Olympic National Park is a Pacific Northwest paradise and the perfect fall getaway, especially if you can kiss the rain.
In an area where annual precipitation ranges from 100 to 170 inches, it is important to show up ready to get wet. This means you need to pack your rain jacket, waterproof hiking boots, towels, and dry clothes, in addition to the usual day hike basics and 10 essentials.
That doesn’t mean you still can’t keep your hopes up for sunny days. The heaviest rains usually don’t set in until mid-fall at the Olympics, offering a good month and a half of potential for clear skies and colorful fall foliage between mid-September and late October. .
Plus, crowds at Olympic National Park usually drop dramatically in the fall. In 2020, the National Park Service reported just 188,318 visitors in October, up from 334,249 in September and 719,170 in August. This trend is typical of the park, where the number of visitors decreases even more in winter and does not rise again until May.
Helping your sense of isolation is Olympic’s sheer size. Covering over 1,400 square miles, it can take days or even weeks to sufficiently explore the park. Traveling from one side of the park to the other can take up to three hours, not counting the time it takes to get to the national park itself. Those who want to make the most of their time at the Olympics should plan to spend at least a few days.
Those who stay away for fear of the rain may miss one of the Pacific Northwest’s greatest natural wonders at a spectacular time of year. With smaller crowds and a large area, fall offers the opportunity to feel true isolation in Olympic National Park. And visiting during the rainy season allows you to see the famous rainforests in their element, the snow-capped mountains, and the ocean bubbling with energy along the coast.
Find maps, travel tips, and information about road and trail closures online at nps.gov/olym.
Here’s what to see in Olympic National Park this season.
One of the quintessential forest hikes in Olympic, the Hall of Mosses is a short 0.8 mile loop hike through the Hoh Rainforest, home to towering trees covered in thick green moss. It’s an easy trail that’s great for anyone looking to dip their toes into the rainforests of Olympic National Park, and a perfect excursion for a rainy day.
Find the Hall of Mosses Trail at the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center, located at the end of Upper Hoh Road.
Hoh River Trail
Those wanting a more adventurous visit to the Hoh Rainforest should avoid the Hall of Mosses and instead take the Hoh River Trail, a 27.4 mile trail that cuts through dense, humid forest to Glacier Meadows in the mountains. During the fall and winter months, hikers would do well to stick to the lower part of the trail along the Hoh River and avoid climbing to higher elevations which can be slippery or covered with snow. snow.
Find the Hoh River Trail at the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center, located at the end of Upper Hoh Road.
Stair Rapids Loop
Another easy forest hike, the Staircase Rapids Loop runs 2.1 miles through old growth forest along the North Fork Skokomish River in the southeast corner of the park. Hikers also have the option of continuing along the North Fork Skokomish Trail for several miles through the rainforest.
Find the North Fork Skokomish River Trail near the Staircase Ranger Station at the end of North Lake Cushman Road (the road may close seasonally, due to bad weather or overcrowding).
One of the best and most popular beaches in Olympic, Rialto Beach is a beautiful place to stop and gaze out at the ocean, or to stroll along the cobblestones and sand, exploring the many sea stacks. and tidal pools along the shore. It is also a starting point for those looking to backpack the Olympic coast, although rougher seas and rains in the fall can make this adventure more dangerous.
Find Rialto Beach at the end of Mora Road west of Forks. A short path from the parking lot leads to the beach.
The Kalaloch area includes several beach access points near the southwestern edge of Olympic National Park, known for its easy access, beautiful coastal scenery, and whale watching from the shore. Beachgoers can stop at Beaches 1-6 or the popular Ruby Beach (all located on the US 101 side), some of which require short forest hikes to access.
Find beach access points on the west side of US 101 north of Queets.
The northern end of the Olympic Coast offers a beautiful excursion for the more adventurous hikers to the Ozette Triangle. A simple hike from Ozette Ranger Station to Cape Alava and back is a 6.8 mile day, or hikers can walk south on the beach to the Sand Point Trail, which also leads back to Ozette, making a triangular of 9.4 mile loop.
Find the Cape Alava and Sand Point trails near the Ozette Ranger Station at the end of the Lake Ozette road. NOTE: All trails and beaches north of Cape Alava on the Ozette Indian Reservation are closed to the public until further notice – the Ozette Triangle remains open.
One of Olympic National Park’s most popular lookout points, Hurricane Ridge offers stunning views of the Olympic Mountains on the north side of the park – possibly the most accessible mountain views during the fall and winter months. . Also home to a visitor center, ski area, and hiking trails, Hurricane Ridge is a must-see destination for any first-time visitor.
Find Hurricane Ridge at the end of Hurricane Ridge Road. NOTE: Hurricane Ridge Road may be closed due to weather conditions and is only open Friday through Sunday from late fall.
Enchanted Valley is a perfect slice of Pacific Northwest paradise, but if you want to hike this fall, you’ll need to get there soon. Located approximately 13.5 miles upstream of the East Fork Quinault Trail from the Graves Creek Trailhead, the scenic mountain valley is set in rugged wilderness, home to black bears and other wildlife. Snow typically covers the upper portion of the trail between November and June, but the lower portion of the trail can be reached in all seasons. Backpackers who choose to visit will need to bring the appropriate supplies, including a bear box, that the park needs.
Find the Graves Creek Trailhead at the end of Graves Creek Road, east of Quinault Ranger Station.
Located in the rugged northeastern part of the National Park, Royal Basin is a gem for hikers keen to drive the rugged road and take the long hike to see it. From the start of the Upper Dungeness Trail, a hike to Lake Royal and back is 14.4 miles, with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Those who want to hike should do it earlier in the season – in mid-fall the trail and roads can be covered in snow.
Find the Upper Dungeness Trailhead on Forest Road 2870 about 10 miles from Dungeness Forks Campground. See detailed instructions on wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/royal-basin.
Located on the Olympic Coast at the mouth of Kalaloch Creek, Kalaloch Lodge offers 64 units open year round, as well as quick access to the beach. The lodge is centrally located on the west side of the park, making it a nice place to drop anchor while exploring places like the Hoh Rainforest, Quinault Lake, or Rialto Beach. Lodge rooms, cabins and camping pitches are all available.
Book a room at Kalaloch Lodge online at thekalalochlodge.com or dial 866-662-9928.
Two National Park Service lodges are open all fall in Olympic National Park: Lake Quinault Lodge (open year-round) and Lake Crescent Lodge (open until January 3). The two pavilions offer dining rooms, living rooms, and lake views, and each offers access to different areas of the park: Quinault Lake sits in the southwest corner of the park, with access to the southern coastal areas as well. than the East Fork Quinault Trail, while Lake Crescent is on the north side of the park between Hurricane Ridge and Rialto Beach.
Book a room at Lake Quinault Lodge at olympicnationalparks.com/lodging/lake-quinault-lodge. Reserve a room at Lake Crescent Lodge at olympicnationalparks.com/lodging/lake-crescent-lodge.
Camping may not look inviting during the rainy months, but those lucky with clear weather – or those who don’t mind the rain – can find plenty of room at the many campgrounds in Olympic National Park. which remain open all year round, including the Hoh, Mora and Ozette campsites.
Book a campground at Olympic National Park online at recreation.gov.