This mystical winter 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 (some even frozen in the heart of winter), 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. Meet the locals (The furry ones!)
Massive bugling elk roam the dense and snowy 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 the ancient salmon runs are completing their runs as the first snow falls. That’s not to mention the infamous and somewhat legendary giant Pacific octopi that inhabit the Hood Canal–yes you heard us right.
2. Climb Mt. Ellinor in the snow
Going for the summit of Mt. Ellinor in the snow is a staggeringly beautiful experience. Meandering through quiet old growth forests and alongside craggy peaks, this hike serves up some serious views. A strenuous 6.2 miles round trip earns access to some seriously picturesque views of Hood Canal and beyond (assuming you're lucky enough to catch it on a clear day). 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. Climb The Big Rock at Lake Cushman
Lake Cushman, just outside the Staircase entrance to the park is host to kokanee salmon and cutthroat trout fishing in the summertime, and stunning views in the wintertime. A slew of other cold-weather activities like kayaking (with ALL of the proper gear) with Blue Horizons Paddlesports or climbing up the famed Big Rock and swearing to yourself that you'll be back during the summertime to jump off.
4. Stop for a warm up at Alderbrook Resort in Union, Washington
With all of the boundless opportunities for adventure in the Olympic National Park, face it: you’re going to be pooped (and probably cold). Lucky for you, there are a myriad places to rest your weary explorer’s head. If you’re hankering for a sojourn in a relaxing spa and a hot beverage afterwards, 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. Geting to Hoodsport is so easy
Staircase, one of the grandest entrances to the southeastern corner of the park is situated just outside of Shelton, a 45 minute 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 snowshoe along the river after the snow starts to fall. 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.