How to Maximize a Weekend in Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is one of those places you see on a map and think “hmmm, that seems kinda out of the way”. And, it kind of is. Located on the Olympic peninsula in Washington, its west of Seattle and requires a drive around the Puget Sound to get to. But, I promise you, that couple hour drive is well worth it.
I visited Olympic in early September and knew I only had two days to explore the park and peninsula. Challenge accepted! This post is designed as a guide for anyone looking to spend a weekend in Olympic. For me, my main goals for Olympic were to see the iconic rainforest, catch some waterfalls, and of course see the famed Washington coastline.
Logistically, if you can stay in Port Angeles or Forks you’ll be the closest to the park and trails. Port Angeles is a sunny little port town with some tasty restaurants and an adorable little downtown. Forks is definitely more of a foggy and moody setting, but if you’re a Twilight fan I highly recommend staying here.
Day 1: Hurricane Ridge Road, PJ Lake, and Waterfall Hunting
Whenever I travel I maximize my exploration time so I wake up bright and early to begin the day. I recommend heading to Hurricane Ridge in the park to get some killer views of the peaks in the park and also, of the peninsula. Plus, there’s a visitor center at the top of the ridge where you can get souvenirs.
Once you’ve taken in the ridge, you’ll make your way to PJ Lake. The road is right off Hurricane Ridge road, it is dirt, but it’s beautiful to head into the back roads of the park.
After about twenty minutes down the dirt road you’ll come to a teeny tiny parking lot- here’s where your adventure for PJ Lake begins!
The trail for PJ Lake is short but man is it steep. Bring more water than you’d expect because the humidity and sun can make it hot!
Once you are on the trail you’ll soon come across this awesome waterfall along the trail. I always love finding babbling streams that turn into waterfalls!
Soon after the waterfall you’ll come to the lake! We were the only ones there when we arrived and only one other group was there after us.
Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 715 feet
After PJ trail, head back to the ridge road and make your way to Marymere Falls.
Marymere is a super easy trail with a beautiful waterfall at the end.
Distance: 1.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 298 feet
Next up on the list is Madison Creek Falls! You can park pretty much right next to the falls and take a short walk to the fall area!
After Madison Creek, you’ll probably be worn out from all the stops along the road for the day. I recommend heading back into Port Angeles for dinner and to head to bed so you can be up bright and early for Day 2!
Day 2: Hoh Rainforest and Beach
Another bright and early wake up, this time to head to the Hoh Rainforest. It’s a bit of a drive to get into this area of the park so you’ll want to maximize your time here.
The Hoh River trail is your best bet to see the forest and river. The trail technically is 35 miles long, but you definitely don’t have to hike the entire distance to get great views! There are also a few shorter trails from the visitor center at the parking lot, including the Hall of Moss trail. There’s definitely no shortage of moss in the forest, and you’ll be constantly rewarded with towering trees teeming with life.
Be sure to check out the Hoh River, right next to the trail! At certain points in the river the water is a bright blue, seen below.
Also, keep an eye out on the trees and ground! There’s tons of wild mushrooms to look at growing all over the forest!
Distance: 4 miles (turn around once you’ve hiked in 2 miles)
Elevation Gain: 78 feet
After you’re done with the forest, head back to Forks and grab some lunch. Your next stop will be Rialto Beach.
Rialto is located right next to La Push on the Quillayute Reservation. You’ll take La Push Road to Mora Road and then take that all the way to the beach!
Once you get to the beach it’s like a “choose your own adventure”. We opted to hike down the beach a bit and ended up hanging up a hammock on one of the many massive beach logs.
Many logs have been positioned into tents or shelters, seen below.
Once you’ve finished with spending some time on the beach, you’ve got one more spot to hit before your Olympic weekend is concluded.
Lake Crescent is along the road from Forks back to Port Angeles and is absolutely ethereal. The fog sits over the lake creating the Washington moodiness we all love. Choose anywhere along the lake to stop and take in the views!
Happy Trails, and remember to Leave No Trace!