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It’s true. Time moves a little slower in this region. This is one of the most varied regions we cover, as there’s a little bit of everything here for you.
You’ll love hiking here because of that. There are so many cute little coastal towns filled with charming B&B’s and mom and pop cafes. There are also some epic hikes that will leave you tired and inspired. You wouldn’t be the first or the last to poke your head into a real estate office at some point during your trip.
This guide will let you decide between two cities: Port Angeles and Forks. Forks is the smaller town, and it’s near our coastal hikes. Port Angeles is the base camp for our mountain hikes. We think you should just do both. We also include a section on the best campsites near each city.
Head to Olympic National Park. Enjoy some seafood. Hike through the rainforest, get up high for some mountain hiking or poke through some tide pools. This is one trip you won’t want to miss out on.
WHICH AIRPORT TO FLY INTO TO GET TO Olympic National Park
It doesn’t matter where you decide to stay near Olympic National Park. The closest Airport is the William R. Fairchild near Port Angeles (CLM). This isn’t a massive airport, but they do service a lot of major cities in the US. It’s 4mi from Port Angeles and 56mi from Forks.
You can also fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac). This is a major airport, though it is a 2.5 hour drive to Port Angeles.
Finally, you could come from Victoria (Canada) and get to Port Angeles in 2.5-3 hours. Served by Victoria International Airport, you can take the MV Coho Ferry across the Strait of Juan de Fuca directly to Port Angeles. We love this journey, and the beauty of the ferry makes it worth the extra trouble. You can even do this trip without a car, taking a bus from the airport down to the ferry which leaves from Victoria Harbour.
WHEN TO GO TO Olympic National Park
The Pacific Northwest might have a reputation for being rainy and grey, but if you look at the chart bellow, you’ll see that isn’t always the case. If you go between the months of June and September you’ll have sun on your whole trip. There really isn’t any place like it when the weather is good, so that’s your window.
Average monthly temperature and precipitation:
HOW TO GET AROUND Olympic National Park
Because the hikes are quite spread out we recommend renting a car. There aren’t a lot of buses or shuttles inside the park so, unfortunately, this is the best option. The good news is that the driving is fantastic. The lush mountain roads and the coastal roadways are beautiful.
WHERE TO STAY IN Olympic National Park
You have a few things to consider when deciding where to stay in Olympic National Park. If you look at our hikes there are two main sections. The beach/ rainforest hikes and the mountain hikes (which also have some rainforest sections).
If you want to be based near the mountain hikes, you’ll stay in Port Angeles. Port Angeles is a bigger city with more options at your fingertips. If you want to be near the beach hikes, you’ll stay in Forks. Although Forks is smaller, the town has its own charms for sure.
Regardless of your choice, we picked campsites near either side so that you can easily do some of both hikes and add some variety into your trip.
The best hotel in Port Angeles is Olympic Lodge. It’s a three-star hotel that sits right by a golf course. They have a pool, hot tub, and a west coast lodge design aesthetic. The rooms are always clean and spacious. It’s a very comfortable option if you’re looking for a hotel.
For luxury you’ll look to the thriving B&B industry that exists in every small pacific-northwest town. Our top choice in Port Angeles is the George Washington Inn. The rooms are so gorgeous that we could easily spend 500 words on that alone: fireplace, whirlpool tub, king beg, amazing views etc. Lets just say that at this level of luxury it should all be expected. What sets this place apart from the pack is that this beautiful building sits on a lavender farm, so this whole place smells amazing all throughout the summer months.
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Our budget friendly option in Port Angeles is The Royal Victorian. It’s one step up from basic roadside inn. The rooms might not be updated but they’re clean and the beds are comfy. They have a minimal continental breakfast (muffins, coffee, fruit) but, when you consider what you’re paying, it’s amazing that you get free breakfast. It’s a great value.
If we move our attention to Forks, there’s a cute, small Inn we love called the Quillayute River Resort. The location is what makes it truly great; it’s built next to a river and a short walk to the beach. The rooms have kitchens and BBQs, so if you want a quiet trip, where you can make meals with your family, this is a perfect place. The kitchen option makes a lot of sense in Forks because it’s a sleepier town than Port Angeles and, having that freedom makes your life easier.
The B&B in Forks that you’ll love the most is the Misty Valley Inn. The rooms are lovely, but the real treat of this place is the lovely hosts and the amazing breakfasts. You order the night before, and the selection is always fantastic. It’s an awesome way to start a day of hiking.
Now, if you want to camp near Forks you should try the Hoh Campground near our Hoh River Trail Hike. It really allows you to surround yourself in the rainforest; although, the spaces only fit a four-person tent, so bigger groups might not fit in.
Deer Park Campground is a truly beautiful campground by the more mountainous hikes. The drive up is a little tricky, so we recommend avoiding the drive in the dark. There isn’t potable water there, so you’ll have to bring some solutions to that problem, but it’s all worth it.
WHERE TO EAT IN Olympic National Park
You’ll notice the beautiful ocean almost everywhere you go, so to accompany that you’ll likely want some great seafood. Our first choice for seafood in Port Angeles is the Kokopelli Grill. The Kokopelli Kombo or the Catch of the Day is what we recommend off the menu. Note that they have lots of other things on their menu besides seafood.
The best seafood in Forks is The Kalaloch Lodge. The seafood section of their menu will leave seafood lovers drooling. They also have some great burgers too.
If you’re staying in Forks, the Forks Outfitter has a food store that serves up some great fried chicken and deli selections. This is where to go before a hike if you’re planning on bringing a lunch with you.
Our secret hot spot in Forks is the Taqueria Santa Ana. It’s pretty authentic considering how far it is from Mexico. The restaurant isn’t fancy, but the food is cheap, filling, and fantastic. The carnitas and salsa bar are a must.
For beers and good burgers you’ll want to head to Next Door GastroPub. They have a jovial atmosphere and well-done bar food. The Pacific Northwest is a great place for beer, so why not sample the bounty of the region?
For a casual, cheap vegetarian friendly option check out Turnip The Beet. They have a good menu with wraps, sandwiches, salads, and rice bowls. Sometimes you want to eat fresh, healthy, have a kombucha, and spend a day hiking. Nothing makes you feel cleaner and more refreshed.
Things to do IN Olympic National Park
The Olympic Hot Springs is always one of our first activity recommendations. There is a small hike to the springs (not long enough to mention in our top 10 hikes). The springs themselves are really fun, and they can be quite popular. It’s yet another way to have fun out in the Washington wilderness.
Another great outdoor activity is gliding across the ocean on a kayak. Adventure Through Kayaking has a few different trip options and all of them come very well reviewed. They also have mountain biking packages too if the water isn’t for you. Either way, we go to them when we want some non-hiking related adventures.
After a kayak trip, we like treating ourselves to a glass of wine. We recommend you do the same. Harbinger Winery is one of our favourite places to go in Port Angeles. They have a beautiful tasting room. Try going without getting a bottle; it’s impossible!
A great little trip and photo op near Forks is the Tree of Life (aka Tree Root Cave). Located near the Kalaloch Lodge, this amazing tree has to been seen in person. The ground has disappeared bellow it, creating a cave with a roof of roots.
Our last recommendation might sound a little odd. In fact it is odd, but that’s what is so pure and special about it. It’s known as John’s Beachcombing Museum. It’s a beautiful, organized mess of things that this man has found washed up on the shore over the years. He has ordered them up in categories and knows so much about all the pieces. He knows where most of it came from based on tides and currents. There are things from shipping containers that fall into the ocean. There are things from Japan. There is also a giant tower made of floats. This is a must see.
DANGERS WHEN HIKING IN Olympic National Park
- There are bears, mountain lions, and lots and lots of deer in the park. Each of them can be dangerous if you don’t give them their space.
- The temperate rainforest is a damp place (no kidding, huh?). This means roots, rocks, and fallen trees can be extremely slippery at all times. Be very sure of your footing before you try manoeuvring up, down, or over something.
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT Olympic National Park
- The weather can change at the drop of a hat. Bring waterproof layers everywhere you go.
- Even if it hasn’t rained in a day or two, the trails will usually be muddy in some sections. Bring waterproof shoes and consider having some gaiters to help keep your pantlegs and socks dry. No one wants to be that person in running shoes, or worse stringy sandals. It also might be a good idea to bring an extra pair of socks. On long hikes with lots of elevation, we like wearing thin water resistant pants, or just something to keep the mud off of you if you have to crab walk down a steep section.