Finding the 10 Best Hikes in Olympic National Park

Comprising almost a million acres of land on Washington’s coast, Olympic National Park contains an incredibly diverse array of ecosystems, from the rocky coast and lowland forest to temperate rainforest and glacier-capped mountains. With much of its land preserved as undeveloped wilderness, backpacking and hiking are two of the most popular activities at the park, drawing of millions of visitors every year, especially during the peak summer months when temperatures are mild and precipitation is at its low point. 

Whether you’re an experienced hiker looking for a challenge or a parent planning an excursion for small children, this Pacific Northwest paradise has a wealth of scenic and memorable hiking trails from which to choose. Keep reading to discover the 10 best hikes in Olympic National Park.

For a list of the best hotels in Olympic National Park, please visit our article The 8 Best Hotels Near Olympic National Park

Our Picks For The Best Hikes In Olympic National Park

Hoh River Trail

best hikes in north cascades national parkLocated within the temperate rainforest of Olympic National Park, this lush trail is studded with ferns, moss, Giant Sitka spruce and western hemlock. You can almost certainly expect to encounter some precipitation during the rainy months from October to April, as the area receives an average of 12 feet of rain and snow annually. Still, the trail is one of the park’s most popular destinations, so it stays busy with backpackers year-round (and even more so in the summer).   

The 30-mile Hoh River Trail opens with 13 miles of gentle grades along the banks of the river, with an increasing incline as you approach Glacier Meadows. Day hikers can choose their trek length on this out-and-back trail, while backpackers can extend the journey into a multi-day adventure by planning a stop at one of seven establish campsites along the route—just be sure to obtain a camping permit first. If you make it to the end, you’ll enjoy stunning views of Mount Olympus and the Blue Glacier. 

Don’t forget to stash a waterproof jacket, backpack cover or poncho and a change of socks in your pack in case you get caught in a downpour. 

  • Trailhead: Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center
  • Total distance: 35 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 3,700 feet 
  • Difficulty Level: Easy to moderate

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Humes Ranch Loop Trail

best hikes in olympic national parkThis fascinating six-mile loop starts at the Whiskey Bend Trailhead along the Elwha River Trail. The first mile of the hike winds along the hillside and through thick forest until reaching the junction with the brief Elk Overlook Trail, which affords hikers the chance to glimpse elk and bear in the valley clearing. Continuing on the Elwha River Trail, hikers will then take the Rica Canyon Trail on a rapid descent to the river, where the trail connects to the Geyser Valley Trail. The path follows the river for several miles toward Humes Ranch, where you’ll see the recently-restored homestead cabin that remained occupied until 1934.

Take a few minutes to read interpretive signs describing the ranch’s historical significance and then continue on the Geyser Valley Trail until its junction with the Humes Ranch/Long Ridge Trail, where you can take a quick side trip upstream to see the famous suspension bridge over the Elwha River. To get back to the starting point, you’ll need to follow the Humes Ranch/Long Ridge Trail downstream (west) past the Humes Ranch Meadow Connector until you rejoin the Elwha River Trail as it gradually descends to the Whiskey Bend Trailhead. 

  • Trailhead: Whiskey Bend Trailhead
  • Total distance: 6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 688 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderate

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Hurricane Hill Trail

best hikes in olympic national parkLocated within the larger Hurricane Ridge section of the park, Hurricane Hill is the perfect opportunity for novice hikers to dip their toes into the vast waters of the Olympic National Park trail system. This 3.2-mile out-and-back hike is well-maintained and partially paved, requiring virtually no technical knowledge to navigate. The best time to visit is between July and September, when any lingering snow has disappeared from the trail and the weather is pleasant. 

Almost immediately after you set out from the trailhead at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, you’ll catch wide vistas of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the park’s glacial peaks. As the trail meanders through pine forests, you may see colorful wildflowers and shrubs, including blue lupine and fireweed, as well as informational signage noting major park landmarks within view. If you visit during the summer, you may share the trail with marmots, deer or even mountain goats that come to graze on the nearby ridges. Upon reaching the high point of Hurricane Hill, you’ll be awed by panoramic views of the Olympic range, Puget Sound and Vancouver Island. 

  • Trailhead: Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center
  • Total distance: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 650 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy to moderate

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Marymere Falls Trail

best hikes in olympic national parkThis brief jaunt is ideal for families, with its combination of exciting scenery and easy navigation. This well-maintained trail traverses several bridges and winds through ancient-growth forests of alder, cedar, fir and hemlock. Of course, the highlight of this trek is the splendor of Marymere Falls, which descend from a creek in Aurora Ridge through Marymere and emptying into Barnes Creek.  

  • Trailhead: Storm King Ranger Station
  • Total distance: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 177 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy 

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Mount Ellinor

best hikes in olympic national parkThis challenging day hike features significant elevation gain, rewarding trekkers’ perseverance with spectacular panoramic views at the summit. 

Hikers have two trailhead options at Mount Ellinor. The lower trailhead at 2,600 feet starts with a gentle grade that allows for a gradual introduction to the climb, while the upper trailhead at 3,500 feet jumps right into the sharp inclines that characterize this hike. If you opt for the upper trailhead, you will need to obtain a Northwest Forest Pass beforehand. 

The lower trailhead starts in old-growth forests, leading hikers along winding switchbacks with occasional ridgeline openings that provide views across Lake Cushman. About three miles in, you’ll pass the upper trailhead, where you’ll begin a 2,500-foot climb over 1.6 miles to the summit. Relentless switchbacks—some with stairstep risers—will challenge your physical and mental fortitude, although a few panoramic viewpoints offer opportunities to take a break from the climb while taking in the views. 

Eventually, the trail emerges from the forest onto rocky slopes and gravel-strewn meadows before resuming its upward path on the west-facing slopes of the mountain. Just shy of the summit, the trail winds around to the east-facing side, where you’re likely to see mountain goats searching for salt. Keep your distance from these impressive creatures, as they can become aggressive if approached. 

  • Trailhead: Lower and upper trailheads off Forest Road 2419
  • Total distance: 6.2 miles (lower trailhead), 3.2 miles (upper trailhead)
  • Elevation gain: 3,300 feet (lower trailhead), 2,500 feet (upper trailhead)
  • Difficulty level: Advanced

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Mount Storm King

best hikes in olympic national parkThis strenuous out-and-back hike remains one of the park’s most popular, thanks to the iconic photo opportunities it affords at the summit, where a rocky outcropping looms over the waters of Lake Crescent. 

This trek starts at the same location as the comparatively easy Marymere Falls hike, following a wide path under Highway 101. Around the half-mile mark, you’ll see a massive boulder with a sign directing you to take a 180-degree turn toward a steep incline. Steep switchbacks will lead you through humid forest before leveling off after about half a mile, passing through a drier stand of giant pines that are ultimately joined by the gnarled trunks of madronas and manzanitas as well as cedars and hemlocks. At this point, you’ll start noticing brief glimpses of the Barnes Creek Valley and Lake Crescent; at 1.3 miles, a shoulder provides tree-lined views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The maintained trail stops here, but ambitious trekkers can continue upward to the climber’s trail, where ropes are mounted to assist with your ascent. 

  • Trailhead: Storm King Ranger Station
  • Total distance: 3.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,065 feet
  • Difficulty level: Advanced 

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Cape Alava Loop Trail

best hikes in olympic national parkThis coastal route is accessible year-round, thanks to the milder temperatures along the Pacific Ocean. The trail starts at Lake Ozette, the state’s largest unaltered natural lake. A lovely arched bridge takes you over the Ozette River; at the quarter-mile mark, take the fork to the right and follow the peaceful cedar boardwalk through the dense evergreen forest. After about two miles, you’ll arrive at Ahlstrom’s Prairie, a swampy meadow that was once home to farmland filled with sheep, cattle and produce. After another mile, you’ll begin to hear the telltale rush of ocean waves and smell the brackish scent of the Cape Alava coast. You may even spot sea lions and otters bobbing in the waves and eagles soaring above you. 

Heading south along the beach, you’ll see the famous Wedding Rocks, whose surfaces are covered with mysterious petroglyphs depicting whales, hunters and ships. These images were left behind by the ancient Makah tribe, who carved them using tools made from rock, bone and other materials. From there, follow the shoreline to Sand Point, where you’ll see a large disk denoting the start of the Sand Point Trail, which will lead you back to your starting point. 

  • Trailhead: Lake Ozette
  • Total distance: 9.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: Negligible
  • Difficulty level: Easy to moderate 

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Quinault Rain Forest Nature Loop

best hikes in olympic national parkThis short interpretive loop is an excellent choice for families with small children or visitors with limited mobility. The well-maintained path takes hikers through the saturated temperate rainforest, with its enormous trees, verdant mosses and charming wildlife. The route offers nice views of Willaby Creek, and a brief side trail near the parking lot leads hikers within sight of a small waterfall. Signage along the path provides information about the flora and fauna that thrive in the region.

  • Trailhead: Quinault Rain Forest Trailhead
  • Total distance: .5 miles
  • Elevation gain: Negligible
  • Difficulty level: Easy 

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Sol Duc Falls Trail

best hikes in olympic national parkLocated adjacent to the lush Seven Lakes Basin on park’s north side, the Sol Duc Falls Trail draws day hikers and backpackers to its rugged beauty and iconic waterfall. From the trailhead near the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, the .8-mile trek to the falls meanders through dense forests of old-growth trees, carpets of bright green moss and verdant shrubbery. A boardwalk and viewing area offer several different angles for viewing the falls, which cascade 48 feet down the rocky canyon, splitting into as many as four separate channels along the way.

  • Trailhead: Sol Duc Falls Trailhead
  • Total distance: 1.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy 

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Third Beach to Strawberry Point

best hikes in olympic national parkThis unique, out-and-back oceanfront hike takes visitors from the tiny hamlet of La Push through 1.3 miles of thick forest before emerging onto the shores of Third Beach. To reach Strawberry Point, hikers will need to take the well-marked headland trails, which incorporate tools like ladders and ropes for navigating the rugged terrain. The route to Strawberry Point is a total of six scenic miles, featuring towering bluffs, looming sea stacks and tidepools brimming with starfish, shellfish and other marine life. Seals, sea lions and eagles may also be visible along the coast.  

  • Trailhead: Third Beach Trailhead
  • Total distance: 12 miles
  • Elevation gain: 325 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderate to advanced

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