Exploring the Olympic Peninsula

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With nearly one million acres to explore, Olympic National Park provides visitors with endless options to consider. Located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, the park encompasses a variety of ecosystems begging to be explored by adventurous travelers! From beaches to rainforests, all containing an impressive collection of wildlife, there is certainly no shortage of things to see, do, and photograph in this glorious region of the Pacific Northwest! We spent an entire week on the peninsula and felt as if we could’ve used a few more days! Come along with us as we explore the beautiful Olympic Peninsula.

Getting to the Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula is easily reachable by car from Seattle. We flew into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Alaska Airlines and picked up a car from Sixt Rent-A-Car. The 3.5 hour drive from the airport to our first stop, Hurricane Ridge, was scenic and pleasant. (Note that some driving routes may require a ferry, though it is not necessary.)  Once on the peninsula, Highway 101 takes you on a circular route in either direction to get to the many attractions within the Olympic National Park.

Places to Visit on the Olympic Peninsula

(All headings lead to individual posts about these particular regions of the peninsula. Click the link if you’re interested in learning more!)

Hurricane Ridge

 Hurricane Hill is a great hike for people of all ages and fitness levels. Hikers follow a paved 1.5 mile path to a 5,757 foot pinnacle. (The trail has an elevation gain of 950 feet, making it a little steep in a few places.) We saw an abundance of wildlife along the trail including deer, chipmunks, and Olympic marmots. These marmots are endemic to the peninsula, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world.

Hurricane Hill Hike Hurricane Hill Olympic National ParkMarmot Hurricane Hill Olympic National Park

Lake Crescent

A drive around the Olympic Peninsula on the famed Highway 101 will no doubt take you past beautiful Lake Crescent. Even if you’re not staying at the historic Lake Crescent Lodge, it’s definitely worth a stop to explore the grounds, take in the scenery, and enjoy a comforting meal. The lodge property is perfectly designed with a dock and Adirondack chairs overlooking the calm blue waters of the lake; colorful canoes and kayaks dot the shoreline. It’s a wonderful place to watch the sunset following a day of hiking at Hurricane Ridge!

Lake Crescent CanoesLake Crescent Scenic BenchLake Crescent Sunset

Sol Duc Falls

A short and casual 0.8-mile hike takes you through towering trees, over small babbling streams, and to the gushing Sol Duc Falls. Because the hike to the falls is so easy and short, we recommend it for anyone and everyone visiting the park (though it is not wheelchair accessible). On the drive to the trailhead, you’ll follow along the Sol Duc River. If you visit in the months of October and (early) November, be sure to stop off at the Salmon Cascades Overlook (located about 5 miles down Sol Duc Road). Here, you might be lucky enough to see coho salmon leap over the falls on their way to spawn upstream in the Sol Duc River.

Sol Duc Falls Olympic National ParkSol Duc Falls HikeSol Duc Falls Olympic Peninsula

Hoh Rain Forest

Very few rainforests exist in the United States, so this is your chance to explore one of Washington state’s most luscious attractions. The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center is a great place to learn about the surrounding ecology and how rainforests are formed. Here you can also tag along on one of the two ranger-led guided walks (summer months). There are two loop trails that commence near the Visitor Center. The Hall of Mosses Trail (.8 miles) and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles). Since they are so short, we encourage you to explore them both! 140 to 170 inches (12 to 14 feet) of precipitation fall in this region each year, contributing to the luscious landscape!

Hoh RainforestHoh Rain forest Olympic PeninsulaHoh Rain Forest

The Beaches of the Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula has over 73 miles of coastline and no two miles are alike. Gaze upon massive sea stacks, climb over piles of driftwood, and enjoy the rugged coastline that is a quintessential example of the Pacific Northwest. Time your visit right and you can experience some of the most spectacular tidepools in the world! Be sure to check and understand the tide charts, so you don’t get stranded… or soaked!

Second Beach

To get to Second Beach, visitors must hike a 0.7 mile trail through a luscious and lofty seaside forest! Upon passing through the clearing of trees, you will lay eyes on towering sea stacks and endless miles of beach. Bald eagles, seals, and bird life can be spotted on the off-shore sea stacks. Mussels cling to rocks, and a variety of sea stars and urchins slowly move about in the shallow waters near the shoreline.

Second Beach HikeSecond Beach Natural ArchSecond Beach Sea Stack

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the Olympic Peninsula, and for good reason: it is gorgeous! It’s also one of the easiest beaches to access. Walk through the piles of drift wood and gaze upon majestic sea stacks as the salty breeze greets you. Time your trip to Rialto Beach right and you will get to experience some of the most beautiful tidepools in the world! Also, keep your eyes peeled, as bald eagles frequent this area.

Rialto Beach Driftwood arch Rialto Beach starfish Bald eagle perched on dead branch

Ruby Beach

The crashing waves create an ever-present haze that constantly hugs the jagged coastline. Purple and orange starfish cling to the rough rocks, presenting a colorful collection of sea life near the base of the monumental sea stacks. It’s hard to comprehend the enormity of the sea stacks until you’re standing right next to them. Ruby Beach also boasts a neat collection of wildlife including bald eagles, sea otters, and tidepools teeming with starfish and mussels. In addition to the incredible sea stacks and amazing wildlife, the abundance of stacked rocks makes Ruby Beach one of the best beaches in the Pacific Northwest!

Ruby Beach Starfish on a rock Stacked rocks on driftwood

Lake Quinault

Because we fell in love with the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park, we simply had to return for a follow-up visit. For our second visit a few years later, we spent 6 full days along the shores of Lake Quinault. This 4-mile by 2-mile glacier-carved and glacier-fed lake is located in the Quinault Valley on the southwestern side of the peninsula. The region is probably most famous for the truly magical Quinault Rain Forest and its many hiking opportunities. Whether you’re wanting an easy stroll or a strenuous trek, there is something for everyone. Other activities in the area include swimming, boating, and a super scenic 30-mile drive around the lake.

Olympic National Park Lodging

Highway 101 pretty much runs the perimeter of the peninsula, and is the main access route for most of the park’s main attractions. As such, you should strategically choose lodging somewhere in the middle of the main route to avoid spending an abundance of time in the car each day. For this reason, on our first visit to the peninsula, we selected the town of Forks as our home base for the week. Not only was the city made famous for its mention in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books, but it was the perfect location for exploring the peninsula.

Olympic Suites Inn

We secured a two-bedroom unit at the budget-friendly Olympic Suites Inn. We considered it a great value as the unit included a living area and a full kitchen, allowing us to eat many meals at ‘home’ (following a visit to the local grocery store). We had the upper corner unit (room 208) in one of the buildings toward the back of the property. It was the perfect size and level of comfort for our traveling family of four (Sam’s parents joined us on this trip). Our balcony looked onto beautiful pine trees and was a relaxing place to unwind following a full day of exploring the peninsula. Check current pricing and availability for Olympic Suites Inn HERE.


Olympic National Park Lodging

Lake Quinault Lake House

For our second visit to the peninsula, we went with some place a little more secluded and off-the-beaten path! The lake house we stayed in sat on 7 private acres right on Lake Quinault. Again, we appreciated the full kitchen at our disposal to cook some meals at home. (The dining options are pretty limited in the Quinault Valley.) The sunset views from the wrap-around porch were a welcomed treat each night. It’s the perfect house for larger families or travel groups, as it can comfortably sleep 8! Check availability HERE to see if this stunning Quinault lake house is available for your visit to the Olympic Peninsula.

More Olympic Peninsula Lodging Options

More lodging options on the Olympic Peninsula include Lake Crescent Lodge and the Lake Quinault Lodge (pictured below). These historic lodges are among the more popular places in to stay on the Olympic Peninsula. Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? Check out this list of options, (includes current prices, reviews, and availability).

So, if the pictures above haven’t convinced you to pack your bags and board the next flight to Seattle (the closest airport to the peninsula), watch the following short video of our week on the visually stunning Olympic Peninsula!


  1. I am big on road trips and one up to Washington State and to the Olympic Peninsula would be perfect. Your photographs are stunning and you seem to have captured the area well; from Lake Crescent to the Bald Eagle, great work.

  2. Wow, your wildlife and scene photography is phenomenal. Like something out of National Geographic! I’m so jealous. Looks like you had a great time.

  3. This post is close to my heart as I’m from the beautiful Pacific Northwest myself and have spend many days exploring the Olympic Peninsula. You have captured its magnificence perfectly in you pictures and descriptions and have succeeded in making me quite homesick. Have you ever camped overnight on Second Beach? Its an incredible experience and well worth the effort of having to hike in all your camping gear.

  4. Samantha @ The Wandering Wanderluster

    This is totally my kind of place! I’ll hike and kayak there any day…add Bear Grylls and that’s my dream come true right there 🙂

  5. What incredible photos! Especially the ones of the starfish and the eagle!!! Would love to go camping for a few days in the area..if it is allowed of course!

  6. I love your large, beautiful pictures! Those close-ups of the starfish are my favorite! I definitely need to visit the Pacific Northwest!

  7. Amazing photos. We had a family trip to the area a few years ago. Loved the hot spring pools and Sul Duc hike and the natural beauty everywhere.

  8. Amazing nature and wildlife pics! I love the atmosphere there in the Pacific NW. I lived in WA years ago but have great friends there. Always a pleasure to visit.

  9. You have absolutely gorgeous photos! The Olympic Peninsula is one of my favorite places on earth, I grew up nearby and went camping there every summer when I was a kid. If you go back, visit Kalaloch. My favorite spot in the Peninsula!

  10. wow wow, i wish I can just watch these places even from a plane.

  11. I want to do this with my kids. How many days took you?

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