive and knowledgable inn keepers who are there to help you make the most of your time in the surrounding area.