Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park covers a significant portion of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. Most of the park is in the center of the north end of the peninsula, but there is also a strip along the coast. The park covers 1442 square miles, or about a million acres.
The park includes a variety of ecosystems from glacier topped mountain peaks to temperate forest down to beaches and rugged coastline. There is a lot of old growth forest within the park. Near the coast there are rainforests. Some places in the coastal area receive over 100 inches of rain annually. Quite a contrast to Sequim on the other side of the Olympic Mountains near the north end of the peninsula, which is the driest place in western Washington. Sitting in the rainshadow of the mountains it receives only about 16 inches of annual rain.
To protect the wildlife dogs are not allowed in much of the park, though they are allowed in some of the lodgings and on a small list of trails. Trails in ONP that allow dogs are Peabody Creek at the ONP Visitor Center on the road to Hurricane Ridge in Port Angeles (not to be confused with the Port Angeles Visitor Center on the waterfront), Rialto Beach, Kalaloch area beach between Hoh and Quinault reservations, Spruce Railroad Trail at Lake Crescent, Madison Falls Trail (Elwha), and July Creek Loop at Lake Quinault.
The park’s website says passes are required to enter the park, which can be purchased online or in person at the park’s visitor centers or park entrance stations when open and staffed. Not all areas of the park require passes or payments. There were no gates, lines to get in, people checking for passes, or places to buy one at Rialto Beach, Madison Falls, Lake Crescent, or Spruce Railroad trail when I went to those places, but there were at Hurricane Ridge and Hoh Rain Forest.
The park covers much of the center of the Olympic Peninsula, a lot of which is mountains. There are entrances in various places around the outskirts of the park, some of which have campgrounds or other lodgings, and some that are day use only. Another strip of the park runs along the coast. Information can be found for Olympic National Park on the US National Park website.
Since the park covers such a vast area and has a number of different places within the park to visit, each with its own unique characteristics, it is best to know where in the park you want to go before arriving there. While it’s not the sort of place one would usually consider as a cruise ship destination, we once visited the staircase area of the park as a shore excursion from Hoodsport in Hood Canal on a small-ship cruise with UnCruise Adventures.
Olympic National Forest
Olympic National Forest surrounds much of Olympic National Park, extending the forested lands, but with sometimes differing rules. While dogs are only allowed on a handful of trails and in some lodgings in the park, they are allowed on all of the trails in the National Forest. It adds an additional 633,600 acres of protected forest to the foothills of the Olympic Mountain range. Speaking of the Olympic Mountains, most people have heard of Mount Olympus in Greece, but there is also a Mount Olympus in Washington State’s Olympic Mountains. It is the tallest mountain in the Olympic National Park at 7,980 feet high. The Olympic Mountains are not volcanos. Washington’s volcanos are in the Cascade range on the mainland, not on the Olympic Peninsula. There are 5 volcanos in Washington’s Cascades – Mt. St. Helens which blew up dramatically in 1980, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, and Mt. Adams.
Some areas of the Olympic National Forest require permits or passes so it’s a good idea to check out their website and find out if anything is required in an area where you want to go before going there. There are a lot of trails within the forest. Some trails have fees and others are free to use. Parts of the forest are within five designated wilderness areas. Some of the trails run through the wilderness areas. There are 20 campgrounds and 3 rental cabins available within the national forest.