Bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is home to temperate rain forests, pristine beaches, multiple ecosystems, coastal communities, and a massive national park.
The main route for exploring the Olympic Peninsula is picturesque Highway 101, which also meanders down the coast to the Beaches Region.
Things to do on the Olympic Peninsula
With so many attractions and things to do, you could easily spend a week or more exploring the Olympic Peninsula. Here are some of the highlights to help you plan your visit.
Explore rain forests in Olympic National Park
Encompassing nearly 1 million acres, Olympic National Park is characterized by its unique variety of terrain. With three major ecosystems, it’s the only place in the U.S. where you can investigate coastal beaches, rain forests, and glacier-capped mountains all in one park.
Campers, hikers, and backpackers flock to the park to visit its rain forests. Of its four temperate rain forests — the Quinault, Queets, Hoh, and Bogachiel — the most popular and well-known is the Hoh Rain Forest, located on the west side of the park.
Hike a nature trail to explore an environment that receives more than 170 inches of annual rainfall, resulting in a thriving canopy of coniferous and deciduous species and mesmerizing blankets of emerald-green mosses and ferns. Short trails near the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center include the Hall of Mosses Trail and the Spruce Nature Trail.
Meanwhile, the Quinault in the southwestern portion of the park is a favorite among local rangers. Producing a biomass four times that of a tropical rain forest, the Quinault is home to many deep-forest inhabitants, including cougars, black bears, and bobcats. Be sure to give wildlife lots of space and observe at a distance.
Wander epic beaches
There’s no shortage of fantastic beaches on the Olympic Peninsula offering breathtaking sea stacks, driftwood-strewn shores, tide pools, and beachside trails.
Near the small village of La Push, you’ll find popular spots including Rialto — where you can hike to Hole-in-the-Wall, a sea-carved arch — as well as First, Second, and Third beaches. First Beach is part of the Quileute Indian Reservation, while Second and Third beaches fall within Olympic National Park.
Farther south, the Kalaloch area and Ruby Beach are also crowd favorites.
Soak up history and culture
The Olympic Peninsula is home to dozens of towns offering more than easy access to outdoor recreation. The quaint seaside town of Port Townsend is home to Victorian architecture, art galleries, and delicious restaurants.
Sample seafood and more
Taste your way along the Olympic Peninsula, trying everything from local oysters to Dungeness crab and geoducks. Those looking to experience more than just seafood will find tons of local dining options. For a food-focused road trip, check out the Olympic Culinary Loop.
Take in sweeping views at Hurricane Ridge
On a clear day, Hurricane Ridge boasts sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains from its many hiking trails as well as from the visitor center. During the winter months, snow enthusiasts can enjoy snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding.
Experience lavender in Sequim
The town of Sequim is famous for its sunny weather and being one of the best lavender-growing destinations in the country. During July, marvel at the vast fields of purple blooms and immerse yourself in everything lavender at the annual Sequim Lavender Festival.
Visit the Olympic Peninsula’s historic forts
For history buffs, don’t miss visiting Fort Worden Historical State Park and Fort Flagler Historical State Park. Both feature remnants of coastal military installations and can be found a short distance from Port Townsend.
Enjoy the pristine waters of Lake Crescent
This glacially carved lake is a natural beauty and the perfect place to get out on the water. The area is also home to several hiking trails, including the Spruce Railroad trail that runs along the shore and the Barnes Creek trail to Marymere Falls.
Explore the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge
Right outside Sequim, you’ll find one of the world’s longest sand spits. The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge offers bird watching, fishing, and hiking opportunities perfect for all ages.
Visit the Sol Duc Valley
Located in Olympic National Park, the Sol Duc Valley is home to Sol Duc Falls and the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, which also offers campgrounds. Open seasonally, the resort allows visitors a chance to soak in hot, mineral-spring pools. Nature lovers will appreciate the valley’s many hiking opportunities, including the 1.6-mile roundtrip trek to Sol Duc Falls through lush forest.