Olympic National Park is located in northwestern Washington State, where it has gained fame for its diverse ecosystems.
Glacier-covered peaks are interspersed with extensive alpine meadows surrounded by a vast area of old-growth forests, the best example of which is the most intact and protected temperate rainforest in the Pacific Northwest.
Eleven major river systems drain the Olympic Mountains, which provide some of the best habitat for anadromous fish species in the country.
The park also includes 100 km of deserted coastline, the longest undeveloped coastline in the contiguous United States, rich in native and endemic species of animals and plants, including critical populations of the endangered northern spotted owl and bull trout, among others. It was included by UNESCO on its list of World Heritage properties in 1981.
Olympic National Park is isolated from other mountain ranges and surrounded by the waters of the Pacific Ocean; this isolation has allowed the development of endemic species, including:
- The Olympic marmot
- 4 subspecies of other mammals
- 2 subspecies of trout
- 12 species or varieties of plants.
The Olympic Mountains are drained by eleven major river systems, which provide habitat for anadromous fish species, like salmon. These fish migrate from the ocean to freshwater rivers to spawn.
Reflecting the varied topography (from sea to glaciers) and rainfall variation, the vegetation zones on the site are complex and varied.
Olympic National Park is divided into two segments: a mountainous core and a separate coastal strip. The rugged features of the park are the result of plate tectonics.
The area contains a wealth of geological formations, affected by heavy rains in the west and scarce precipitation in the east.
The lighter sandstones and basalts, which had been violently sheared and squeezed during this tectonic movement, swayed like a cork, forming a dome some 95 km in diameter.
Deep valleys and canyons were eroded into this dome and glaciers carved steep peaks and beautiful cirques to form the spectacular landscape.
The mountains contain about 60 active glaciers; the area is unique because it is the lowest latitude in the world where glaciers start at an altitude below 2,000 meters, and where it happens below 1,000 m.
Glacier-covered peaks interspersed with extensive alpine meadows are surrounded by an extensive area of old-growth forest, among which the best example is the protected temperate rainforest in the Pacific Northwest.
The coastal strip of the site extends along 80 km of desert beach, characterized by rocky promontories, scattered beaches, and a wealth of marine life; the rocky islets along the coast are the remains of a continually receding, shifting coastline, and the arches, caves, and buttresses are evidence of continual battering by waves.
Tide pools are filled with hundreds of invertebrate species, and seals, sea lions, sea otters and several species of whales are often seen in the waves and around offshore islands.
The main danger to the integrity of the site is, interestingly, one of its attractions: the mountain goat.
Due to the isolation of the site, mountain goats never dispersed naturally, so their introduction in 1925 to 1929 may be causing significant changes to the natural ecosystem.
Mountain goats have reduced vegetation cover, increased erosion, and changed the habitat of some species to other hardy or less palatable species; at least three of the endemic species have then been recorded as food plants for these new species, so there is concern that these species may be endangered by mountain goats.
The Olympic conifer forest is of prime commercial interest and virtually all of the original forest outside the park has been harvested.
On June 29, 1938, the area was declared a national park; the Pacific Coastal Zone Corridor and the Queets River were added on January 6, 1953. It is accepted as a Biosphere Reserve in June 1976, and as a World Heritage site in 1981.
Where Can I Camp in Olympic National Park?
If you’re looking for camping in Olympic National Park, we’ve got you covered. Check out the following sites for more information about where to camp in the park:
Deer Park Campground
Deer Park is a small community at 5,400 feet in elevation. It boasts mountain views and starry skies. Due to a steep and winding gravel access road, Deer Park is not RV accessible.
Dosewallips Campground it’s perfect for those who want to get away from it all. The access road is washed out 6.5 miles from the campground and it is not accessible by vehicle.
Fairholme Campground and Lake Crescent, which borders the campground, include lakeside campsites and a boat launch. Online reservations.
Graves Creek Campground
Graves Creek Campground is located in the Quinault Rain Forest, where you can relax near a serene stream.
Heart O’ the Hills Campground
Heart O’ the Hills offers summer ranger programs and fun for the whole family.
South Beach Campground
South Beach is located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and provides magnificent ocean views. It also offers beach access.
You can camp near the Skokomish River and enjoy old-growth forest at Staircase. The park offers ranger programs in the summer, and riverside campsites are available.
Sol Duc Hot Springs RV Park & Campground
Enjoy riverside camping in old-growth forest at Sol Duc. Sol Duc Hot Springs RV Park & Campground are both operated by Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, which is 1/4 mile from the campground.
Can You Do Olympic National Park in One Day?
Can You Visit Olympic National Park in February?
Where Can I Buy an Olympic National Park Pass?
- All visitors to Olympic National Park must pay an entrance fee.
- Visitors should be prepared to show a printed copy of their pass.
- Before visiting the park, please print an electronic pass for entry.
- Purchasing this pass does not expedite entry into the park.
- Expect delays and extended wait times when parking lots are full, especially at Hurricane Ridge and Hoh Rain Forest.
How Much Time Do You Need at Olympic National Park?
Does Olympic National Park Require Reservations?
However, if you plan to spend the night inside or near the park, reservations for lodging or camping are recommended during the summer months. During these times, campgrounds and hotels can fill up quickly.
If you know your travel dates, making advance reservations is a good idea during the busiest months in the summer. For more info visit: NPS.GOV
Does Olympic National Park Allow Dogs?
Does Olympic National Park Get Snow?
Does Olympic National Park Have Cell Service?
Are There Gas Stations Inside Olympic National Park?
Olympic National Park is a great place to get away from it all. Its remote location offers pristine nature and some of the best views in the Pacific Northwest.
It’s not very crowded, so visitors can enjoy plenty of space and solitude on the trails. Just make sure you’re prepared—the weather can change quickly, and there are no services once you leave Port Angeles or Forks.
If you love beautiful forests or want to unwind at a peaceful mountain lake with only wildlife for company, Olympic National Park is your dream destination!