In my career with the National Park Service, I have worked at three different National Parks and have visited tons more. While all of "my" parks have been astoundingly beautiful places with a special place in my heart, Olympic National Park by far is the one that blows me away. At almost a million acres, it is a huge wilderness, and GET THIS--NO roads going through the middle of it! But the really amazing part is the incredible diversity found here. Because it ranges from the Olympic Mountains (complete with 8000+-foot Mount Olympus, glaciers and all) to Washington’s wilderness coast, and everything in between, it has anything and everything to offer a visitor, including temperate rainforest--the only true ones in the lower 48 states.
The park is essentially divided into 13 separate areas, each accessible separately from spur roads and from points along Highway 101 which encircles Olympic National Park. The entrance fee for the park is $10 per private vehicle, and the pass is good in all of the areas for seven days. There are 16 campgrounds, and over 600 miles of trails. Visitor centers and Ranger Stations are scattered around for information and Ranger programs.
It is very difficult to describe in detail all of the 13 separate areas, so please refer to Olympic National Park, or call 360/565-3130 for more information. Call 360/565-3100 for backpacking information. I will try to give brief descriptions with highlights of the areas by grouping them geographically to make it easier to organize your trip. But first! Please read some very important information at Leave No Trace.
NORTH – These are the areas most easily accessible from Port Angeles.
Hurricane Ridge – This is the highest area you can drive to in the park and takes about an hour. The views into the interior of the Olympic Mountains give you a good sense as to how truly huge this wilderness is. After a stop at the Visitor Center and snack shop, try a sub-alpine hike up Hurricane Hill, about 3 miles round trip. Adventurous drivers can drive from Hurricane Ridge to the end of Obstruction Point Road, where you will find a trailhead. The Grand Ridge trail goes 7.6 miles from Obstruction Point to Deer Park, and is great to do if you have someone to pick you up at Deer Park, or can arrange to swap car keys with fellow hikers coming from the Deer Park side.
Deer Park – There is a really nice small campground at the top of this long, steep, curvy dirt road. The scenic view from Blue Mountain, and its short nature trail, is worth seeing.
Elwha – This lush river valley is the site of the controversial Elwha dam removals. The Elwha River is a great one to raft down (see my separate journal entry), and is an access point for hiking and backpacking. This is also where the 3 mile hike to Olympic Hot Springs starts.