When we first heard about Olympic National Park after moving to the Pacific Northwest, we thought it was some far-out mystical part of Washington that was impossible to access. We heard about taking ferries and getting permits, while the only thing we were getting was a headache thinking about all of the logistics. But, after taking the drive from Tacoma to Olympic National Park, we were pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to access the National Park, and the beaches and areas surrounding it. Throughout this post, we'll highlight how to get from Tacoma to Olympic National Park, where to stay, and the best things to do over two days.
Tacoma to Olympic National Park
A rather simple drive, the trip from Tacoma to Olympic National Park takes over 2 hours and requires minimal directions. Virtually you will hop onto Washington State route 16, which will turn into State Route 3, 104, and finally 101. You'll pass through large towns such as Gig Harbor, Bremerton, and drive amongst mountain and ocean views. After about 2 hours, you'll end up in a cute little village called Port Angeles. If you're looking for a spot to crash for a night or two, this is a great spot. But, we'll get to that later on in this post.
As you're going through Port Angeles, you'll want to keep a lookout for S Race Street on the left. Take this left and continue to Hurricane Ridge Road. You'll pass the Olympic Park Visitor Center on your right, and not long after that, you'll come to the Olympic National Park Fee station. You can purchase a 7-day park pass for about $30.00, or buy the annual National Park Pass for $80.00. The annual National Park Pass will give you access to any National Park within the U.S., so we recommend getting it!
Getting from Tacoma to Olympic National Park is so easy you could make a day trip out of it. If you're in Seattle, you can follow this same route and make the 45-minute drive down to Tacoma to go around the Pudget Sound, rather than take a ferry across it.
Olympic National Park 2 Day Itinerary
There is so much to see and do in Olympic National Park; it is a little challenging to see everything in two days. We spent two days venturing throughout the park in November, and we managed to see a good deal of breathtaking sights. Here's what our trip looked like.
We drove out to the Olympic Peninsula on a Friday afternoon after work, Where we had a hotel room reserved at the Uptown Inn in Port Angeles. The room was pretty affordable and acted as an excellent centralized home base. We also made this trip in November, so camping wasn't exactly an option. If you want to get a little more adventurous, you can camp out throughout the National Park, or even on one of the beaches along the Pacific Coast Line.
We started our Saturday Morning bright and early. We woke up before the sunrise and made our way to Rialto Beach with plans to hike to the Hole in The Wall, a massive rock formation that quite literally looks like a Hole in the rocky cliffside along the Pacific Coast. The drive from Port Angeles to Rialto beach took about an hour and 20 minutes, while the hike to Hole in the Wall is roughly 3 miles round trip. You'll walk amongst the beach as the mighty Pacific Ocean swells crash into the beach, and you'll be in awe with the amount of large driftwood that sits on the beach. It gives you a pretty fresh perspective on the power of the ocean.
After walking for about 20 minutes, you'll find some large haystack rocks protruding out of the water - you can't miss them. Right after these Haystack rocks, the Hole in the Wall will come into view.
Pro Tip: Outside of the fantastic Golden Hour views, we had to do the hike during sunrise to avoid the high tide. Hole in the Wall is only accessible during low tide, so you will want to monitor the tides to find your best time to hike!
We continued onwards to the town of Forks to fuel up at a local Diner after filling our S.D. cards with photos of Rialto Beach and the Hole in the Wall. Our next destination was the Hoh Rain Forest. About an hour-long drive from Rialto Beach, the Hoh Rain Forest is the largest temperate rain forest within the United States. Stretching 24 miles wide and running along the Hoh River, the Hoh Rain Forest receives an average of 140 inches of precipitation every year, and features spans the largest trees in the National Park, with some reaching 7 feet in diameter.
Two nature trails take you amongst the forest - the Hall of Mosses Trail (.8 miles/ 1.2 km), and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles/ 1.9 km). Both trails will lead you through lush, green canopies full of moss, ferns, and a variety of tree species.
After exploring the Hoh Rain Forest, we began the 2-hour drive back to Port Angeles. Along the way, we made a pit stop at Lake Crescent. With a depth of 624 feet, it is the second deepest lake in Washington, and the clarity of the water will have you feeling like you're in the Caribbean. After a long day, we relaxed by the lake and watched the sun dip behind the mountains before continuing the drive back to Port Angeles.
We started our second day in Olympic National Park by venturing up to the well-known Hurricane Ridge. The ridge is just an 18-mile drive from Port Angeles and is very easy to access. On a sunny day, you can see the Olympic Mountain Range spanning as far as the eye can see. To the North, you will see views of Vancouver Island, and you will likely see glimpses of Mount Baker to the East.
Hurricane Ridge has many hiking trails, from ridgetop traverses to steep trails that descend to alpine lakes and valleys. As you drive up to Hurricane Ridge, be sure to stop at the visitor center to grab a map of the hiking trails throughout the area.
After spending a good portion of the day hiking amongst Hurricane Ridge, we hit the road once again; this time headed towards Cape Flattery. The most northwestern point of the continental United States, Cape Flattery, is about a 2-hour drive from Port Angeles. To get to the actual Cape Flattery overlook, you will need to hike down a half-mile-long trail. The trail is well maintained and easy to navigate, as you are mostly walking on human-made boardwalks.
As you walk down the trail, you will see beautiful ocean coves on both sides of the path. Eventually, you will come to a wooden platform at the end of the trail that marks the most Northwestern point of the Continental United States. Here, you will see where the Straight of Juan de Fuca meets the Pacific Ocean, you will see Vancouver Island to the North, and if you're lucky, you may even see whales and seals swimming amongst the Pacific. Make sure your camera has a charge up because it is a glorious sight.
We stayed at Cape Flattery for a few hours and experienced the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean on a beautiful clear day. It was a great way to end a fantastic weekend in Olympic National Park.
It's pretty insane how many things there are to do and see in Washington State. Getting from Tacoma to Olympic National Park is so easy you could do it in a day! This post only scratched the surface of things to do in Olympic National Park, but I hope it gave you some good ideas for your next adventure! Happy Travels out there!
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**Some posts are not up to date on COVID restrictions, please check park websites and trail maps prior to adventuring!**