Planning a trip from Seattle to Olympic National Park and wondering what the best way is to get there? Your best route is going to depend a bit on where you are in Seattle, when you’re traveling, and if you want to take a ferry.
Your route will also depend on where you’re headed in the park. If you’re following my Olympic National Park itinerary, you’ll be heading to Port Angeles first. If you’re working from the south to the north then you might choose to go to the park via Olympia. It’s easy to make a loop from Seattle to Olympic National Park and back to Seattle.
You can expect the drive to Olympic National Park to take you about 3 hours via driving or via a ferry. However, if you do take a ferry there could be additional delays due to early arrival requirements and waiting for a spot on a ferry if you don’t have a reservation.
Seattle to Olympic National Park (No Ferry Route)
If you want to avoid ferries, there is an easy way to drive from Seattle to Olympic National Park. You might choose to avoid ferries if you’re visiting during the summer and weekends when ferry traffic is heavy, if you don’t want the added cost of ferry tickets, or if you’ve failed to make ferry reservations in advance and so want to avoid a wait at the ferry terminal.
These routes should take you 2½ to 3 hours from Seattle to Port Angeles. Rush hour times should be avoided and Friday evenings can be exceptionally bad driving south from Seattle to Tacoma/Olympia.
via I-5 Tacoma
From Seattle, you’ll head south on I-5 to Tacoma. At Tacoma, you’ll take WA-16 West to the peninsula and work your way north towards Port Orchard/Gorst. Near Gorst, you’ll take WA-3 North towards Port Gamble. You’ll then connect to WA-104 and cross the Hood Canal Bridge. WA-104 will connect with WA-101 North and you’ll take this highway across the top of the peninsula to Port Angeles.
Port Angeles is where the main Olympic National Park Visitors Center is located. It’s also near the Hurricane Ridge area of the park. Most of the Olympic National Park is not inhabited and you’ll find limited lodging and restaurants. Choosing your Olympic National Park lodging will depend on what parts of the park you want to explore.
via I-5 Olympia
Another driving route that does not use a ferry is to take I-5 South to Olympia. Then at Olympia, you’ll take WA-8 West to WA-12 West to Aberdeen. After Aberdeen, you’ll take the WA-101 North at Hoquiam to reach the southwest part of Olympic National Park.
This route takes you to the Lake Quinault rainforest region and the southern sandy beaches of Olympic National Park like Kalaloch. I personally prefer the Seattle -> Port Angeles -> Forks -> Lake Quinault -> Olympia -> Seattle loop route for exploring the park.
Driving from Seattle to Olympic National Park via Ferry
Ferry transportation is a pretty big part of life in Washington State. If you’re visiting Seattle and Olympic National Park as a tourist, I highly recommend you consider taking a ferry.
Things to keep in mind about taking a ferry: if you’re traveling during the summer or weekends, I highly recommend making reservations in advance. Also, recognize that you’ll be paying about $20 for a car and driver plus $9 for each additional adult. You can take the ferry over to the Olympic National Park for the experience and then drive back to Seattle via roads and no ferry.
The ferry ride should take about 30 minutes to cross, but you’ll need to arrive early if you have a reservation and you could have a long wait if you don’t have a reservation.
Seattle to Bainbridge Island Ferry Route
From Seattle, you’ll take the Bainbridge Island ferry across to Bainbridge Island. Once you reach the island you’ll continue on WA-305 North and across the Agate Passage Bridge. At Poulsbo, you’ll head north on WA-3 to WA-104 and across the Hood Canal Bridge. You’ll continue on WA-104 to connect with WA-101 North which will lead you to Port Angeles.
Edmonds to Kingston Ferry Route
If you happen to be staying in the northern burbs of Seattle, you might want to avoid heading south into or through Seattle to reach Olympic National Park. You can take the Edmonds-Kingston ferry to reach the Olympic Peninsula.
The Edmonds to Kingston ferry route is the same price as the Bainbridge Island route. Two adults and a car will cost about $30 for the 30-minute crossing. Once you reach Kingston, you’ll continue west on WA-104 across the Hood Canal Bridge. Eventually, you’ll connect with the WA-101 North which leads to Port Angeles.
These are a few routes for how to get from Seattle to Olympic National Park. Our family decided to avoid ferries since we’ve had the ferry experience as locals. Our route was:
Seattle -> Tacoma -> Port Angeles -> Forks -> Lake Quinault -> Olympia -> Seattle
If you’re a tourist and want to experience riding a WA State Ferry, I recommend this route:
Seattle -> Bainbridge Island (ferry) -> Port Angeles -> Forks -> Lake Quinault -> Olympia -> Seattle
If you’re flying into Seattle and renting a car (or are based south of Seattle), you’ll likely want to use the Tacoma route and avoid the ferries since you’ll already be south of Seattle.
I hope you have a great trip exploring this gorgeous area of the Pacific Northwest!