A unique aspect to Olympic National Park is the fact that there are many separate park areas to visit around the Olympic Peninsula with separate entrance roads. The National Park is in the center of the Olympic Peninsula, with a detached strip of protected coastline that is also part of the park. The interior portion has entrance roads to places like Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc, and the Hoh Rain Forest, but these roads end after 15-18 miles. There are no roads across the park and 95% of the park is wilderness.
Hurricane Ridge and the Hoh Rain Forest are extremely popular places to visit in summer and the parking lots can fill completely, especially on weekends and holidays. In these cases, vehicles are stopped at the entrance station because there is no parking available. Vehicles are let in as other vehicles exit. Wait times can be long (1-2 hours) during busy periods.
Visiting During Busy Periods
Like other national parks, Olympic has seen a dramatic increase in visitation over the last few years. Olympic hosts over 3 million visits each year. Hurricane Ridge and the Hoh Rain Forest experience crowded conditions during busy periods throughout the year, including spring break, throughout the summer, and especially holiday weekends (Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day).
You can expect:
Long entrance station lines,
Limited parking at the Hurricane Ridge and Hoh Rain Forest visitor centers,
Limited parking at popular trailheads.
However, there are ways to navigate and avoid some of this congestion to make the most of your time in the park. Here are some tips for planning ahead:
For Hurricane Ridge:
Peak summer visitation time is from 10am - 2pm. To avoid the crowds, try to arrive before 10am or visit after 2pm on normal weekends, and after 3pm during holidays.
When the parking area at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center reaches capacity, traffic is then metered at the entrance station at Heart O' the Hills, and vehicles enter as others exit. Wait times can be up to two hours, but vary based on visitor turnover.
For visitors wanting a quiet experience with fewer people and a better chance to see wildlife, we suggest arriving before 11am or after 4pm, or visit in the off season. All trails and parking lots are busy June-August.
Peak summer visitation time is from 11am - 3pm. To avoid the crowds, try to arrive before 11am or visit after 4pm on normal weekends, and after 5 pm during holidays. June, July and August are the three busiest months for visitation.
Starting mid/late June, the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center parking area generally reaches capacity on the weekends between the hours of 11am - 1pm. Traffic is then metered at the entrance station, and vehicles enter as others exit. Wait times will vary based on visitor turnover.
Even when the entrance station is not metering traffic, parking is difficult to find between 11am - 3 pm during the week. Visitors can check the overflow parking areas near the campground rather than trying to park in the main parking lot.
Parking for large RVs: There are some RV designated parking spots. However, these fill up quickly. Visitors with large RVs should try to arrive before 11am or visit in the evening unless they are camping in the campground. If you are towing a trailer, consider unhooking the trailers before visiting the Hoh Rain Forest.
Memorial and Labor Day Holidays: Sunday is the busiest day for these 3-day weekends. Expect longer than normal delays on the Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of the holiday weekends. For Saturday and Sundays, traffic can be metered into the late afternoon.
4th of July: This is a busy week in general, but the level depends on what day of the week the 4th falls on. This year in 2019, the entrance station had to meter traffic on the Thursday (July 4th), Friday and Saturday of that week.
The long lines at the entrance station are a result of the parking area being at capacity, not due to slow service at the entrance station. There is no bypass lane for visitors that already have passes, as it is a single lane entrance station only.
Remember: There are no gas or food services at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. Fuel up before you visit and remember to bring your own food. Pets are not allowed on the trails at the Hoh Rain Forest.