Olympic National Park is one of the most visited National Parks in the country, attracting more than three million visitors annually. Located on the Olympic Peninsula in western Washington, the sprawling park encompasses nearly one million acres comprising four distinct regions — the alpine area, the west side temperate rain forest, the east side forests and a narrow strip along the Pacific Coast. Within the boundaries of Olympic National Park are more than 600 miles of hiking trails, 3,000 miles of streams and rivers, 73 miles of wilderness coast and a thriving community of plants and animals. Among the native animals are 300 species of birds and 56 species of mammals, including 22 that are considered threatened or endangered such as the northern spotted owl, western snowy plover, steller sea lion and loggerhead sea turtle. The following is a brief introduction to Olympic National Park, including places to eat, sleep and five of the top attractions.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

How To Get There

By Plane

The primary airport serving Seattle and Olympic National Park is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), approximately 12 miles south of the Seattle central business district. Also known as SeaTac, the international airport is the largest in the Pacific Northwest and is served by several domestic and international airlines. Among major airlines with frequent service to SeaTac are Alaska, Delta and Southwest. Arriving passengers can find ground transportation services near the baggage claim area on the lower level. Ground transportation services include off-site car rental companies, taxis and limos, airport shuttles and public transportation.

Another international airport that’s actually closer to Olympic National Park is William R. Fairchild International Airport, but it no longer offers commercial airline service. However, charter flights provided by Rite Bros. Aviation are available.

By Train

Amtrak offers three routes into Seattle’s King Street Station — the Empire Builder, Coast Starlight and Amtrak Cascades. Sounder commuter rail, operated by Sounder Transit, also provides service from other cities in Washington state, including Tacoma and Everett.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

By Cruise Ship

Several major cruise operators offer service to Seattle. Those include Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Travelers can take a cruise from cities like Juneau, Vancouver, San Francisco and Honolulu

By Car

Olympic National Park is located approximately 100 miles west of downtown Seattle. The U.S. Interstate highways leading into Seattle are Highway 5 and Highway 90. Olympic National Park can be accessed via Highway 101, which nearly circles around the entire park. The Olympic Park Visitor Center is located near Port Angeles, at the northern end of the Olympic Peninsula. Please note that there is no road that travels completely through the national park. Additional driving information can be found through the National Park Service.

Related: 5 Must-See National Parks In The U.S.

Basic Park Fees

The fee for private vehicles with up to 15 passengers is $20 and valid for seven consecutive days. Visitors arriving on foot or bikes is $7 per person and valid for seven consecutive days. Youth 15 and under are free.

Depending upon the location and season, campground fees range from $15 to $22. Wilderness camping permits are required for any overnight trip and are $5 per person for groups of up to 12 people.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Visitor Centers

Olympic National Park operates three visitor centers and a Wilderness Information Center for backcountry permits. Both the main Olympic National Park Visitor Center, located within the city limits of Port Angeles, and the Wilderness Information Center are open daily, although hours vary from season to season.

How To Get Around

The easiest way to get around Olympic National Park is by private vehicle, as there is no official park shuttle. However, some local transit agencies provide service to some spots within the park: Clallam Transit, Jefferson Transit, Grays Harbor Transit and the free Quileute Community Shuttle.

Where To Stay Within The Park

Olympic National Peak features lodging at the five locations and 16 campgrounds. Visitors can make reservations for lodging for the Log Cabin Resort, which also offers RV and tent camping, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort with cabins and RV hookups, Lake Crescent Lodge, Lake Quinault Lodge, featuring 91 rooms and one suite and Kalaoch Lodge, with cabins, motel and lodge rooms. Most of the 16 campgrounds are open year round. Additional information on lodging and camping can be found through the National Park Service.

Where To Stay Outside Of The Park

A large number of overnight accommodations can be found in neighboring communities around Olympic National Park. The most popular and most convenient destination for lodging outside the park is Port Angeles.

Where To Dine Within The Park

Kaloch Lodge

Featuring scenic ocean views, the Creekside Restaurant at Kaloch Lodge is one of Olympic National Park’s premier dining experiences. Open daily, the restaurant is a certified green restaurant and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Kaloch Lodge also features a mercantile where groceries, beer and wine may be purchased.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort

Both dining options at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort are open through mid-October. During the high season, Springs Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and specializes in Northwestern cuisine. Additionally, the Poolside Deli sells hot and cold sandwiches, cold beverages and snacks.

Lake Crescent Lodge

Lake Crescent Lodge features the certified 3-Star Green Restaurant Olympic Peninsula, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. An impressive collection of local wines may be purchased at the lodge’s lounge.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Lake Quinault Lodge

This historic lodge overlooking Lake Quinault features the Roosevelt Dining Room, open seasonally for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A bar is also onsite, but is only open during the peak summer season.

Log Cabin Resort

The Log Cabin Resort features the Sunnyside Café, open for buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also at the resort is a lakeside deli overlooking Lake Crescent.

Where To Dine Outside The Park

There are several dining choices outside of the park, especially in Port Angeles, where there are more than 100 listed restaurants. Recommended choices include First Street Haven, Next Door GastroPub, Cafe Garden and Kokopelli Grill.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Top Five Attractions

Lake Crescent

Another outstanding destination for a day trip to Olympic National Park is Lake Crescent, located 22 miles west of Port Angeles. One of the park’s crown jewels, Lake Crescent is a popular recreation area featuring the historic Log Cabin Resort, Lake Crescent Lodge, Fairholme campgrounds, four picnic areas and recreational water sports. Lake Crescent features a number of scenic hiking trails, including the .8-mile Moments in Time Nature Trail and the .9-mile (one-way) Marymere Falls trail.

Hurricane Ridge

For visitors traveling by car for just one day, there are a few recommended attractions to consider. One of the most popular destinations for a day trip is Hurricane Ridge, located 17 miles south of Port Angeles on Hurricane Ridge Road. Upon reaching the top of Hurricane Ridge, visitors are treated to breathtaking views of the park from the overlook, not far from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Eight hiking trails can be found here, ranging from the .25-mile Big Meadow and .5-mile Cirque Rim to Wolf Creek and Little River, both extending eight miles one way.The road is open 24 hours a day from mid-May into October and open until dusk on weekends and holiday Mondays during the winter season.

Rialto Beach

Although this spectacular beach is 36 miles from Lake Crescent and 75 miles from Port Angeles, Rialto Beach is well worth the trip. Featuring beach hiking with spectacular ocean views and fascinating rock formations, Rialto Beach offers camping by permit, in addition to the Mora Campground less than two miles away. One of the top highlights of Rialto Beach to is an easy 1.5-mile hike to the Hole of the Wall rock formation

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Ho Rain Forest

Located along the 50-mile Hoh River, Hoh Rain Forest is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the country. It’s also one of the wettest places in America, averaging up 170 inches  (14 feet) of precipitation annually. Overnight parking is adjacent to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center and the area also offers 88 campsites, hiking trails and a diverse collection of wildlife including the Pacific tree frog, Olympic black bear, northern spotted owl and Roosevelt elk.

Mount Olympus

The signature attraction of Olympic National Park is also its least accessible. Reaching a height of 7,980 feet, Mount Olympus is the tallest and most prominent mountain within the park as well the tallest within the Olympic Mountains. It’s also the third most isolated mountain in Washington state and climbing Mount Olympus is recommended for only experienced mountaineers. Despite its prominence, Mount Olympus is far from being the highest peak in Washington State and is not visible from Seattle or Tacoma. Mount Constance and the twin-peaked The Brothers are the two mountains within the park that can be viewed from Seattle. The Olympic National Park mountaineering season typically lasts from late June to early September.

Related: Top Mountain Climbing Destinations In The U.S.

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com