Camping in Olympic National Park is one of the best ways to explore this absolutely incredibly yet often overlooked outdoor wonderland.
Spanning 141,000 square miles, the park contains three distinct ecosystems: temperate forest, glaciated mountains, and rugged coastline.
All three ecosystems provide countless opportunities for exploring (including countless miles of hiking and backpacking trails) and appreciating the diversity of the plant and animal life.
Here is our ultimate visitors guide to help you plan your Olympic National Park camping trip.
- Best Campgrounds in the Park
- Other Park Campgrounds
- Best Campgrounds Near the Park
- Free Camping
- Other Lodging
- Camping Gear Checklist
- Additional Camping Tips
- Must-See Destinations
- Hiking & Backpacking
- Other Park Activities
- Things to Do Nearby
- Plan Your Visit
- Sample Camping Itineraries
Olympic National Park Highlights
Over 2,800,000 people visit Olympic National Park each year, making it the 7th most visited national park in the country.
These visitors flock to the park for its sheer natural beauty, vast variety of plants and animal life, and the near endless opportunities for outdoor activities.
Olympic National Park stretches from the rugged coastline of the Pacific Ocean to the snowcapped peaks of the Olympic Mountains. In between are all kinds of natural wonders including old-growth temperate rainforests, scenic alpine lakes, roaring rivers, and cascading waterfalls.
Olympic National Park contains 60 glaciers, 13 rivers, and 73 miles of coastline. It has 600 miles of trails for hiking and backpacking. It’s the greatest wilderness left in the continental United States.
Moderate year-round temperatures make camping, backpacking, and hiking the most popular activities in Olympic National Park. A vast network of trails ensures you’ll never step on the same trail twice – no matter how much time you spend in the park.
In the winter months, the mountainous interior region of the park is home to world-class skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. At the same time, most of the park’s lower elevation hiking trails remain snow-free.
You can literally spend years upon years exploring Olympic National Park – and many locals do.
Best Campgrounds in Olympic National Park
Camping in Olympic National Park is one of the most popular ways to explore the Olympic Peninsula.
There are currently 12 Olympic National Park campgrounds. All are first-come, first-served except for Kalaloch Campground which offers reservations during the peak season. Dozens of other campgrounds are located just outside the park boundaries.
Here are the best campgrounds in Olympic National Park.
*Closed permanently due to heavy flooding starting in 2014 when two dams on Elwha River were removed.
Nestled in the woods on the Elwha River, Altair Campground is the perfect jumping off point for exploring popular Olympic National Park destinations including Goblin’s Gate, Humes Ranch, and Olympic Hot Springs.
The campground is open from May to October. It contains 30 non-reservable spots and is RV friendly (up to 35 feet for some spots). Flush toilets and running water are available.
Learn more about Altair Campground.
Deer Park Campground
One of the best places to camp in the entire country, Olympic National Park’s Deer Park Campground is unique as the only car campground in the park that’s located in high-alpine country. Camp here for 360-degree views of the surrounding Olympic Mountains, Puget Sound, and Strait of Juan de Fuca. The campground’s isolation provides breathtaking views of the night skies when the weather is clear.
The campground is open from July to September, depending on snow. It contains 14 non-reservable spots. Because of the rugged and winding 18-mile access road, RVs aren’t allowed. Running water isn’t available although Deer Park has pit toilets.
Learn more about Deer Park Campground.
Dosewallips Campground (Walk-In Only)
The sole walk-in only campground in Olympic National Park (other than backcountry campsites), Dosewallips Campground is very popular with hikers making their way into or out of the backcountry. Located alongside the swift Dosewallips River, it takes a 5.5-mile hike to get to this pretty campground from the end of the access road.
The campground is open year round. It contains 30 non-reservable tent spots. As it’s a walk-in campground, RVs aren’t allowed. Running water isn’t available although Dosewallips does have pit toilets.
Learn more about Dosewallips Campground.
Elwha Campground (Closed)
*Closed permanently due to heavy flooding starting in 2014 when two dams on Elwha River were removed.
One of the most exciting campgrounds in Olympic National Park, Elwha Campground is located alongside the gorgeous Elwha River. Recently freed from two dams, the river is rapidly regaining life. Miles of spectacular hiking trails are close at hand, including several that lead up to old abandoned cabins.
The campground is open year round. It contains 40 non-reservable spots and is RV friendly (up to 35 feet for some spots). Flush toilets and running water are available from April to September only.
Learn more about Elwha Campground.
Located on the ever popular Lake Crescent, Fairholme Campground fills up fast. Arrive early to secure one of the coveted lakeside camping spots. Fairholme is also among the cleanest and best-maintained campgrounds in Olympic National Park. In addition to exploring Lake Crescent, use Fairholme Campground as a jumping off point for Sol Duc Falls and Hurricane Ridge.
The campground is open from April to October. It contains 88 non-reservable spots and is RV friendly (up to 21 feet). Flush toilets, running water, and an RV dump station are available.
Learn more about Fairholme Campground.
Graves Creek Campground
Camping in the Quinault Rainforest is an experience unlike any other. Graves Creek Campground’s location alongside the serene Quinault River makes it the perfect place to do so. This Olympic National Park campground provides easy access to popular destinations including Pony Bridge, Quinault Loop, and Enchanted Valley. Deer and elk often wander by in the mornings and evenings on their way to drink from the river.
The campground is open year round. It contains 30 non-reservable spots. It isn’t RV friendly. Running water isn’t available although Graves Creek has pit toilets.
Learn more about Graves Creek Campground.
Heart O’the Hills Campground
Located smack dab in the middle of an old growth forest, Heart O’the Hills is a popular Olympic National Park campground for family camping. Kids love the fun summer ranger programs. The campground is just a few miles from Port Angeles, making it one of the most easily accessible in the park. But the real draw of Heart O’the Hills is its close proximity to Hurricane Ridge. The breathtaking destination is located a short 14-mile drive uphill.
The campground is open year round. However, the area receives heavy snow in the winters, making it walk-in only while snow is on the ground. It contains 105 non-reservable spots and is RV friendly (up to 35 feet in some campsites). Flush toilets, running water, and an RV dump station are available.
Learn more about Heart O’the Hills Campground.
Tucked away in the country’s most famous rainforest, Hoh Campground is a very central jumping off point for many Olympic National Park attractions. Camp here for easy access to popular hiking trails like Mount Olympus, Hoh River Trail, and Hall of Mosses. As one of the wettest locations in America, campers should adequately prepare for rain, even in the middle of summer.
The campground is open year round. It contains 88 non-reservable spots and is RV friendly (up to 21 feet). Flush toilets, running water, and an RV dump station are available.
Learn more about Hoh Campground.
There’s a reason that Kalaloch Campground is the most popular campground in Olympic National Park – it’s simply beautiful. Situated on a bluff alongside sandy Kalaloch Beach, many campsites have amazing views of the ocean, especially at sunset. Kalaloch is the one of two campgrounds in the park that allow reservations (from June to September). Make these well ahead of time to secure a spot during the summer.
The campground is open year round. It contains 170 reservable spots and is RV friendly (up to 35 feet for some spots). Flush toilets, running water, an RV dump station, and a year-round general store are available.
Learn more about Kalaloch Campground.
Mora (La Push) Campground
Also referred to as La Push Campground, Mora Campground is situated near the Quillayute River, just a few miles from Rialto Beach. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump away from popular Olympic National Park destinations including Hole in the Wall, Second Beach, and Strawberry Bay Falls. Eagle, seal, deer, whale, and even bear sightings are commonplace.
The campground is open year round. It contains 95 non-reservable spots and is RV friendly (up to 35 feet for some spots). Pit toilets, running water, and an RV dump station are available.
Learn more about Mora Campground.
North Fork Campground
For those looking for a more secluded Olympic National Park camping experience, North Fork Campground is one of the best choices. Hidden along the Quinault River, this tiny campground is located close to beautiful hikes including Skyline Ridge Primitive Trails. Deer, elk, and bears visit the area often.
The campground is open year round. It contains 9 non-reservable spots. It isn’t RV friendly. Running water isn’t available although North Fork has pit toilets.
Learn more about North Fork Campground.
With views of Lake Ozette from every campsite, the isolated Ozette Campground is an often overlooked gem of an Olympic National Park campground. Miles from anywhere else, the road to the lake is often rough and muddy. The campsites themselves are equally wet. Yet it’s all worth it when you consider the beauty of the lake and its proximity to some of the most remote coastline in the country.
The campground is open year round. It contains 15 non-reservable spots and is RV friendly (up to 21 feet). Running water isn’t available although Ozette Campground does have pit toilets.
Learn more about Ozette Campground.
Queets Campground is among the most remote campgrounds in Olympic National Park. This makes it perfect for those looking to experience the park in solitude. On top of that, it’s located in one of the least visited sections of the park.
The campground is open year round. It contains 20 non-reservable spots. It isn’t RV friendly. Running water isn’t available although Queets has pit toilets.
Learn more about Queets Campground.
Sol Duc Campground
Sol Duc Campground is one of the best places for camping in Olympic National Park. Located next to the incredible Sol Duc Falls, it’s also in close proximity to hot springs, a sprinkling of lakes, and rivers filled with salmon. Thanks to its popularity, Sol Duc Campground is home to a number of summer ranger programs. The nearby Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort offers a lodge and restaurant during the summer months.
The campground is open year round. However, flush toilets and running water are only available from May to October. It contains 82 non-reservable spots and is RV friendly (up to 35 feet for some spots).
Learn more about Sol Duc Campground.
South Beach Campground
Though it’s right off of Highway 101 and just minutes from Kalaloch, South Beach Campground is surprisingly isolated. It’s scenic location on a bluff provides campers with great views of the Pacific Ocean, especially at sunset. South Beach is also the perfect jumping off point to explore the Quinault and Queets Rainforests.
The campground is open from May to September. It contains 50 non-reservable spots and is RV friendly (up to 35 feet in some campsites). Running water isn’t available although South Beach has pit toilets and an RV dump station.
Learn more about South Beach Campground.
The best campground on the eastern side of Olympic National Park, Staircase Campground is immediately alongside the Skokomish River. Gladys Divide and Staircase Loop Trail are just a few of the amazing hiking trails within easy access of Staircase. Thanks to its proximity to the park’s most remote mountains, the campground also acts as a home base for backpacking in Olympic National Park’s backcountry wilderness.
The campground is open year-round. It contains 56 non-reservable spots and is RV friendly (up to 35 feet for some spots). Flush toilets and running water are available from June to September.
Learn more about Staircase Campground.
Other Olympic National Park Campgrounds
Want to camp in Olympic National Park but away from the crowd?
Then backcountry camping is the way to go. All of these campgrounds and camping areas require a hike to reach, making them perfect backpacking destinations.
Here are the best backcountry campgrounds in Olympic National Park:
Two of the best backcountry campgrounds in Olympic National Park are Shi Shi Beach and Enchanted Valley.
Camping in Shi Shi Beach should be on every outdoor lover’s camping bucket list. The easy 2 to 5 mile hike takes you down onto one of the most scenic stretches of beach in Washington. Camp right on the beach and wake up to incredible morning views.
Camping in Enchanted Valley requires a much longer hike in but the area is just as beautiful. A round-trip hike of 26 miles is necessary, making this a backpacking destination more than anything else. The breathtaking mountain retreat is complete with an abandoned historic lodge.
Learn more about the best backpacking in Olympic National Park.
Best Campgrounds Near Olympic National Park
You don’t have to camp in Olympic National Park when visiting the Olympic Peninsula.
There are plenty of campgrounds just outside the park. Some of these are small to help you avoid crowds while others are large and full of amenities for a full-blown RV camping experience.
Here are a few of the best campgrounds near Olympic National Park.
Located in the nearby Olympic National Forest, Coho Campground is situated on Wynoochee Lake. In addition to 48 reservable campsites, there are 8 walk-in tent sites, a group site, and 3 reservable yurts. No hookups are available but many of the sites accommodate RVs and trailers.
Learn more about Coho Campground.
Dosewallips State Park
Few campgrounds near Olympic National Park are better for exploring the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula than Dosewallips State Park. The large campground has 75 tent sites, 45 RV sites with full hookups, and 12 cabins. All sites are reservable online.
Learn more about Dosewallips State Park.
Hamma Hamma Campground
Hamma Hamma Campground is also located in Olympic National Forest along the Hamma Hamma River. It has 15 first-come, first-served campsites that accommodate tents as well as RVs and trailers up to 21 feet.
Learn more about Hamma Hamma Campground.
Olympic Peninsula/Port Angeles KOA
Chief among the best full amenities RV camping on the Olympic Peninsula is the Olympic Peninsula/Port Angeles KOA. Located just outside Port Angeles, the family-friendly campground has dozens of full utilities campsites to accommodate RVs of all lengths as well as a grassy tent camping area and numerous camping cabins. A swimming pool, dog park, and bicycle rentals are additional amenities.
Learn more about Olympic Peninsula/Port Angeles KOA.
Salt Creek Recreation Area
Salt Creek Recreation Area in Clallam County is another great place for camping near Olympic National Park. Located on a high bluff overlooking the Puget Sound, 73 of the campground’s 92 campsites have a view of the water. Most sites accommodate RVs, although there are a few tent-only sites. Reservations are accepted during the peak season.
Learn more about Salt Creek Recreation Area.
Sequim Bay State Park
Don’t like the rain? Sequim Bay State Park is located just outside of Sequim, one of the driest towns on the Olympic Peninsula. The scenic, peaceful campground boasts 45 primitive campsites plus 15 campsites with partial RV utilities. A handful of sites accommodate RVs over 30 feet. Reservations are accepted.
Learn more about Sequim Bay State Park.
Camping on Lake Quinault doesn’t get much better than Willaby Campground. An ideal campground for Olympic National Park visitors, the 19 lakeside campsites are quiet and peaceful. Most accommodate RVs and trailers in addition to tent campers. Reservations are available.
Learn more about Willaby Campground.
Free Camping in Olympic National Park
Believe it or not, free camping in Olympic National Park is completely possible.
Well, there aren’t exactly any free campgrounds in Olympic National Park, but there is an abundance of free camping just outside the park.
The key is to look for areas that allow dispersed camping. This means camping without amenities, so don’t expect bathrooms or running water. You can sometimes expect a pit toilet, but if you don’t want to do your business in the woods, you might consider bringing along a camping toilet.
These public areas typically allow free dispersed camping for between 7 and 14 days. Washington DNR land does require a Discover Pass ($35 per year or $11.50 per day).
Minnie Peterson Campground is my personal favorite. It’s located on the edge of the Hoh Rainforest near the town of Forks. It has roughly 10 total campsites and is spacious enough for RVs up to 30 feet.
Washington DNR has an excellent resource to camping in Olympic Peninsula forests – including recommendations for other popular free campgrounds including Cottonwood Campground and Hoh Oxbow Campground.
Freecampsites.net is another invaluable tool for free camping on the Olympic Peninsula – or anywhere else in North America, for that matter.
And, don’t forget to check out our ultimate guide to free camping for more free camping tips and tricks.
Other Lodging in Olympic National Park
Not everyone wants to go camping in Olympic National Park. Luckily, there are plenty of other Olympic National Park lodging options to choose from.
Inside the park’s borders, five lodging options are available. These range from sophisticated lodges to simple cabins. Outside the park are dozens of other options, including motels, cabins, and lodges.
If you’re planning to visit Olympic National Park during the summer, be sure to book your lodging accommodations well in advance. Reservations fill up fast.
Located just feet from one of the best beaches in Olympic National Park, Kalaloch Lodge offers both motel-style lodge rooms and rustic cabins. A dining room and general store are also on site. Thanks to its location high on a bluff, many of the lodge rooms and cabins have breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.
Learn more about Kalaloch Lodge.
Lake Crescent Lodge
Lake Crescent Lodge is as picturesque as it gets. Built in 1915, the imposing wood structure sits tucked back among giant trees on the shore of Lake Crescent. In addition to lake and mountain view lodge rooms, Lake Crescent Lodge is home to a smattering of rustic cabins.
A dining room, lounge, coffee shop, and gift shop are also on site. Swimming in the lake is possible although the water is very cold, even in summer. A better way to see the lake up close is to rent a boat from the lodge.
Learn more about Lake Crescent Lodge.
Lake Quinault Lodge
Despite the elegance of Lake Quinault Lodge itself, the sheer isolation of its location makes for a relaxing getaway. Built in 1926, the historic lodge gives visitors a chance to disconnect from the world. Cabins aren’t available at this location.
The grounds of Lake Quinault Lodge consist of an expansive front lawn that extends down to the shores of Lake Quinault. Inside the lodge, the highlight is the spacious great room where guests can relax in the welcoming warmth of the fireplace. Another majestic fireplace is located outdoors, the perfect place to unwind in the summer months.
Learn more about Lake Quinault Lodge.
Log Cabin Resort
Located on the north shore of Lake Crescent, Log Cabin Resort is much smaller than Lake Crescent Lodge. Surrounded by quiet forests, the resort’s peaceful setting lends itself well to those that prefer solitude.
Lodge rooms, lakeside chalets, and rustic cabins are available for rental. An area for tent camping and RV camping is available on site. A small deli, general store, and café are also available.
Learn more about Log Cabin Resort.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort
If simple and straightforward Olympic National Park lodging is what you’re after, then Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is your best bet. The compound is made up of several small cabins as well as a dining room, restaurant, mineral-pool hot springs, and general store. Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is one of the best places to stay for those looking to explore the nearby Sol Duc Valley and Sol Duc Falls.
Learn more about Sol Duc Hot Springs.
Nearby Hotels, Cabins, Airbnb’s
Staying outside the park is a great option for those on a budget. You can sometimes even snag an empty room when all of the accommodations in Olympic National Park are booked.
Nearby towns like Forks, Port Angeles, Sequim, Aberdeen, Port Townsend, Clallam Bay, Amanda Park, Shelton, Belfair, and Hoodsport have a smattering of hotels, motels, lodges, bed and breakfasts, cabins, and campgrounds available for Olympic National Park visitors.
The Olympic Lodge in Port Angeles is among the most popular. With 105 rooms, the large lodge combines the look and feel of a historic lodge with the modern conveniences of a stylish hotel. It’s located only a few miles away from the border of Olympic National Park.
Specific Camping Gear You’ll Need
Camping in Olympic National Park requires certain gear and equipment you might not necessarily need elsewhere.
Start with our family camping checklist before you add in the following gear:
Rainy Weather Gear
Much of the Olympic Peninsula is wet. In fact, the town of Forks is one of the rainiest places in the contiguous United States.
Although it’s always important to prepare for rain when visiting Olympic National Park, this is especially true when exploring the western and particularly southwestern side of the park.
Here, the Olympic Mountains push air from the Pacific Ocean upwards, causing it to condensate and begin to rain.
The same process that makes the west side of the park so rainy is also what makes the northeast side so much dryer (the Olympic rain shadow).
Because of the risk of rain, it’s important to pack a waterproof tent and waterproof sleeping bag, even during the winter. You should take additional wet weather precautions if you’re planning a backpacking trip, including rain pants and a rain jacket.
Our guide to camping in the rain will help point you in the right direction.
Or, if you’re planning to go winter camping in Olympic National Park, our guide to winter camping will walk you through the best winter tent, winter sleeping bag, camping heater, winter hiking boots, and other winter camping gear to help you stay warm and dry on your off-season trip.
Food Storage Equipment
Olympic National Park is brimming with wildlife, including large, potentially dangerous animals, like bears.
The national park service requires all visitors to properly store food while camping and backpacking.
Most Olympic National Park car campgrounds provide sturdy bear boxes. Another option is to keep all food (and other scented items) stored inside of a hard-sided vehicle.
The Port Angeles WIC, South Shore Lake Quinault USFS Office, Hoh Visitor Center, and Staircase Ranger Station all have limited bear canister rentals.
Power Source, Portable Shower, Camping Toilet
Most campgrounds in Olympic National Park are relatively primitive.
Roughly half have flush toilets (the other half have vault toilets). No campgrounds in the park have RV hookups or showers. Many don’t even have running water.
Finally, those that prefer to have easy access to electricity at their campsite should consider investing in a portable power source for camping.
Additional Camping Tips and Information
Use the following resources to help plan your Olympic National Park camping trip.
Do I Need to Make Reservations?
Very few Olympic National Park campgrounds offer reservations.
The only two that do are Kalaloch Campground and Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort Campground. If you hope to camp at either of these campgrounds during the summer season, advanced reservations are recommended.
Many of the campgrounds just outside of Olympic National Park also offer advanced reservations.
First-Come, First-Served Camping
The vast majority of Olympic National Park campgrounds are first-come, first-served.
During the peak season, it’s smart to arrive early, in late morning or early afternoon, to secure a campsite.
There are no RV hookups at any of the campgrounds in Olympic National Park.
Although RVs are welcome, most campsites accommodate RVs up to 21 feet long while a handful accommodate RVs up to 35 feet long. We’ve listed this information in our best campgrounds section above – or visit the national park service’s Olympic National Park camping page.
Many campgrounds just outside of the park have full RV hookups, pull-through sites to accommodate any size RV, and other RV camping amenities.
If you’re interested in renting an RV to explore Olympic National Park, our best RV rentals in Seattle will help point you in the right direction.
Camping with Pets
Leashed pets are only permitted in certain areas of Olympic National Park.
These areas include all campgrounds, picnic areas, and parking lots as well as Spruce Railroad Trail, Peabody Creek Trail, Madison Falls Trail, Kalaloch Beaches (from Ruby Beach to South Beach), and Rialto Beach.
Pets aren’t allowed in any other areas of the park.
Food Storage & Wildlife Safety
Never approach or feed any wildlife in Olympic National Park.
The park is home to several species of potentially dangerous mammals, including bear, mountain goat, elk, and cougar. Even small wildlife should be avoided and not be fed.
Remember to follow all camping food storage best practices, especially while backpacking in Olympic National Park.
Where to Buy Groceries/Supplies
Visitors have plenty of options to buy groceries and supplies in or near Olympic National Park.
Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Sequim, Aberdeen, and Hoquim all have several grocery stores and are relatively close to the park. Forks Outfitters in Forks is a good option for those on the west side of the park.
Many Olympic National Park visitors choose to do their shopping in Seattle before starting their trip.
As for gasoline, it’s best to fill up in Port Angeles or Aberdeen/Hoquim before heading into the park. There are a few gas stations scattered throughout the rest of the Olympic Peninsula but gas prices are often much more expensive in these more remote areas.
Olympic National Park Must-See Destinations
When camping in Olympic National Park, there are a few must-see destinations that all visitors need to check out.
Hoh Rain Forest
A must-see destination if there ever was one, the Hoh Rain Forest is the rainy gem of the Olympic National Park. Receiving over 134 inches of rain per year, the area is covered in greenery from hanging moss to towering trees to boundless ferns. Visit in July, August, or September to beat most of the rain.
Located at the southern end of Olympic National Park, Kalaloch Beach, and the surrounding area, is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Be sure to make the short journey up to Ruby Beach to take in the towering sea stacks.
Sol Duc Falls
Three streams of churning white water tumble down into the narrow ravine below at Sol Duc Falls. Old growth trees tower high above casting the waterfall in a misty green haze. Several hikes offer a route to the falls, ranging from 0.8 to 5.3 miles roundtrip in length.
Quinault Rain Forest
Located between Lake Quinault and the Quinault River, the Quinault Rain Forest is also known as the “Valley of the Rainforest Giants.” The name comes from the sheer size of the trees. In fact, Quinault Rain Forest is home to the largest Western Red Cedar, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, Alaskan Cedar, and Mountain Hemlock on record.
Lake Crescent is one of the most scenic destinations in Olympic National Park. Close to the park’s north entrance, the area provides stunning natural scenery in addition to plenty of entertaining outdoor activities. The nearby 90-foot Marymere Falls is another must-visit destination.
Hurricane Ridge draws its name from the strong winds that frequently rip through the area. Despite the frequent gusts, Hurricane Ridge is one of the most beautiful places in Olympic National Park. Visit during the summer for stunning views of the Olympic Peninsula interior and shoreline. Winter is also a popular time to visit Hurricane Ridge for snowshoeing, sledding, skiing, and snowboarding.
Extremely accessible yet very rugged, Rialto Beach is the perfect place to get a taste for the wildness of Olympic National Park. Unlike the sandy beaches further to the south, Rialto is made up mostly of rocks. Toss in the giant driftwood logs, crashing waves, and soaring sea stacks and it’s easy to see why so many people flock to Rialto Beach each year. Hole-in-the-Wall is an especially beautiful sea stack formation.
Hiking and Backpacking in Olympic National Park
Don’t go camping in Olympic National Park without going on at least one or two hikes.
In addition to dozens of hikes of all lengths and difficulty levels, the park is also known for its world-class overnight backpacking.
Washington Trails Association is an invaluable resource for hiking in Olympic National Park. Their list of Great Summer Hikes on the Olympic Peninsula will point you in the direction of the park’s most popular hiking trails.
Here are a few of our favorite Olympic National Park hikes for all skill levels:
Sol Duc Falls
A classic Olympic National Park hike, the trail to Sol Duc Falls ranges from 1.6 to 5.3 miles roundtrip. It winds through misty old growth forests and mossy ravines until it arrives at Sol Duc Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state. The best part about this easy day hike is taking a relaxing dip in Sol Duc Hot Springs afterwards.
Learn more about Sol Duc Falls.
The view from Mount Ellinor is hard to beat. Depending on which trailhead you start at (upper or lower), the trail is either 3.2 or 6.2 miles roundtrip. At the top, the view encompasses Olympic National Park’s interior, numerous volcanoes, and a large swath of the Puget Sound. On clear summer days, you might even be able to see Seattle.
Learn more about Mount Ellinor.
Not quite as popular an Olympic National Park destination as First or Second Beach, the hike to Third Beach isn’t to be missed. Revel in the solitude that the less-traveled 3.6-mile roundtrip trail provides. Once you reach the beach, you’re sure to want a photo with the dramatic sea stacks of Strawberry Bay in the background. Because you can camp on the sandy beach, Third Beach is a popular backpacking route, especially for those with children.
Learn more about Third Beach.
North Fork Quinault River Trail
North Fork Quinault River Trail contains two trails perfect for overnight backpacking trips in Olympic National Park. The first is a 21-mile loop of moderate difficulty. It’s popular with those that are new to backpacking. The other is a 47-mile loop (known as North Fork/Skyline Loop) that is very strenuous. Most take 5 to 8 days to do the hike. Mountain goats, elk, and black bears are commonly spotted on both hikes.
Learn more about North Fork Quinault River Trail.
Backpacking in Olympic National Park doesn’t get much better than this. The Enchanted Valley trail is 26 roundtrip miles of awesome. It winds through old growth forests, over countless streams and rivers, into the wide valley of the Quinault River. A panorama of snowcapped peaks and thousands of cascading waterfalls greet you. Wildlife is abundant here with bear, deer, elk, coyote, and beaver calling the valley home. The now-closed Enchanted Valley chalet has been a popular destination since the 1930s.
Learn more about Enchanted Valley.
If you plan to go camping in Olympic National Park backcountry, you’re going to need a Wilderness Camping Permit.
In the most popular areas (called Quota Areas), only a select number of permits are issued per year. Reservations are needed from May to September. You can make these reservations as early as March 15.
Pick all backcountry permits up before heading out on your hike from a Wilderness Information Center.
Other Activities in Olympic National Park
Camping in Olympic National Park is the perfect opportunity to take part in other activities in addition to hiking and backpacking.
Mountaineers love climbing in Olympic National Park for the sheer variety of opportunities it offers. Take note that most of these are in remote regions on alpine rock.
The rock is much different than that in Washington’s Cascade Mountains – instead of solid granite, most of the rock is loose shale, sandstone, basalt, and pillow lava. A climbing helmet is essential as showers of falling rock are inevitable.
Learn more about climbing in Olympic National Park.
Fishing in Olympic National Park is another popular outdoor activity. With over 600 lakes and 4,000 miles of rivers and streams (plus 70 miles of coastline), fishing opportunities are nearly endless.
Salmon, trout, and char are the most common fish in the park. Though the park works hard to restore native populations of these fish, it also helps promote recreational fishing.
Learn more about fishing in Olympic National Park.
Relaxing in the soothing warmth of natural hot springs is a great way to unwind after a strenuous hike.
Whether you prefer canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, or motor boating, there are plenty of opportunities for boating in Olympic National Park.
*Want to see how canoes are made? Check out our tour of Wenonah Canoe here!
Hundreds of lakes as well as miles of coastline and rivers give boaters ample opportunities to spread out and experience the beauty of the park from the water.
Learn more about boating in Olympic National Park.
Olympic National Park’s ranger programs provide an up-close-and personal look at several of the park’s most interesting features. These programs include interpretive walks, campfire programs, and much more. Ranger-led programs are perfect for those of all ages, from children to the elderly. They’re only available in the summer months.
Night sky programs are one of the most popular types of Olympic National Park ranger programs. Thanks to the park’s remote location far away from city lights, clear nights offer amazing views of the heavens. Take in the wonder of the natural night sky on your own or with the guidance of a ranger-led night sky program. High-powered telescopes are provided to get a closer look at stars, constellations, galaxies, and planets.
Though most of Olympic National Park’s visitors visit the park during the summer, there are numerous winter activities available for offseason visitors. At the top of the list is snowshoeing.
Though you can snowshoe almost anywhere there is snow, Hurricane Ridge snowshoeing is perhaps the most popular route. Ranger-led snowshoeing walks are also available from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.
Be sure to check local avalanche information before heading out on your own.
One of the best Olympic National Park winter activities for kids is sledding. The best place to go is the Children’s Snow Play Area at Hurricane Ridge. Sledding here is only open to children 8 years old and younger.
For older kids and adults looking to get their sled on, a tubing park is now open at the Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Two other popular Olympic National Park winter activities are skiing and snowboarding. Miles and miles of trails are available, especially for cross-country skiing. Adventurous and highly skilled skiers and snowboarders can even venture into the backcountry in hunt of untouched fresh powder.
Yet the most popular area for skiing and snowboarding in Olympic National Park is the Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area. The downhill ski area is one of only three available in national parks in the country. The other two are located at Yosemite National Park and Cuyahoga National Park. In addition to speedy runs, the ski area boasts amazing views.
Be sure to check local avalanche information before heading out on your own, especially into the backcountry.
Surfing in Olympic National Park’s is one of the park’s hidden gems. Though its home to some of the best surf in the country, few people ever surf here.
The main reason for this is the remoteness of the best surfing beaches in Olympic National Park. The majority of them require a hike to get to. This is why most of the surfing in the park is dubbed “backcountry surfing.”
Olympic National Park flora and fauna is seemingly limitless. Yet despite the abundance, it often takes a skilled eye, a whole lot of patience, and a dash of luck to view much of the park’s wildlife yourself.
The most watchable wildlife in Olympic National Park includes birds, deer, marmots, elk, salmon, whales, goats, and bears.
Tide pool viewing is another popular park activity. Common marine life includes starfish, crabs, sea anemone, sea urchin, and many more. Be sure to keep an eye out for “sneaker waves” as these are extremely dangerous.
Learn more about viewing wildlife in Olympic National Park.
Things to Do Near Olympic National Park
The Olympic Peninsula and surrounding Northwest Washington are filled with countless places of interest. Include additional stops as part of a larger camping road trip.
Here are some of the best nearby attractions to visit before, during, or after camping in Olympic National Park.
Forks is known as the home of Twilight (it’s the setting of the books/movies) and the rainiest town in the contiguous United States. Other highlights include the Forks Timber Museum and Bogachiel State Park.
Another town notable for its role in Twilight, La Push is located on the mouth of the Quillayute River on the Pacific Coast. Part of the Quilleute Indian Nation, it’s also notable for its excellent whale watching excursions, beautiful beachfront location, and the Quilleute Days tribal celebration.
Mount Rainier National Park
Roughly three hours from Olympic National Park, the glacier-capped Mount Rainier is the crown jewel of Mount Rainier National Park. In addition to fantastic camping (check out Cougar Campground), visitors should check out the historic Paradise Inn and the Summerland hiking trail.
North Cascades National Park
Located in the Cascade Mountains in the northern part of the state, North Cascades National Park is a camping and hiking paradise. Many visitors connect North Cascades, Olympic, and Mount Rainier National Parks into a single Washington State national parks road trip.
Many of those visiting Olympic National Park stop in Port Angeles for shopping, dining, or hotel lodging. It’s also notable for Elwha Dam, Ediz Hook sand spit, and Mount Angeles hiking trail. You can even take the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, British Columbia!
Many people start their Olympic National Park camping trip by flying into Seattle. Others top by to explore the city, Washington’s largest, as part of their overall trip. Seattle is home to top-class dining and entertainment – and don’t forget to stop by the Space Needle, even if it’s just to say that you did!
Plan Your Visit to Olympic National Park
Use the resources below to help plan your next Olympic National Park vacation whether you visit for a few hours or for over a week.
How to Get There
You need a car to visit Olympic National Park. However, a car will only get you so far. The Olympic Peninsula is one of the largest roadless regions in the United States. To truly experience all it has to offer, you’ll need to get out of the car and do a little hiking.
Those visiting the park from further south, such as Olympia or Portland, should take US 101 North to Hood Canal or to Aberdeen. Those visiting from British Columbia, especially Victoria and Vancouver, should take the Coho Ferry (Victoria to Port Angeles).
When to Visit
Olympic National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Due to the high amount of rainfall, the dryer summer months (June to September) are the most popular times to visit. Some roads, campgrounds, and attractions are closed during the off season (October to May).
Fees and Passes
Entering Olympic National Park costs $20 for a private vehicle, $10 for a motorcycle, and $7 for a bicycle. Each pass is valid for 7 days.
Wilderness camping fees, camping fees, and RV dump station fees vary by location. An Olympic National Park Annual Pass is available for $40 (unlimited annual access to ONP). The American the Beautiful Pass is available for $80 or $70 for seniors. It provides unlimited annual access to every National Park in the United States.
Maps & Guidebooks
Numerous Olympic National Park maps and guidebooks are available for travelers. Check out a few of the best privately produced Olympic trail guides as well as the Forest Service’s listing of ONP guidebooks.
Olympic National Park Camping Itinerary
You could be camping in Olympic National Park in less than three hours driving from Seattle.
It’s totally doable to make a quick single night overnight trip, although at least two or three nights is necessary to truly enjoy the park.
Here are three popular sample itineraries for Olympic National Park camping.
One Night in Kalaloch (or Port Angeles)
If you have just one night to spend camping in Olympic National Park, your best bet is an overnight stay in Kalaloch (no ferry) or near Port Angeles (ferry required).
Both areas are just about three hours from Seattle. At Kalaloch, most visitors stay at Kalaloch Campground and explore the surrounding beaches, including Ruby Beach. The Hoh Rain Forest is just a short drive away.
Three Night Olympic Peninsula Loop
Three days is the perfect amount of time for most families to experience all three Olympic National Park ecosystems.
According to Sunset Magazine, three days gives you enough time to make a full loop of the park. You’ll be able to hike Hurricane Ridge, take a dip in Lake Crescent, soak in Sol Duc Hot Springs, stop by Forks, enjoy the Hoh Rain Forest, comb the beaches at Kalaloch, and visit Lake Quinault.
For a three day loop starting near Seattle, camp first near Port Angeles (Heart o’ the Hills or Fairholme Campground) then spend the second night near Forks (Mora, Ozette, or Hoh Campground) before rounding the trip out with a stay at Kalaloch Campground or Queets Campground.
Of course, spending a few additional nights camping in Olympic National Park gives you more time to explore the more infrequently visited areas of this beautiful natural wonderland.
Washington State National Parks
Perhaps the ultimate Washington State road trip is to join all three national parks together.
Dedicate about one week to your Washington camping road trip with roughly three nights in Olympic National Park, one or two nights in Mount Rainier National Park, and one or two nights in North Cascades National Park.
Even better, add a few extra nights to your agenda so that you can take side trips to Seattle, Mount Baker, Mount Saint Helens, and possibly even Eastern Washington.
*Check out our top recommendations for the best Seattle RV rentals to kick your Olympic National Park camping trip up a notch!
Here at Beyond The Tent, we want to help you plan the best Olympic National Park camping trip possible.
Here are some of our best additional resources for planning your trip:
- How to Buy the Best Tent
- Complete Camping Checklist
- 35 Items to Turn Camping into Glamping
- Complete Camping Food List
- How to Plan a Backpacking Trip
Here are some other detailed resources from around the Internet:
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about camping in Olympic National Park campgrounds – we’d love to help answer them!