This mystical wonderland, full of a wildly varied flora and fauna, occupies a behemoth slice of our favorite state. The Olympic National Park, with its 3,000 miles of twisting, cascading rivers and streams, its 611 miles of switchbacking, lesser-trodden trails, and only 168 miles of road, may be more enchanting and alluring than any other place we know. Even someone as determined as John Muir couldn’t have poked around every nook in the 876,447 acres of this boundless wilderness haven. Here are our 5 reasons why you can’t afford to miss it—especially if you’re a Seattleite.
1. To catch a glimpse of some amazing (and some crazy) creatures
Massive bugling elk roam the dense and quiet woods while mountain goats own the craggy peaks. Over 300 species of birds soar through the skies (Washington Audubon has sketched out the perfect birder’s road trip map), and ancient salmon runs still decorate the freshwater tributaries every fall. That’s not to mention the infamous and somewhat legendary giant Pacific octopi that inhabit the Hood Canal–yes you heard us right.
2. In-the-park adventure is second-to-none
Lena Lake and Upper Lena Lakes are staggeringly beautiful. Meandering through quiet old growth forests and alpine meadows, these lakes are privy to some seriously breathtaking views. A strenuous 7 miles earns access to the picturesque Upper Lena Lake, with an uncontested view of Brothers Peak sitting at a towering 6,841’ in altitude. Doable for all those with proper gear and plenty of time, it’s a must-not-miss. And that’s only one tiny slice of the 3,000 miles of beautiful trail contained within the park.
3. Just-outside-of-the-park adventure is second-to-none
Lake Cushman, just outside the Staircase entrance to the park is host to kokanee salmon and cutthroat trout fishing in the summertime. A slew of other warm-weather activities like kayaking with Blue Horizons Paddlesports swimming or even snorkeling and scuba diving. Oh, and our favorite: jumping off the The Big Rock! If more manicured adventures are your style, the Lake Cushman Golf Course is right around the corner.
4. There are some really neat places to stay nearby
With all of the boundless opportunities for adventure in the Olympic National Park, face it: you’re going to be pooped. Lucky for you, there are a myriad of places to rest your weary explorer’s head. There are almost endless incredible places to camp, if a milky-way-clad sky is your favorite blanket. But, if you’re hankering for a sojourn in a relaxing spa, then Alderbrook Resort & Spa is for you! Though, if you’re feeling a quaint VRBO-style rent-a-home on a back road in the woods is up your alley then we have just the place. Click here for an extensive list of options.
5. It’s SO close!
Staircase, one of the grandest entrances to the southeastern corner of the park is just a one-hour drive from Olympia and two hours from Seattle. Hood Canal’s Hoodsport is an ideal launching point for an adventure in the park by way of Staircase, and the intrepid adventurers can hit the Staircase Rapids or float down the Skokomish River. With Hoodsport Coffee to properly fuel a morning’s adventure and Hardware Distillery’s handcrafted libations to cheers after a successful day tromping around the forested nooks, it’s worth checking out.
We’re convinced: life is about creating yourself. We choose to do it in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Adventure is spilling out of every nook. Plan your trip to come visit Hood Canal and the Olympic National Park.