The summer months, specifically June through August, are the best time to visit this park as temperatures are warm and wildflower meadows explode with color—but everyone else knows to come in summer too, so prepare for crowds. The early fall, from September to October, is also an excellent time to visit. Although the weather can be unpredictable at times, rain usually does not. The park experiences most of its rainfall between November and April. If you don’t mind getting wet, those early months can be a good time to have the park to yourself. Winter months are not as pleasant, with temperatures dropping, many lodgings closed and no camping. The exception: skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding enthusiasts, who head to Hurricane Ridge, where the mountain records 30 to 35 feet of snow a year (just check avalanche conditions before any trip).
Olympic National Park: Things to do
Hiking is an essential part of any visit to a national park. Hall of Mosses, located in Hoh Rainforest, is like something straight out of fairytale. The short, flat 1.1-mile loop hike will take you under large moss-covered Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock trees. (The trail is open year-round, but you’ll have to leave dogs at home.) Hurricane Hill is a six-mile hike that will give you a bit more of a challenge. You will be able to enjoy panoramic views of the mountains and water from the summit. You can see Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands on a clear day. Start your day-long hike at Lake Ozette and the Ozette Triangle Trail. The 9.4-mile trail has an elevation increase of 538 feet, and includes both forest terrain and beach terrain.
Olympic National Park wouldn’t be complete without an experience in the hot springs. What is the best destination? Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. The spring water is located west of Lake Crescent in the national park. It comes from melting snow and rain, which then flows into four spa pools that range from 50 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. You can either book a 90 minute session or stay at the resort to get access. (The springs are closed in the winter.
Nighttime is when you get the best views. Enjoy the starry skies in summer, when the rain is not as intense and there are fewer lights from humans. Head to Hurricane Ridge to take part in a night sky program led by the Olympic Dark Rangers who will help you see galaxies, stars, and constellations through their free public telescope program; or join a three-mile round trip hike to Hurricane Hill for a constellation tour at the top.
Boat on Lake Crescent
Get out of the car, stretch your legs, and get a different point of view by booking a guided boat tour just 18 miles west of Port Angeles at one of the deepest lakes in the park: Lake Crescent, which is 624 feet deep. You’ll spend 90 minutes learning about the history of the lake, the surrounding geology, and Indigenous stories. Stick around after the boat tour, as Lake Crescent has several hiking trails, picnic areas, and swimming during summer and fall. Lake Crescent Lodge also offers rowboat rentals. The boat tour takes place from mid-June until mid-September, every Thursday.
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing
Hurricane Ridge, on the other hand, is at its best during snowfall. Hurricane Ridge is located at 5,242 feet above sea level and offers many winter sports, from downhill tubing to snowboarding. Cross-country ski and snowshoe 15 to 20 miles of routes in the region—but beware that no trails are groomed or marked. For those who want a less rugged experience, Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area offers lift facilities and equipment rentals. This is the most western ski area in the U.S., and only one of three lift-serviced areas within a U.S. National Park. Backcountry skiers may also explore the slopes and bowls of the area such as Hurricane Hill, Sunrise Ridge, or Klahhane Ridge. In winter, you will need snow tires and chains to get into these areas.