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Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is made up of over 922,000 acres of wilderness. You could spend an entire lifetime exploring the park and still not see it all. But rather than get discouraged that you’ll never see it all, start by planning your trip! To help, we’ve broken down our post into two distinct sections, using Sol Doc Hot Springs Resort as your northern basecamp and Lake Quinault Lodge as your southern basecamp for adventure. Are you ready to explore Olympic National Park?!

Follow in our steps:

After returning from our Alaskan adventure to Denali National Park and Glacier Bay National Park, Caroline and I hung out in Seattle for a few days. We caught up on work and eventually started to make our way towards Olympic National Park.

General Info

Olympic National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Summers are the busy season and things start to slow down at the end of September. Some roads and campgrounds close in October. Be sure to check the park website before visiting to get up to date information on roads, camping, ranger programs, etc.

Olympic National Park Visitor Center

Phone: (360) 565-3130

Website: https://www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm

Visitor Information Station

Olympic National Park Visitor Center

3002 Mount Angeles Road, Port Angeles
Phone (360) 565-3130

The Port Angeles Visitor center is open year-round but is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The hours vary by season.

Wilderness Information Center

This is where you go for backcountry permits as well as where you pick up bear canisters. It’s located inside the Olympic National Park Visitor Center.
Phone: (360) 565-3100
It’s open from early April to October.

Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center
Wooden bench overlooking the mountains at Hurricane Ridge.

One of several amazing views up at Hurricane Ridge.

This visitor center is located about 17 miles south of Port Angeles in the north east corner of the park. Some of the trails may be covered in snow in May. You can get a few snacks as well as some small gifts from the gift shop. Oh and the view from the back terrace is just incredible.
It’s open from late May to mid-October.

Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center

The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center is located about 31 miles south of Forks. There are several small trails around the center as well as one longer trail, the Hoh River Trail. Bring your own food as they do not sell any here. There is, however, a small bookstore and some exhibits.
(We were able to visit on one of the last days this season. They’re getting ready to close the road to this visitor center for road repair. Check the website for updates.)
Phone: (360) 374-6925

Kalaloch Ranger Station

156954 U.S. Highway 101
Forks, WA 98331
Phone: (360)962-2283

Best Places to Stay in Olympic National Park

Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort

Located just 3 1/2 hours from Seattle (5 from Portland) is Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. It’s in the northwestern part of Olympic National Park and is a great place for a weekend getaway or even longer. You can choose from the RV campground or the cabins. Though we love our van and thought the campground looked sweet, we actually stayed in a cabin. And we loved it. There’s Starbucks coffee in the room, a small sofa, a table and chairs, a super comfy bed and your very own porch and picnic table.

We had cabin 128 which is towards the edge of the property (read: private!) and near the river. We saw a couple of deer one morning right from our front step!

Lake Quinault Lodge

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Welcome to The Lake Quinault Lodge!

This lodge was built in 1926 and is absolutely stunning. It’s located literally in a rainforest and as such, sits under some beautiful, old trees that greet you as soon as you drive up. From the moment you get out of your car, if you’re like us, you’ll be looking up at the trees and out at the lake, your eyes delighting nearly every which way you look. Once you step inside the lodge, you’ll notice a roaring fireplace, comfortable leather sofas and dark, rich wood and decorations that harken back to a different age. The photographs in the lodge are literally historic treasures. And yet rather than feeling stuffy, the lodge feels welcoming. We enjoyed spending time in there as well as outdoors on the great lawn that slopes down towards the waters edge. This is the kind of place where relaxing is taken very seriously. Bring a book or nothing at all, either way you’re bound to be able to unwind.

We stayed in a Fireplace room on the second floor with a view of the lake. The king sized bed swallowed us whole. We loved it! There was a big flat screen tv that we never turned on as well as a gas fireplace. Our favorite part of the room, however, was the balcony. We spent an afternoon out there just relaxing with some wine.

Best Things to Do in Olympic National Park near Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort

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Caroline soaking in the hot springs!

Soak in the three Mineral Hot Spring Pools

The hot springs are one of the main reasons guests choose to come to the resort. They are kept at varying temperatures. The largest pool with a fountain was 101.7 degrees, the medium sized pool was 103.1 degrees and the smallest of the three was 96 degrees. (In addition to the hot springs there is also a large, heated freshwater pool.) We enjoyed starting out in the cooler pool and working our way up to the hotter water. It made our skin feel silky and smooth and was soothing and relaxing. If you want to enjoy the pools but aren’t quite ready to get in them, enjoy poolside seating in one of the lounge chairs or wooden benches. There’s plenty of space to spread out.

Just off the pools are two locker rooms and showers as well as a restaurant. Each hot spring pool is closed twice a day for a resting period but there are always two hot spring pools and the freshwater pool open at all times. We recommend coming early when they open at 8:00am to avoid the crowds.

Get a poolside massage

Take relaxation up a notch with a massage and then a dip in one of the hot springs. Massages can be booked at the front desk.

Hike Lover’s Lane Loop

Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park

Sol Duc Falls!

This six mile trail through old growth forest is gorgeous! We ran it one morning and though it was a bit rooty and rocky and technical in areas, it was one of the coolest runs we’ve ever done. The halfway point takes you to Sol Duc Falls! (Pro Tip: If you want to see Sol Duc Falls but don’t want to hike several miles, hike the Sol Duc Falls trail which is .8 mile one way (1.6 miles roundtrip).

Hike the Ancient Groves Nature Trail

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The old growth forest along the Ancient Groves Nature Trail.

This .6 mile trail is a fairly easy hike (there isn’t any elevation gain meaning it’s fairly flat) that takes you through some gorgeous old growth forest. You’ll also cross over a few picturesque wooden bridges along this trail. It’s just a short drive from the resort.

Explore Lake Crescent

If you’re wanting a break from the hot springs, take a short drive north to Lake Crescent. You can rent paddle boards and kayaks there!

Relax!

There isn’t any WiFi on the property. This is either very desirable or possibly slightly stressful depending upon why you’re visiting the resort. (That said, we found a fairly reliable LTE cell signal about 4 miles outside of the park. As you leave the resort, look for the gravel parking lot on your left that is just past the Ancient Groves trailhead).

Best Things to Do in Olympic National Park near Lake Quinault Lodge

Hike the Quinault Loop Trail

This four mile trail is perfect for trail running as well as hiking. It’s made of small stones and dirt and a few wooden boardwalks and winds through some gorgeous rainforest scenery. The hills are gentle and rolling and the landscape is so beautiful you won’t hardly mind the climbs. There are signposts with maps along the route but we recommend carrying your own which you can pick up in the lodge.

Get out on the water!

Guests can rent standup paddle boards, canoes and kayaks, all of which make for a fun way to get out and experience the lake. If powering your own watercraft isn’t your idea of fun OR you want to learn a little bit about the area, we recommend taking a pontoon tour. The boat has comfortable seating and the guide will take you on a leisurely tour around the perimeter. The lake is only about 4 miles long and 2 miles wide and the tour lasts about an hour and a half. We recommend going right before dinner!

Go on the Quinault Rainforest Tour

We highly recommend going on the Rainforest Tour. We did it on our second morning while staying at Lake Quinault Lodge. The tour meets next to the fireplace at 9:30 am. Before departing you’ll learn a little bit about the construction of the building and the history of the lodge and shortly thereafter you’ll board the 14-passenger Tour Coach. Your guide will explain the history of the area and it’s early explorers and teach you a little bit about the Quinault Indian Nation. Along the tour you’ll stop at the World’s Largest Spruce Tree, the Merriman and Bunch waterfalls, the old Kestner homestead and even hike the short Maple Glade Rainforest Trail. This is a great way to learn about the area without having to drive anywhere!

Unwind

Lawn chairs at Lake Quinault Lodge

Not a bad place to relax, right?!

If you’re looking for a great place to getaway and relax, this is it. There are numerous places to just sit and think (with a great view of the lake!), several places to enjoy a picnic, a cozy lodge with a big fireplace to dig into a new book and a restaurant to take care of all your dining needs.

Best Things to Eat at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort

The Springs Restaurant at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is your go-to place for meals. Breakfast starts when the lodge opens at 7:30am and ends at 10:00am. The restaurant closes for an hour and then reopens for lunch at 11:00am. Lunch hours are 11:00am to 4:00pm and then dinner opens at 5:00pm. Reservations are strongly recommended for dinner and can be made at the front desk.

Breakfast

Caroline ate the Olympic Omelet (Olympia mushrooms, sweet bell peppers, red onions, spinach and pepper jack cheese) the first morning. It also came with toast, breakfast potatoes and fruit. The second morning she ordered a short stack of buttermilk pancakes, a side of over easy eggs and two strips of bacon. She hasn’t stopped talking about how good the bacon was. I ordered the All American Breakfast (two eggs over easy, breakfast potatoes, an english muffin, toast and fruit) both mornings because it filled me up and tasted great. I’ve also been thinking about the bacon nonstop haha.

Lunch
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Mmmm … the fish tacos!

Lunch was a treat. They have a good assortment of salads but they also have some really delicious savory menu items such as an elk burger (a 1/2 pound lean and juicy patty topped with cheddar cheese) and fish tacos (fresh local fish marinated with cilantro and lime and topped with grilled pineapple salsa and citrus slaw) both of which we enjoyed.

Dinner

And just when we thought the food couldn’t get any better we had dinner. The first night we ordered a filet mignon which was cooked perfectly, charred on the outside, tender on the inside. It was served over a bed of mashed potatoes and topped with garlic herb butter. The asparagus, carrots, mushrooms and brocolli that came with the steak were fresh and al dente. We also ordered a salmon dish that was served with Olympic mushroom orzo and grilled asparagus. The Washington salmon had a balsamic glaze drizzle on it that added just the tiniest bit of sweet to the savory dish. Both of them were delicious. While at Sol Duc we also ate the Crab Cobb Salad (mixed greens, bacon, egg, avocado, tomato, asparagus, blue cheese and big portion of crab meat), Heirloom Caprese Salad and Two Jumbo Lump Dungeness Crab Cakes. All of it was delicious and we left full and happy.

Best Things to Eat near Lake Quinault Lodge

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Just like at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, you can depend on the Lodge at Lake Quinault to meet all of your dining needs. The Roosevelt Dining Room overlooks the lawn and offers a lake view. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner there on both days and enjoyed everything we tried. Reservations aren’t required but we recommend making them. Either stop by the hostess stand or call 360.288.2900.

Breakfast

For breakfast we tried all sorts of things. We ate the Lodge Oatmeal (thick rolled oats, honey granola and toasted almonds), the Loggers Breakfast (two eggs, thick, crispy bacon, seasoned breakfast potatoes and a homemade biscuit) as well as one of the Lake Quinault Omelets (there are three different omelets to choose from; we went for the roasted local mushroom omelette with sautéed spinach and goat cheese). Each omelet comes with toast and breakfast potatoes and was the perfect way to stay fueled until lunch.

Lunch

We worked up a pretty good appetite for lunch on both days. Luckily the Roosevelt Dining Room delivered a hearty meal. We ordered the organic mixed green salad and the deliciously flavorful Quinault Clam Chowder (bacon, fresh thyme, garlic, potatoes and white wine with a hint of smokiness to it) at one lunch and both the apple spinach salad and the berry goat cheese salad at another. We also tried the Blackened Ahi Tuna Sandwich, the Coleman’s Turkey Sandwich and the Mushroom Swiss Burger. All of the sandwiches complemented the salads and soup perfectly. The portions are generous and are guaranteed to fill you up. On our last day at the lodge we ordered a mushroom and spinach pizza to go. The kitchen boxed it up for us and we ate it as a snack as we pulled out of the parking lot.

Dinner
Seared Duck Breast … still thinking about this dish. It is soooo very good. It comes served with roasted fingerling potatoes, pearl onions, dried cherries, spiced pecans and a white balsamic honey. If you love duck or have never even tasted it, this is a dish that we highly recommend. We also recommend the Moroccan spiced half-chicken which was tender, flavorful and oh so delicious. It’s served with black rick and roasted root vegetables and is the perfect dish to enjoy after a day in the rainforest.

Top Tips for Visiting Olympic National Park

If you have extra time in the park, we highly recommend going to check out the following places:

The Hoh Rainforest

You can visit the Hoh on your way from one lodge to the other or as a day trip from either lodge. We think it’s worth the time and effort to go see it. There are several different trails of varying lengths in the Hoh Rainforest. We were able to get there the day before the road closed for construction and were so happy that we did. If you get a chance be sure to hike the short Hall of Mosses Trail. If you have a bit more time and want to go on a longer hike, be sure to check out the Hoh River Trail. We ran several miles on it and thoroughly enjoyed it. The trail parallels the river and offers some beautiful views.

Ruby Beach

This is one of the most incredible beaches you’ll ever see. It’s a little closer to Lake Quinault than Sol Duc but if you’re driving from one lodge to the other it’s basically on the way! The view from the parking lot is pretty incredible, but take the time to lace up your shoes and head down to the beach. The path that leads you down there feels like a green tunnel and the driftwood and large rock forms in the water will take your breath away.

Ride your bike on the Olympic Discovery Trail

We found this trail by accident and it was wonderful! It’s a paved path, great for running or riding your bike. The section we rode on was fairly flat and smooth, perfect for any kind of bike. The trailheads are in Port Townsend and La Push so if you love riding your bike, you might want to do several segments.

Olympic National Park Recap

Have you ever been to Olympic National Park? If so, we’d love to hear what you thought. Please leave a comment below!

Caroline Whatley and Erin McGrady of Authentic Asheville are currently traveling as Ambassadors for the Nation’s Vacation. To learn more about their expedition, head on over HERE.

Did you see what we thought about Denali and Glacier Bay National Park?!

Next up: Crater Lake National Park!

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