Olympic National Park was the second national park we visited. Our friends booked a campground on the Olympic Peninsula for a week and we jumped at the chance to join them for a weekend.
Olympic National Park
Location: Washington peninsula
Size: 922,650 acres (map)
Visited: July 2016
Type of visit: Weekend camping trip, day trip to Hoh Rain Forest
We spent the weekend camping at Kalaloch Campground with some friends from Seattle. Initially, I didn’t realize that the coast we were staying on was actually part of the park. In fact, there are over 70 miles of coastline in Olympic National Park, and Ruby Beach is one of the most visited areas of the park.
On the Saturday of our camping trip, we drove in to visit the Hoh Rain Forest. Along the way we stopped to see one of the largest cedar trees in the world off Highway 101. It looks partially felled and yet also still growing…either way, it was very large!
The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the wettest places in the states (it receives over 12 feet of rain a year). It was so interesting to visit on a hot summer day and enter a cool, damp forest. One neat thing we saw and learned about is Nurse Logs. The rain forest floors can be too dark, wet, and tangled for seedlings to survive. Nurse logs are large felled trees on which seedlings land, gather nutrients, and absorb warmth and moisture. Eventually their roots reach the ground and the nurse log rots away, leaving suspended root structures.
Five Fun Facts
1. There are many distinct ecosystems in Olympic National Park.
There are four distinct types of forest alone, including alpine, lowland, and temperate rain forests. In fact, the Hoh Rainforest is one of the world’s only temperate rain forests. Other ecosystems include the rugged Pacific Coast (70+ miles), mountains, and wildflower meadows.
2. The park is home to record breaking trees.
The world’s largest Sitka spruce stands 191 feet tall near the Hoh Rain Forest. The world’s largest Western Red Cedar was near Lake Quinalt until storms felled it in 2016. However, a similarly large cedar tree is still standing near Kalaloch.
3. The park was almost named Elk National Park.
One reason Olympic National Park was created was to protect the overhunted Roosevelt Elk in the early 1900s. Today, at least 22 endangered species live in the park, including the spotted owl and the bald eagle.
4. Olympic National Park is the 7th most visited national park in the United States.
Even though 95% of the park is designated wilderness and difficult to access, over 3 million people visit this park each year. Hurricane Ridge is one of the most popular areas, along with Ruby Beach and the Hoh Rain Forest.
5. Visit in April/May or October/November for an ocean surprise
Olympic National Park lies along a whale trail, where marine animals can be seen from shore. Twice a year, keep an eye out for breaching or feeding whales.
We enjoyed the day trip to the Hoh Rain Forest but I would love to explore more areas of the park in depth. For example, I have heard amazing things about Hurricane Ridge.