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3-Day Olympic National Park Itinerary for the Best Highlights (2023)

Dreaming of a National Park trip to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State? Looking for rainforests, mountains, beaches, lakes, and waterfalls? Here’s my local’s guide for a 3-day Olympic National Park itinerary that includes stops at the best things to do around the park.

When you live in Seattle, it’s easy to stay close to home and explore one of the best national parks in our country, Olympic National Park! With epic mountain views, rainforest hikes, and sunset-perfect beaches, a visit to Olympic National Park is a must-do when visiting western Washington State.

Here’s my local guide to experiencing all the must-see sights in this Olympic Peninsula park. I highly encourage you to plan your Olympic National Park itinerary during mid-week, especially if you’re visiting in the summer. Weekends will be extremely busy and you’ll have trouble finding parking.

olympic national park visitors welcome sign

Day 1 Olympic National Park Itinerary: Port Angeles / Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center / Hurricane Ridge

I recommend arriving a day early and overnighting in Port Angeles if you’re coming from Seattle. There are a few ways to get from Seattle to Olympic National Park but most will take you about 3 hours.

We stayed at the Olympic Lodge. It’s a popular 3-star hotel off the main highway with clean rooms and some nice views. The Red Lion Hotel was recently renovated, has water-view rooms, and is more in the main town of Port Angeles.

Another option is to spend two nights at the Lake Crescent Lodge, Log Cabin Resort, or Sol Duc Hot Springs for your time in the north part of Olympic National Park. VRBO also has some cute vacation rentals near Port Angeles and Lake Crescent.

Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center

Heads up, there is no dining available at Hurricane Ridge. If you plan to hike or spend a few hours exploring the ridge area, I recommend you pack a lunch either from a takeout restaurant or a grocery store.

After breakfast, make your way toward the Olympic National Park Visitors Center which is on the route to Hurricane Ridge. Before you arrive there’s a small pull-out near the National Park entrance sign which is a great photo spot to pose for a memory of your trip.

Stop at the Visitor’s Center to pick up a park map and get a Junior Ranger booklet if you have kids who want to complete the booklet. The Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center is a great place to research hikes and learn about the different areas of the park. You can also get great advice from park rangers.

Hurricane Ridge

hurricane ridge hill trail hike olympic national park
View from the Hurricane Hill trail at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. © Kim Tate

Hurricane Ridge is a popular spot in Olympic National Park as it brings you to about 5500 feet in elevation and gives you an overlook of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains.

There is a Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center which features restrooms, a gift shop, and snacks. This is also another great place to talk with rangers and go for a hike. There are a few popular hikes around the Hurricane Ridge area.

From the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, there are a few circle loop meadow trails that run off of the main parking lot and all are about a mile and paved. There is a High Ridge loop trail that has a spur-ending at a spot called Sunrise Point.

For more experienced hikers, the popular Klahhane Ridge Trail is an out-and-back trail. This trail is full of views and wildflower meadows and can be a popular spot for wildlife spotting. However, it is 3.8 miles one way and there is some elevation gain depending on how far you travel.

Hurricane Hill Hike

If you’re looking for a moderate hike that offers amazing views, consider doing the Hurricane Hill trail. You’ll need to drive about 1.5 miles past the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center to the trailhead. Note that parking is limited, a small overflow lot is located about 1/4 mile away from the trailhead.

This hike is 3.1 miles roundtrip and has a 700′ elevation climb. It also is out in the open, so pack lots of water and sunscreen during the summer. Once you reach the top you’ll have amazing views of Port Angeles, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Olympic Mountains (including Mount Olympus). Our family was able to do this hike, but it is a bit of work, especially on a hot day.

After Hurricane Ridge and the Visitor’s Center, if you still have some time (and energy) left in your day, you could choose to do Sol Duc Falls or the Salt Creek Recreation Area that I mention below for Day 2.

If you want to get an early start, I’d do Hurricane Ridge, then head to Sol Duc Falls and grab lunch at The Springs Restaurant, then finish your day with dinner in Port Angeles.

Overnight Recommendations:
Olympic Lodge
Red Lion Port Angeles
Lake Crescent Lodge
– Log Cabin Resort (campground)
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort

Where to Eat:
– Bella Italia (italian)
– Next Door Gastropub (burgers & brews)
– 929 Woodfire Grill (seafood)
– The Springs Restaurant at Sol Duc Hot Springs (northwest inspired)

Day 2: Lake Crescent / Sol Duc or Salt Creek / Rialto Beach

This will be a packed day and you can decide if you want to only do a couple of things and have more time at each stop. Or, you might choose to start your day early and try to do it all. You could also do Salt Creek or Sol Duc Falls on your first day if you finish early enough at Hurricane Ridge.

Salt Creek Recreation Area or Sol Duc Falls

I’m listing these as an either/or option, but if you start really early and don’t plan to spend a lot of time at Lake Crescent, you could do both. You could also do one after Hurricane Ridge on day 1 and save the other for day 2.

Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc Falls can be reached by an easy hike through an old-growth forest to an overlook of the waterfalls. My itinerary does include another waterfall and rainforest hike, so you could skip this stop, but it is a highlight of the Olympic National Park.

Instead, or after, visiting the Sol Duc Valley area, you could visit the Salt Creek Recreation Area. Here you’ll find Tongue Point and Crescent Beach.

Salt Creek Recreation Area

tide pool at olympic national park
Do you see the sea animals living in this tide pool in Olympic National Park? © Kim Tate

Tongue Point can be reached via the Salt Creek Campground and is free for day use. Park near Tongue Point and walk down onto the rocky shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This is a great spot for tide pools. Visit during low tide when the tide is going out to be able to explore the most shoreline. Be sure you check tide schedules, so you don’t visit at high tide.

The tide pools will contain tons of sea anemones, sea snails, crabs, and maybe even some starfish! Kids love to look for all sorts of sea creatures, and hey, even adults will enjoy the discoveries. Just be very careful where you walk and remember to be gentle. This area will also have tons of blue mussel shells that are beautifully colored.

Crescent Beach

crescent beach olympic national park
Crescent Beach in Olympic National Park. © Kim Tate

If you have extra time and love ocean beaches, head over to Crescent Beach and try to snag a parking spot. The Crescent Beach RV Campground offers a day pass if you really want to visit and can’t find a parking spot in one of the free lots up the road.

Crescent Beach is popular with surfers and features a large sandy shore and a notable tall rock island with trees that you can hike up during low tide. The water was also super clear when we visited!

You should be ready to eat lunch by now, so you might want to have a packed lunch from Port Angeles or your hotel. If you didn’t bring lunch, you can visit one of the three places nearby, Family Kitchen, Granny’s Cafe, or Lake Crescent Lodge.

Lake Crescent / Marymere Falls

This is a beautiful, crystal clear lake that is the second-deepest lake in Washington State. It’s popular for boating and lots of recreational activities, like kayaking, but our family loved finding a beach nook and enjoying the water. You’ll also find the popular Marymere Falls hike in this area.

You’ll want to park near the Storm King Ranger Station or at the small trailhead for the Moments of Time Trail. I recommend finding a parking spot and doing both the Marymere Falls hike and visiting Barnes Point for swimming even though they’re 0.5 miles apart because parking is limited.

Marymere Falls

marymere falls in olympic national park wa
The hike to Marymere Falls is beautiful and the waterfall is a great spot for a family photo. © Kim Tate

The Marymere Falls hike is an easy 1.7-mile roundtrip hike but does involve some stairs. You’ll hike through old-growth forests and reach two lookouts over the falls. The lower lookout is the best in my opinion.

You cannot swim at the falls, there are fence railings up. However, we did see two different groups climb the railings to go down to the falls. I would encourage everyone to remember the basics of National Park hiking and stay on the trails for your own safety and for the protection of the natural environment. :)

Barnes Point Lake Crescent

lake crescent in olympic national park
Lake Crescent is one of the best things to do in Olympic National Park if you love freshwater lakes and scenery! © Kim Tate

If you or your kids are on TikTok you might have already seen Lake Crescent in your feed. It’s a very popular lake because it’s so clear and the water is somewhat turquoise. Interesting fact: the water is so clear because the lake has a low amount of nitrogen, so algae doesn’t grow in the lake.

Barnes Point is a popular spot to go swimming. You can reach this area if you’re a guest at the Lake Crescent Lodge, or via the Moments in Time hiking trail. If you get a parking spot at the Storm King Ranger Station for the Marymere Falls hike, then you can just stay parked there and walk 0.5 miles down the road to the Moments in Time trail.

Be sure to pack some water shoes as the shoreline and shallow part of the lake is very rocky. This area of the lake has a very shallow edge before a deep dropoff. Pack some beach chairs or a few beach blankets if you plan to play for a while so you can relax on the shore.

Note, this area is crowded. We lucked out by visiting later in the day when people left and so we had no issue finding a parking spot and we had a beach area all to ourselves. If you can visit after 4 pm, that would be recommended in the summer.

Rialto Beach

sunset at rialto beach in olympic national park
Sunset at Rialto Beach on the coast of Olympic National Park is a great way to end your day of exploring. © Kim Tate

We ended our second day by driving to the Pacific Ocean and watching the sunset at Rialto Beach. This beach is full of rocks and driftwood and the shoreline is dotted with some rocky islands. Our visit had heavy waves and a beautiful yellow and orange sunset.

Again, parking will be tricky. If you arrive before sunset, you might get lucky finding a spot that opened after daytime picnickers have left.

Overnight Recommendations:
Woodland Inns in Forks (one of our favorite spots!)
Quileute Oceanside Resort
Quillayute River Resort

Where to Eat:
– The Springs Restaurant at Sol Duc Hot Springs
– Lake Crescent Lodge
– Granny’s Cafe
– Benellis Burgers
– Blakeslees Bar and Grill

Day 3: Hoh Rain Forest / Ruby Beach / Kalaloch Beach

For your final day in Olympic National Park, you’ll visit the famous temperate rainforest of the park as well as two different types of beaches. You can end your trip and head back to Seattle or spend another day or two in the area.

Hoh Rain Forest

big trees at hoh rain forest in olympic national park
Getting close to nature at Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park. © Kim Tate

The Hoh Rainforest is probably one of the most popular things to do in Olympic National Park. For our family who lives in the PNW, it’s a bit standard, but if you’re not familiar with living amongst big trees and fern-covered forest floors, this shouldn’t be missed. It’s one of the few temperate rainforests in the United States.

Hoh Rain Forest features two easy, small hikes at the Visitor’s Center that will lead you through these old-growth trees. The Spruce Nature Trail leads along one part of the forest that runs alongside the Hoh River. The Hall of Mosses Trail leads deeper into the forest and you’ll see a lot of moss and ferns alongside the towering spruce and pine trees.

This is another time that it works to pack your own lunch. You can grab some lunch groceries in Forks if you stayed near there. There’s also a Subway in Forks if you want to bring sandwiches, or you can support the local Hard Rain Cafe & Campground on your way in or out of Hoh and grab a sandwich there.

Ruby Beach

walking on ruby beach olympic peninsula
Walking with the waves at Ruby Beach. © Kim Tate

Ruby Beach is another popular beach in Olympic National Park that’s on the Pacific Ocean. You’ll park above the beach and wind down a path to the beach. Here’s another beach where you want to pay attention to tide schedules. The beach has a lot of driftwood but it’s also a nice mix of sand and rocks.

Kalaloch Beach / Tree of Life

tree of life at kalaloch beach
Tree of Life at Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park. © Kim Tate

If you’re ready to relax and enjoy your final moments of vacation, grab a beach blanket and head to Kalaloch Beach. There are a couple of beaches near Kalaloch you’ll see mentions of Beach 2, 3, and 4. They’re all stacked next to each other near Kalaloch.

If you’re near the Kalaloch Campground or walk north of the Kalaloch Lodge, you’ll find the famous Tree of Life. Erosion has washed out the sand and soil around this majestic Sitka Spruce tree. How it has managed to stay alive and standing with no soil around its roots on the stormy WA coast is amazing. Definitely worth a visit.

Overnight Recommendations:
Kalaloch Lodge
Lake Quinault Lodge
– Ocean Shores
– Aberdeen

Where to Eat:
– Hard Rain Cafe
– Creekside Restaurant at Kalaloch Lodge

That wraps up my recommended 3-day itinerary for Olympic National Park. This trip features most of the best things to do in the park. Now you’re ready to end an amazing trip and head back to Seattle.

More Than 3 Days in Olympic National Park?

If you have additional time and want more lakes, rivers, and rainforests, head to Lake Quinault or the less-visited Staircase area of the park. The Lake Quinault Lodge is a popular National Park resort hotel.

Or perhaps you’re craving more beaches, if so, head down to the popular vacation spot of Ocean Shores.

olympic national park itinerary pin image
Olympic National Park itinerary with the best things to do! © Stuffed Suitcase

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Friday 11th of February 2022

Hi There!!!! Planning a trip to Olympic National Park for 6 days. including out travel days I have not booked air, or lodging. The earliest we could arrive would be mid day (flying from Tennessee) Thinking June 22ish... that time OK? Want to see rainforest, low tides (sea creatures) and planning on a whale watching tour, maybe out of Port Townsend. Fly into Seattle -- All the itineraries have the trip starting in the Hurricane Hills area, but I was wondering can we go CLOCK wise instead? Truthfully the reason for this I know the highlight of our trip for our 9 yo grandson who will be with us, will be the whale watching trip soooo kinda wanted it last so he could look forward to it. Good idea or not? Also I know the Hoh area maybe our longer hike, so kinda wanted to do it toward the beginning of the trip bf he gets worn out. For Some reason I cannot get the Logistic down on this NP trip. I've got to do it quickly so I can get lodging