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This guest post was generously contributed by Jamie, a travel loving mom of 4 who writes her family’s travel story over at Fly By The Seat of Our Pants.
Although on the northwest edge of the United States, Olympic National Park is worth the journey. This park offers the only rainforest in all of the USA. Beyond that, there is a wide variety of water, mountains and nature to discover. This is a great park to take kids to as many of the main stops are right along the road and there are several short hikes, which makes it rewarding, yet not overly difficult.
What to know before you visit Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park has a variety of things to see and experience. We went from the sandy beach to the highest peak with an overlook of the mountain range. Then two hours later we hiked in a rain forest to a waterfall. The mixture of water, rain forest, and mountains is so intense that it almost seems too good to be true!
- What to know before you visit Olympic National Park
- How long should we spend in Olympic National Park with kids?
- Where are the best places to stay around Olympic National Park for families?
- What is the Weather like at Olympic National Park?
- When is the best time of year to visit Olympic National Park?
- What’s the best way to get to Olympic National Park?
- Getting around Olympic National Park
- The perfect 2-day itinerary in Olympic National Park
How long should we spend in Olympic National Park with kids?
We were on a tight schedule, so we saw the whole park in only 2 full days. We started and finished in Seattle. If you can, I would stay 3-5 days to fully enjoy this park, and spend more time at each location. We’ve included all of the highlights for a trip to Olympic National Park below. If you spend 3 days in Olympic National Park, simply spend more time in one area. Huh Rain forest and Ruby Beach could be full day stops on their own, so don’t worry about running out of things to do in Olympic!
Where are the best places to stay around Olympic National Park for families?
If you’re looking for family accommodations around Olympic National Park, we highly recommend checking out local Airbnb’s. There are some pretty amazing places to stay that are in stunning locations like right on a like, river or beach, and have really great amenities that the whole family will love like zip lines, hot tubs and more!
What is the Weather like at Olympic National Park?
We came from a hot and humid summer in Texas, so it was difficult to imagine anywhere being chilly in late July. But the coast and the tops of the mountains were chilly. We were in heaven to use our jackets! Bring some warm clothes, but layer up as it can also be warm in the sun. It was beautiful, sunny weather in July, but since it is a rain forest, they expect a lot of rainfall, so be prepared. We always bring packable rain jackets and fleece coats so we’re always prepared for the weather.
When is the best time of year to visit Olympic National Park?
The best time of year to visit Olympic National Park is during the summer from July-September. During this time, the weather is warmer, most facilities are open, and access to all areas of the park is easier.
What’s the best way to get to Olympic National Park?
Olympic National Park is not as close to Seattle as you might think, and the drive will take you 2.5-3 hours to get to Olympic National Park. With the Puget Sound dividing the big city and nature, it may take a bit longer to get to the National Park. We took a ferry from Seattle to Bremerton to stay the night and wake up a bit closer to the Park.
Getting around Olympic National Park
The National Park has only one main highway circling the entire area. Most of the sights I describe here are 15 mins to 45 min drive off the main road and back again. There were no loops or short cuts, just out and back roads. We started from the North side of the park and worked our way to the West coast and then around the South side and back to Seattle.
I suggest starting on the other side of the Puget Sound. Port Townsend looks like a quaint and beautiful place to stay. Our family woke up in a hotel a few hours from the National park in Bremerton.
The perfect 2-day itinerary in Olympic National Park
Are you ready to jump right in and start planning your 2-day trip to Olympic National Park? We’ve put together the perfect itinerary to Olympic National Park with kids, that focuses on the 9 major highlights of the park. This itinerary for Olympic Park includes all DIY suggestions. If you want to get an expert naturalist to guide you around the park, check this option out.
Day 1 Olympic National Park
1. Dungeness Spit
Dungeness Spit is a small strip of sandy land that extends into the ocean for 5 miles! This is not an actual part of Olympic national park, but was so interesting and beautiful
Navigate to Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge to find the right entrance. There is a $3 per party fee to hike out to the spit.
This place is a refuge for animals so no rough playing or beach toys allowed.
The hike is absolutely beautiful and you are walking through a covered forest until the coast suddenly appears.
The trail splits into two trails. One is paved, wide and easy sloping, the other trail is a natural hiking trail, narrow and through more brushes. The natural trail is longer in mileage since it meanders through the woods, but still short enough for kids to manage easily.
Once you get to the actual spit, this narrow piece of land extends 5 miles out into the ocean. Check out the binoculars (provided) to get a glimpse of the lighthouse at the end of the 5 mile spit.
After the view of the long Spit from the overlook, either turn around here, or head down many steps to the beach. If you brought a stroller, leave it at the top as there is no more pavement.
Hike down a fairly steep dirt hill and some steps to get to the beach. It’s possible to walk the entire 5 miles to the lighthouse. But as soon as our kids hit the sandbar we started playing with the smooth stones, the driftwood, and the sand.
It was really windy and chilly, but there are places of refuge where we played with the kids and hid in driftwood ‘forts’.
Our kids imagined and created with the rocks and driftwood for nearly an hour. Daddy skipped rocks into the ocean and I soaked in the relaxing sounds of the ocean and delightful giggles of my children.
2. Hurricane Ridge
Stop at the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center at the base of the mountain. Grab a Junior Ranger program. Ask about the park, any closures and recommendations for your family. Make sure to grab a map with lots of info about the park.
Next, drive the 45 minutes to the top of Hurricane Ridge. During our drive up to Hurricane Ridge we were in such dense fog and it began raining. I thought we were wasting our time driving to an overlook with all the clouds. However, as we climbed and climbed the mountain, we emerged on top of the clouds. We were treated to a spectacular view of many, many mountains and valleys and glaciers.
The visitors lodge at the top of Hurricane Ridge has a short video about the area. The kids loved the topographical map showing us the different mountains we were looking at.
The view from inside and outside the lodge is perfect. If it is windy and chilly, you can see from inside through a large window wall.
Hike up the small hill opposite the parking lot from the lodge. It might feel like a giant mountain with minimal oxygen!
My children wondered aloud if we would possibly see a deer just as we turned a corner to have a deer within feet of us crossing the path. We saw multiple deer, elk, squirrels and even a Marmot.
The perspective and grandeur of so many mountain tops is incredible. From this point, if it’s clear, the view of the northeast coast of America is beautiful.
As we drove down the ridge, I thought surely the fog had lifted since we had such great views at the top, But it was still waiting for us as we dropped down in elevation.
3. Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent is right along the road. Jump out for a quick stop of dipping your feet in or skipping some rocks. Make sure to bring along some lightweight towels to dry off before you keep going (we take these EVERYWHERE with us). The views of the deep blue water and the mountains jutting up are beautiful. Traveling right along the shore will give several different amazing views.
4. Sol Duc Hot Springs
Sol Duc offers two amazing experiences. Here there is a resort where you can stay the night or just go to the pools. There are hot pools of varying temperatures for all ages. To use the pools it costs $14/adults $10 for kids. Twilight hours are only $10 for kids and adults for the last 2 hours of the day.
5. Sol Duc Waterfalls
From the same parking lot, you can also begin your hike to Sol Duc Waterfall. The triple waterfall in this area is beautiful. All of our kids enjoyed the easy hike and the abundance of logs and rocks. No complaints from the kids is always a win!
6. City of Forks
Made famous by the vampire series, Twilight, this little sleepy town is exactly as it was described. We found a 2 bedroom apartment with 2 bathrooms and a kitchenette. We love being able to eat in after a long day out and the kids loved some time in their own room away from mom and dad.
Stop into the local grocery stop for some of the best donuts I’ve ever had!
Day 2 Olympic National Park
7. Hoh Rainforest
Hoh Rainforest is the only rainforest in the continental US. We’ve been to the other rainforests (in Hawaii) but this was so different and interesting.
Right out the back door of the Hoh visitor’s center, take the short trail called Hall of Mosses, that is only 0.8 miles long. You’ll find it is quiet and dense. You might even wonder if you lost your kids because they are so quiet! The sun is almost completely hidden by the canopy. Huge trees trunks create many logs to crawl into or on top of.
The kids loved this hike. It is completely flat and short, but definitely worth the walk
8. Ruby Beach
Ruby Beach is located on the west coast of Olympic National Park, and is probably the most beautiful beach in the entire park. The parking area only has room for 12 cars, the overflow area is on the road. When we arrived around noon parking was difficult to find, so plan on going early or late if you don’t want to deal with parking issues.
From the parking area you will hike out to the coast and then down the stairs.
One of the highlights of a visit to Ruby Beach is the tide pools, so make sure to check those out.
Despite the breeze and cooler weather, the kids still insisted on getting in the water, so come prepared with packable towels. We also enjoyed lunch and flying kites here. The wind is perfect for it. Digging in the sand is always a favorite beach activity so a collapsible bucket like this is a great idea, but having small to giant smooth round stones made this beach unique and memorable.
The giant boulders towering over the ocean gave this a majestic feeling.
9. Lake Quinault
Our last stop was a little hike around Lake Quinault. With more hollow logs, dense foliage and an easy to follow loop trail, the kids will love another hike through the woods.
If you have more time, spend it swimming or doing water sports in this lake.
Olympic National park offers so much variety. Every stop was something new and different, so we never felt bored with constantly seeing the same thing.
If you are near Seattle, you must make a stop, even if it’s just for a day -check out our itinerary for One Day in Seattle with kids.