Olympic Nationwide Park is one in every of my favourite nationwide parks in the US, and customarily is a favourite for lots of people. It’s because the park is extraordinarily various, encompassing all the pieces from temperate rainforests to mountain peaks to dramatic Pacific seashores.
And whereas being contained in the park on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula can really feel very secluded at instances, you may attain elements of Olympic Nationwide Park in lower than 3 hours from Seattle.
The park’s reputation and proximity to Seattle additionally makes it one of many most-visited nationwide parks in the US, although, averaging 2.5 million guests per yr. And whereas the park is giant (1400+ sq. miles), 95% of it’s wilderness; which means all these guests are inclined to congregate in just some spots.
Roughly 75% of tourists to Olympic Nationwide Park go to in June, July, and August, and through these months you may anticipate finding lengthy entrance station traces and full parking tons (and typically wait instances) at common spots like Hurricane Ridge and the Hoh Rainforest.
And so, whereas plenty of individuals will say that summer season is the “finest” time to go to Olympic Nationwide Park, I will truly make an argument for getting in winter as an alternative!
Why winter in Olympic Nationwide Park is completely different
Winter is off-season at many US nationwide parks, and it is no completely different at Olympic. In the course of the winter months, the mountains within the Olympic vary get plenty of snow, and the coastal elements of the park get loads of storms bringing chilly rain. So it is not obscure why summer season is the popular and busiest time to go to.
Sure elements of the park shut or are exhausting to entry in the course of the winter months, too.
The street to Hurricane Ridge, for instance, usually closes resulting from snow, and when it’s open (normally solely on weekends in winter), you are required to have snow chains on your tires. Sol Duc Highway, which is used to entry Sol Duc Sizzling Springs Resort and the hike to Sol Duc Falls, closes solely within the winter. And the customer heart within the Hoh Rainforest normally shuts up after New 12 months’s for a pair months.
Is Olympic Nationwide Park value visiting within the winter?
So the query you is likely to be asking is…. is Olympic Nationwide Park truly value visiting within the winter? My reply is a powerful YES!
Like at many different nationwide parks, winter is the “silent season” at Olympic Nationwide Park. Sure, some elements of the park are inaccessible, and sure, the climate might not at all times be superb. BUT, you may discover much less site visitors and mainly zero crowds, which means you will get among the most magical elements of the park to your self.
Issues to do in Olympic Nationwide Park in winter
Visiting Olympic Nationwide Park in winter is clearly completely different from visiting at different instances of the yr. Listed below are the highest issues to do there in the course of the winter months:
1. Snow sports activities at Hurricane Ridge*
Hurricane Ridge is probably the most accessible mountain space inside Olympic Nationwide Park, and some of the common spots for guests. It is near the city of Port Angeles, and is accessed by way of the Hurricane Ridge Highway.
Hurricane Ridge sits at 5,242 toes, and will get its identify from the gale-force winds which are frequent on the high. Winter season typically runs from late November by means of the top of March, and through this time (IF the world is accessible), you are able to do issues like cross-country snowboarding, snowshoeing, and tubing.
The Hurricane Ridge space has miles of snowshoe and cross-country snowboarding routes, and Ranger-led snowshoeing excursions are provided on Saturdays within the winter. Children may go sledding and tubing, and backcountry snowboarding is offered for knowledgeable skiers.
The street to Hurricane Ridge is open (climate allowing) on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in the course of the winter months. Anybody driving up the street (together with for those who’re in a 4×4) is required to hold snow chains, although; you will not be allowed up the street with out them.
You’ll be able to name 360-565-3131 to examine on present Hurricane Ridge street circumstances, or observe @HRWinterAccess on Twitter.
*Hurricane Ridge WAS open throughout my very own winter journey to Olympic Nationwide Park, however we opted to not drive up the mountain. We DID get snow chains with our rental automotive, however this Ohio-raised woman has no clue how one can use them and we determined to not threat it! (Plus, we did not actually pack winter gear for our journey since the remainder of the spots we visited have been way more gentle!)
2. Go to Madison Falls
In the event you’re searching for a really rewarding cease for little or no effort, make a slight detour off Freeway 101 and onto Olympic Sizzling Springs Highway. A great portion of this street is at present closed indefinitely due a wash-out, however you may nonetheless drive so far as the Madison Falls Trailhead.
On the trailhead, a really brief (like, 5-minute) stroll will take you to the stunning Madison Falls (pictured above).
The views alongside the Elwha River on the trailhead parking space are additionally superb! (In actual fact, we spent extra time taking photographs of the river and surrounding mountains than we did of the waterfall.)
3. Cease at Lake Crescent / Lake Crescent Lodge
Backtrack to the 101, and proceed west. The subsequent focal point you may attain is Lake Crescent, a deep lake recognized for its clear, blue water. There are a number of pull-out areas alongside the street the place you may cease for photographs.
I additionally advocate stopping in on the Lake Crescent Lodge for those who’re visiting in early winter. The historic lodge dates again to 1915, and sits on a quiet little bit of lakeshore. It is a common base for mountaineering, fishing, and boating in the course of the summer season, however stays open by means of the autumn and early winter, too. (Working dates are normally from April by means of January 1.)
In the event you’re visiting throughout a time when the lodge is open, you may cease for breakfast, lunch, or dinner within the Lake Crescent Lodge Eating Room. (Or, for those who go to between meal instances like I did, you may at all times seize a espresso or grownup beverage from the bar, and luxuriate in it within the cozy foyer or connected conservatory.)
And the view from their dock out over the lake is excellent any time of yr.
4. Hike within the Hoh Rainforest
The magical, ethereal Hoh Rainforest is personally my favourite a part of Olympic Nationwide Park – and it is a favourite amongst most different park guests, too!
The Hoh Rainforest is a temperate rainforest that covers about 24 miles, and (as its identify would recommend) it is one of many wettest locations in the complete United States, receiving on common practically 140 inches of rain per yr.
The Hoh Rainforest may be extraordinarily busy in the course of the summer season months (it is not unusual for individuals to have to attend 1-2 hours to even get into the parking space throughout busy summer season weekends), but it surely’s blissfully quiet in the course of the winter.
Visiting the Hoh Rainforest in winter could also be one of many higher instances to go to if you would like the paths to your self. You might be able to spot all the pieces from Roosevelt elk within the forest to Coho salmon within the streams and rivers. Winter can be when the moss and lichen on the timber will likely be its thickest and most vibrant, giving off optimum FernGully vibes.
The customer heart right here closes from January 2 by means of early March, however you may nonetheless go to the forest and hike the paths. (The Corridor of Mosses Path and Spruce Nature Path are each must-dos.)
READ MORE: Visiting the Hoh Rainforest in Winter: Every little thing You Have to Know
5. Go to the Pacific Seashores
Olympic Nationwide Park is usually confined to the central a part of the Olympic Peninsula. However the park additionally features a sliver of shoreline that stretches for miles down the Washington coast.
Essential notice: Not solely is it essential to follow Depart No Hint ideas if you’re visiting this a part of Olympic Nationwide Park, however you additionally want to concentrate to the tides. A few of these seashores are extra safely visited at low tide – and you will undoubtedly wish to know when low tide is for tidepooling! Verify tide instances right here.
When you won’t wish to go for a dip in the course of the winter months, there are nonetheless a number of nice nationwide park seashores to go to, together with (from north to south):
- Shi Shi Seaside* – Positioned far up north on the peninsula, this quiet seaside requires a hike to succeed in (2 miles from the parking space to the seaside, and one other 2.5 miles to the well-known Level of Arches). This can be a common seaside for wilderness tenting, however you may want a allow for it.
- Rialto Seaside – One of the vital common seashores, recognized for sea stacks, driftwood, tide swimming pools, and the additional hike out to Gap within the Wall. (The hike to Gap within the Wall is 3.3 miles spherical journey, however you may attain the seaside itself with out mountaineering.)
- La Push Seashores* – First, Second and Third seashores (these are their official names) are shut to at least one one other, and all barely completely different. Second Seaside is the preferred, with a protracted stretch of sand and large sea stacks. It does require a 2 mile round-trip hike to go to.
- Ruby Seaside – Located proper off the 101, Ruby Seaside is among the simpler seashores to go to – but it surely’s nonetheless epic! It is received all the pieces: sea stacks, piles of driftwood, forested cliffs, plus tide swimming pools at low tide.
- Kalaloch Seashores – There are a number of seashores simply south of Ruby Seaside numbered 1-4, with 4 being probably the most northerly seaside. Seaside 4 is definitely my favourite, with a rugged path all the way down to a sand-and-rock seaside with piles of driftwood and wonderful tide swimming pools. The Tree of Life close to the Kalaloch Campground can be value stopping to see.
*Shi Shi Seaside and the La Push seashores are technically inside Olympic Nationwide Park, but additionally on Indigenous land. The La Push seashores belong to the Quileute Nation, and you will be passing by means of their neighborhood in La Push. The trailhead to Shi Shi Seaside is on land owned by the Makah individuals, and you will want a separate Makah Recreation Allow to be able to park/go to right here (the permits price $20, and may be bought within the city of Neah Bay).
Bonus: Cape Flattery
It is not a part of Olympic Nationwide Park, however it’s a part of the Makah Nation. If you are going to go north and go to Shi Shi Seaside and wish to purchase a Makah Recreation Go anyway, you could as properly take advantage of your go and likewise detour to Cape Flattery.
Cape Flattery is probably the most northwesterly level within the contiguous United States, and it is very a lot value visiting! A 1.5-mile out and again path leads by means of some stunning forest and to 3 completely different viewing platforms on the coast. From these, you may view sea stacks, crashing waves, and the Cape Flattery Lighthouse on Tatoosh Island.
The path is a combination of dust and wood boardwalks and is usually downhill on the way in which out, however the views are undoubtedly definitely worth the return hike.
Bonus: Quinault Rain Forest
One other space that is not technically inside Olympic Nationwide Park that I nonetheless assume is value visiting is the southern facet of Lake Quinault. The northern shore of the lake is inside Olympic Nationwide Park, whereas the southern shore is inside the Olympic Nationwide Forest. (And the entire lake is owned by the Quinault Nation.)
You’ll be able to truly drive a loop round the entire lake, however there are two spots alongside the southern shore that I believe are must-visits:
- Quinault Rain Forest – A half-mile path will take you thru outdated development forest, partially alongside Willaby Creek. This path is lush and a bit of bit wild-feeling; a really completely different rain forest vibe than what you may discover within the Hoh Rainforest!
- World’s Largest Sitka Spruce – A brief 10-15 minute stroll will carry you to this forest big, which towers 191 toes above the bottom.
What number of days do you want in Olympic Nationwide Park?
This query is simpler to reply in the course of the winter, since sure elements of Olympic Nationwide Park shut. In winter, I like to recommend no less than 3 days to discover all of the completely different elements of Olympic Nationwide Park. In the course of the summer season months, 4-5 days (or extra!) might be higher.
In the event you simply wish to see the highlights, although (i.e. Hurricane Ridge, the Hoh Rainforest, and possibly 1 or 2 seashores), you may match it into 2 days for those who handle your time properly.*
*Simply keep in mind that there’s much less daylight in the course of the winter! Chances are you’ll solely have 8 hours of daylight to work with, and remember the fact that the completely different sections of the park is usually a couple hours’ drive aside.
The place to remain in Olympic Nationwide Park in winter
Listed below are a number of lodges you may contemplate for a winter ONP journey. (Notice although that the park is giant and largely wilderness, which means driving instances between completely different elements of the park can typically be lengthy. You may wish to keep in multiple place for those who’re visiting for greater than 2 or 3 days.)
- Olympic Lodge in Port Angeles – Port Angeles is the gateway to the Hurricane Ridge part of Olympic Nationwide Park, and this lodge is a wonderful base. The lodge is giant, but its frequent areas and rooms really feel cozy. Within the winter, you may curl up by the hearth within the foyer, or courageous the weather to make use of the lodge’s (heated) outside pool and sizzling tub. (Learn evaluations right here | Guide a room right here)
- Woodland Inns in Forks – This motel in Forks is a superb base for exploring the Hoh Rainforest and La Push seashores. They lease out particular person cabins that look rustic on the skin, however are fashionable and comfortable (and model new) on the within. Every cabin has a kitchenette and hearth, and my good friend and I truly regretted solely staying one night time! (Learn evaluations right here | Guide a cabin right here)
- Kalaloch Lodge on the coast – Kalaloch Lodge is among the nationwide park lodges. Located proper on the coast close to Ruby Seaside and the Kalaloch Seashores, the lodge has 10 rooms in its foremost constructing, and likewise rents out particular person cabins, some with ocean views. It is a common spot for winter storm-watching, and likewise a very good base for exploring the southern portion of Olympic Nationwide Park. (Learn evaluations right here | Guide a room right here)
And the Lake Crescent Lodge is in an ideal location in the course of the park. The lodge’s Roosevelt Hearth Cabins are tremendous cozy, and are available full with lake views. HOWEVER, the lodge closes for some time in the course of the winter months; it is normally open from April 1 by means of the next January 1, with restricted availability in November and December.
Take a look at these different nationwide park winter guides, too:
Olympic Nationwide Park in winter FAQs
Olympic Nationwide Park is positioned within the heart of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state within the Pacific Northwest. The park covers plenty of space, and has 4 distinct areas: the Pacific shoreline, alpine areas, the temperate rainforest on the west facet, and drier forests on the east facet.
From Seattle, it takes 2-3 hours to succeed in both the alpine space of the park (i.e. Hurricane Ridge, with an entrance in Port Angeles) or the jap forest. It takes 4 hours from Seattle to the Hoh Rainforest, and three hours to get from Seattle to the Pacific seashores.
Olympic Nationwide Park is open year-round, 24 hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days per yr. Customer facilities and sure different issues inside the park have seasonal opening hours, however the pure elements of the park are at all times open (so long as street circumstances permit).
The doorway price for Olympic Nationwide Park is $30 for passenger automobiles, $25 for bikes, and $15 for hikers and bicyclists. The doorway price lets you go to for 7 consecutive days. However you may wish to buy a nationwide parks go, which is $80 however good at any NPS-managed web site for one yr.
Sure, Olympic Nationwide Park is open within the winter, and it is a good time to go to! You’ll be able to go to the rainforest, seashores, and even mountain areas in the course of the winter.
Some issues do shut (or have restricted opening hours) within the winter in Olympic Nationwide Park, together with sure park roads, lodges, and customer facilities.
Issues that shut solely within the winter embody: Sol Duc Sizzling Springs Resort and the Sol Duc Highway resulting in it; Lake Crescent Lodge (closes Jan. 1 via March); the Hoh Rainforest Customer Heart (closed Jan 2 till early March); and the Hurricane Ridge Customer Heart.
Issues which have restricted opening hours within the winter embody the street to Hurricane Ridge, which is open solely on weekends within the winter, and provided that the climate permits.
Discover extra information about what closes when right here.
Winter in Washington state spans from December by means of March, although the moist, wet season normally rolls in to the extra temperate coastal areas of the state in October.
As a result of Olympic Nationwide Park encompasses a number of various kinds of pure areas (mountains to rainforest to coast), winter temperatures can range tremendously relying on which a part of the park you are in.
In higher-elevation elements of the park (like Hurricane Ridge), winter temps are normally under freezing (20s-30s F in the course of the daytime), and you’ll anticipate finding snow on the bottom.
In lower-elevation elements of the park, daytime winter temperatures normally common within the 40s (F), with nighttime temps dipping into the 20s or 30s. As soon as March rolls round, temperatures can rise into the 50s.
Within the mountainous a part of the park (like at Hurricane Ridge), sure, it snows usually in winter. The annual snowfall complete at Hurricane Ridge is 400+ inches per yr.
Snow can be attainable within the lower-elevation elements of Olympic Nationwide Park in the course of the winter (like within the Hoh Rainforest), but it surely’s not frequent and normally melts pretty shortly if it does fall. Rain is more likely within the lower-elevation elements of the park.
Who’s satisfied to go to Olympic Nationwide Park in winter?
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