Olympic National Park Sports & Outdoors

  • D using a natural bride w/  pack in Hoh Rainforest
    D using a natural bride w/ pack in Hoh...
    by richiecdisc
  • Boating on Lake Crescent
    Boating on Lake Crescent
    by Basaic
  • Switchback Trail
    Switchback Trail
    by Basaic

Best Rated Sports & Outdoors in Olympic National Park

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    Olympic National Park is a backpacking paradise

    by richiecdisc Updated Nov 14, 2009

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    D using a natural bride w/  pack in Hoh Rainforest

    Olympic National Park is a backpacking paradise. With such a varied terrain, there is something for everyone. Want to camp in a lush temperate rainforest? They have it. Enjoy an alpine lake? It's here. A meadow leading up to a glacier? That's Olympic too. On the beach, close to tide-pools teeming with starfish? Get a permit today.

    Many spots work on a quota system and no matter where you want to camp in the backcountry, you have to get a wilderness permit. For spots not on heavy demand, this can be done at self-sign in stations at trail heads but for the most popular treks, you will need to visit a Wilderness Information Center. You can pick up a copy of the free Wilderness Planner which gives you some important information about backpacking in Olympic National Park and has a useful planning map with all the backcountry campgrounds marked along the trails.

    Rangers are very helpful and many know the trails well. They can give you updates on trail status too. When we were there, many of the trails had just become snow free and that is likely why we were able to walk in and get some of the most desirable campsites. Obviously, weekends can be packed out so a mid-week visit is more desirable and the peak summer months of July and August are the most busy.

    There is a $5 per trip fee in addition to the $2 per person per night camping impact fee. This is quite reasonable even compared to Olympic's already very affordable car camping. The backcountry campgrounds are well maintained and this seems like a fair system that is working well. We found that you can string a couple trips together and just pay one $5 fee, even to treks in entirely different parts of the park as long as there is no gap day in between them. We did three nights in the Hoh River area and two in the Seven Lakes basin for $25.

    Campground amenities vary quite a bit so consult your Wilderness Planner or better yet, talk to the rangers about what to expect. This is bear country and you need to practice safe food storage. This can be in the form of a bear wire which is fastened between two trees that you hoist your food bag up on. This is a lot easier than trying to throw a rope over a branch and with metal clasps ensure a more uniform protection. Not all spots however have them. There are a lot of spots where it is not feasible like along the coast where you will need to use a bear canister. These are available for free at Wilderness Centers but they ask for a donation to help defray their costs. The canisters are much better at keeping raccoons out of your stuff and along the coast they will be your main concern. Canisters add weight to your pack and limit what you can bring with you as all scented items must be placed in them. Practice packing one in advance if you have not used one or you'll be on the trail with a lot more than will fit into it.

    Last but not least is waste. You must carry out all trash so again, pick your food wisely. Cans and bottles are obvious no-nos. You must also deal with you own human waste. Olympic is the rare park that has pit toilets in their backcountry but when they are not available you must dig a hole and bury feces. Carry a small shovel to make the taste easier as rocky terrains will present many problems even with a one!

    Equipment: You will need a good water proof tent as this is a park where the rain can fall at any time. Synthetic-filled sleeping bags are good for the same reason. They dry more quickly if they get wet. A good sleeping mat cannot be underestimated in adding comfort to your trip. If you want hot food, bring a small backpacking stove. There are no fires allowed in most backcountry campgrounds.

    Always bring extra clothes in case what you are wearing gets wet. Synthetics are best for weight and for drying out purposes. A warm hat is a small thing that can save your life if it gets colder than planned. Sturdy water proof boots are a good investment. There's nothing worse than having wet feet for four days. A good backpack is also worth the investment. These are anatomically designed to help you carry loads often a quarter of your body weight. If you thought hiking ten miles up 5000 feet was tough, wait till you do it carrying 35 lbs.
    So, you can imagine keeping your load weight down is important. In general, the better the gear, the lighter it is. Unfortunately, it also cost more. But you pay at the store or you pay at the park (while carrying it!).

    One place you can save weight is in your food. Dried meals way a fraction of “regular” food and are much quicker/easier to cook after a long day of camping. These are not cheap but you get a full meal for two that doesn't weigh much so worth it as long as you can get used to them. We liked Mountain House brand though we found two serving to be a bit of a stretch after a day of hiking. I could have easily eaten a whole one myself. We would generally add some dried starch while cooking it. For instance, if having beef stew, we added instant potatoes and if a Chinese or Mexican dish, instant rice. You basically boil water and put in the pouch for the allotted time. We generally followed it up with a soup of some kind.

    Related to:
    • Backpacking
    • National/State Park
    • Camping

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    Switchback Trail

    by Basaic Written Oct 25, 2011

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    Switchback Trail
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    The Switchback Trail is a steep ascent to Klahhane Ridge. It rises 1600 feet in 1.5 miles. Some of the footing along the way can be rough too. You can then turn back or take any of a number of connecting trails for a longer hike. There was a sign at the trailhead advising about an aggressive mountain goat and advising yelling and throwing rocks if it approached you. It charged me and I missed with te first rock but hit it right between the horns with the second. It withdrew to the tree line and we watched each other as I continued down the trail. The trailhead is along the Hurricane Ridge Road a bit east of the visitors center.

    Equipment: Good hiking shoes, plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, weather appropriate clothing.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Photography
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Hoh River Trail

    by Basaic Written Oct 25, 2011

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    Hoh River Trail

    The Hoh River Trail is a long (up to 17.3 miles) difficult trail that follows the river. It connects with several other trails. This is one to take if you want to go backcountry. The trailhead is by the Hoh Rain Forest Visitors Center. Some of the trail is paved and some is not. I did not hike much of this trail.

    Equipment: Good hiking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, weather appropriate clothing.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park
    • Jungle and Rain Forest

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    Hall of Mosses Trail

    by Basaic Written Oct 25, 2011

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    Hall of Mosses Trail
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    The Hall of Mosses Trail is a 3/4 mile interpretive loop trail that teaches you a lot about the trees and mosses and other growths that inhabit these trees. The trail is relatively level except for a short ascent near the beginning. Very nice and interesting hike. The trailhead is by the Hoh Rain Forest Visitors Center.

    Equipment: Good hiking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, weather appropriate clothing.

    Related to:
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • National/State Park
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Cirque Rim Trail

    by Basaic Written Oct 25, 2011

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    Cirque Rim Trail
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    The Cirque Rim Trail is a 3/4 mile paved trail that winds along the ridgeline. There is a viewpoint on the trail that offers nice views of Port Angeles, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Canada. The trailhead is near the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center.

    Equipment: Good hiking shoes, plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, weather appropriate clothing.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Family Travel

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    High Ridge Trail

    by Basaic Written Oct 25, 2011

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    High Ridge Trail
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    The High Ridge Trail is a 1/2 mile loop trail that climbs 200 feet to a dry windswept ridge. A short spur trail leads to Sunrise Point which has a great view. The trailhead near the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center.

    Equipment: Good hiking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, weather appropriate clothing.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Historical Travel

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    Ancient Groves Trail

    by Basaic Written Oct 25, 2011

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    Ancient Groves Trail
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    The Ancient Groves Trail is a short unpaved interpretive trail that leads past trees that are just beginning their life and 750 year old monarchs. The trailhead is along Sol Duc Road just past the Salmon Cascades.

    Equipment: Good hiking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, weather appropriate clothing

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park
    • Eco-Tourism

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    Northfork Trail

    by Basaic Written Oct 25, 2011

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    Northfork Trail
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    The North Fork Trail follows along the North Fork of the Sol Duc River. It starts out paves but then gets narrow and unpaved with uncertain footing. The trailhead is along Sol Duc Road.

    Equipment: Good hiking shoes, water, a snack, sunscreen, a hat, weather appropriate clothing.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Family Travel

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    Soleduck Trail

    by Basaic Written Oct 25, 2011

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    Soleduck Trail

    You can take the Soleduck Interpretive Trail .8 miles to Soleduck Falls or continue on to a number of connecting trails. I did not go far because it was late in the day by the time I got here. The trailhead is near the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort.

    Equipment: Good hiking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, weather appropriate clothing.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park
    • Jungle and Rain Forest

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    Spruce Trail

    by Basaic Written Oct 25, 2011

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    Spruce Trail
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    The Spruce Trail is a 1 1/4 mile loop trail that leads through a variety of rain forest vegetation to the Hoh River and back. The trailhead is by the Hoh Rain Forest Visitors Center.

    Equipment: Good hiking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, weather appropriate clothing.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Big Meadow Trail

    by Basaic Written Oct 25, 2011

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    Big Meadow Trail
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    The Big Meadow Trail is a short (1/4 mile) handicapped accessible paved trail through a mountain meadow. There are nice views of the Olympic Mountains along the trail. The trailhead is near the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center.

    Equipment: Good hiking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, weather appropriate clothing

    Related to:
    • Disabilities
    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park

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    Canoeing & kayaking

    by goingsolo Updated Jul 16, 2006

    2 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Olympic National Park

    Canoes and kayaks are available for rent at Fairhome, near Storm King. People rent the boats where and either meander along Lake Crescent or take what looked like a pretty long journey over to Storm King. On a calm day, the waters are easy to navigate. But, when the winds start blowing and the surf kicks up, its tough to paddle a canoe or kayak. And it can get pretty tiring. Fortunately, we had great weather for this trip. And it looked like all the paddlers were enjoying a leisurely ride along Lake Crescent's waters.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Kayaking

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    Sitka Spruce Trail

    by Basaic Written Oct 25, 2011

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    Sitka Spruce Trail

    This is a short unpaved trail by the largest Sitka Spruce tree in the park and several other large trees. The trailhead is along the Hoh Road.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • National/State Park
    • Jungle and Rain Forest

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    Boating in and Near the Park

    by Basaic Written Oct 25, 2011

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    Boating on Lake Crescent

    Boating is popular on the many lakes in Olympic National Park, the surrounding national forests and of course Puget Sound.

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Sailing and Boating

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Olympic National Park Sports & Outdoors

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