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Plan Like A Park Ranger - Top 10 Tips for Visiting Olympic National Park

Forest of moss-covered trees with ferns in the foreground.
Moss-covered Bigleaf maple trees in the Hoh Rain Forest

NPS Photo - Noah Linck

Summer is here! There are countless opportunities for adventure, fun, sightseeing, and solitude in Olympic National Park. From the lush canopy of the temperate rain forests and old-growth forests, to the sandy beaches of the wild coast, or the majestic overlooks of rugged, glacier-capped mountains—Olympic has a great deal to offer. But many national parks, including Olympic, are expecting an especially busy season in 2021. Therefore, trip planning is more critical than ever to help you make the most out of your visit.

So what’s the best way to enjoy Olympic National Park? Know before you go! Here are our Top Ten insider tips for making the most out of your visit.

Why stop there? Find more tips to #PlanLikeAParkRanger

Top 10 Tips For Your Next Visit

Olympic is very large and diverse with a range of elevation from sea level to almost 8,000 feet—and there are no roads that cross the park.

  • Consult the park's mileage chart for distances between key destinations.
  • Weather in Olympic is variable and unpredictable, no matter the time of year. It is common for snowfall and heavy rain to occur into the month of June in the higher elevations. Hikers should always check trail conditions as many high elevation trails may be impassable due to snow.
  • Always check the current weather forecast and call the road & weather line at 360-565-3131 before your visit.
  • See Trip Ideas for recommendations based on your available time.
  • Explore our Publications page for links to the park overview (multiple languages), specific park area information, and everything from weather, to geology, day hikes, and record-sized trees!

The summer months of June through September are the busiest time of year at Olympic. Reservations can be made for Kalaloch, Hoh, Mora, Sol Duc, and Log Cabin campgrounds. All other campgrounds are first come, first served and can fill early—especially on weekends and holidays.  You can also check the national forest or state and county parks for camping options around the Olympic Peninsula.

Planning to go backpacking? All Wilderness Camping Permits must be reserved on Recreation.gov through the Olympic National Park Wilderness Permit page before your trip. Check our overnight backpacking web pages for ideas to minimize your impact to park wilderness and avoid a life-threatening situation miles away from help. 

Check out the Alerts & Conditions information on the park website and call the recorded Road & Weather line at 360-565-3131. Park Rangers update the recording daily. We also post traffic updates and real-time info on twitter @OlympicNP

When you go from the mountains down to the coast, a lot can change! Weather in Olympic is variable and unpredictable, no matter the time of year. Different weather conditions can exist within the park at the same time.

  • Even in the summer, temperatures may vary from 10-20 degrees, especially along the coast and higher elevations. Rain is always a possibility and hikers need to always be prepared for thunderstorms, especially in the higher elevations. Despite sunny conditions, fog can persist along the coastal strip and inhibit visibility.
  • Always check the current weather forecast, trail conditions and park alerts before visiting.

Hundreds of thousands of people visit Olympic from June through September. To avoid the crowds, arrive early (before 10am) or in mid-afternoon or later, when lines are shortest and parking lots are less busy. Take advantage of the long, summer days and you'll find fewer crowds as dinnertime approaches.

It's also a big place: traffic and road construction, inside and outside of the park, can make drive times longer than expected. Have a backup plan in case parking lots are already full (temporarily restricting access) when you arrive.

Our website has information about each area of the park, including how to get there, recreational opportunities, and popular trails. There are also many nearby attractions on the Olympic Peninsula.

Plan your visit to the most popular areas for earlier or later in the day. Parking lots at Hurricane Ridge and the Hoh Rain Forest can easily fill by mid-morning and cause long waits at the entrance stations, especially on weekends and holidays. Wait times can be an hour or two to get in. Parking at Lake Crescent, Sol Duc Falls Trailhead, Ruby Beach and Rialto Beach is also challenging in the summer.

The park is open 24 hours a day, so arriving earlier or later can help you avoid the lines and traffic congestion for a more relaxing experience. 

While no advanced reservations are needed to enter the park this summer, you can buy your park entrance pass on Recreation.gov at no additional cost and save time at the park. Be sure to print your pass before you visit! While in the park, the paper copy is presented at entrance stations and displayed on the vehicle dashboard, particularly when the vehicle is parked at trailheads, campgrounds, and park lodges. 

Olympic is a wilderness park filled with natural wonders and potential hazards. With over 600 miles of trails, there is a range of options to choose from with varying lengths and difficulty.

  • Pick the right trail for you and your group. Recognize your abilities and the abilities of your group. You won’t miss out on the spectacular views, wildlife sightings, and connection with nature by choosing an easier trail for your adventure. Check out our Day Hiking information and Wilderness Trail Guide
  • Plan aheadhike smartpack the Ten Essentials, and have an emergency plan— even for a short day hike. Leaving an accurate itinerary with an emergency contact is a critical step for any trip in the backcountry.
  • Even on short hikes, be prepared for changing weather. Carry food, water, raingear and extra layers of clothing.

  • Visit our Safety webpage for important information on wildlife, weather, tides, and wilderness.

Try to sample destinations within each of the park's major ecosystems: subalpine, coast, temperate rain forest, and lowland old-growth forest. But you'll need time to do it! So plan your visit by getting to know the park map, exploring some trip ideas, and checking the mileage and driving times between destinations.

Download the new NPS App before arrival for helpful planning tools and to make the most of your visit. Cell service is spotty throughout Olympic. But with the new NPS App, you can download content ahead of time for offline use. It’s especially handy if you’re exploring remote areas or concerned about data limits.

The free app can be downloaded through the App Store and Google Play. Follow Olympic National Park on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for more helpful information. Visit Recreate Responsibly to learn additional tips on how to be a good steward of public lands.

Last updated: May 28, 2021