Tucked away in the most Northwestern part of the US is Olympic National Park, 1,422 square miles of untouched forest. We spent 3 days galavanting through the forest, and it was absolutely just as magical as it sounds. I completely believe that everyone must experience this at some point in their lifetime (why not now?!), so I put together a guide to make your visit a piece of cake. From where to stay to what to do, I gotchu!
When to Visit
Olympic is open year-round, and you’ll have a totally different experience depending on when you choose to go. You’ll see blankets of snow in the winter, and many beach-goers in the spring/ summer.
We went mid-April and it was gorgeous. It was unusually hot for April (high 70’s F), and it seemed that everyone was at the local beaches. The beaches were magnificent, and we were thrilled that we could enjoy the some sunshine in a usually gloomy area.
As first time visitors to Olympic, we found that 2.5 days was the perfect amount of time to see everything that we wanted to see.
If coming from Seattle, plan to leave Seattle no later than noon on Friday. The ferries get really busy on Friday afternoons, and if you leave any later, you could be waiting in the ferry line for upwards of 2 hours.
Plan to spend your first night in Port Angeles. Olympic National Park is massive, and there are no roads directly through the park. We found that spending one night in Port Angeles and one night in Forks allowed for the most convenient viewing.
Leave Seattle at noon and arrive in Port Angeles around 3pm. Settle into your hotel, grab some dinner (we loved this sushi place) and then drive the 40 minutes up to Hurricane Ridge for sunset. Don’t forget a jacket- it get’s chilly!
Get an early start (we started at 7am!) and grab a coffee from The Blackbird Coffeehouse. Drive out to Lake Crescent and take any of the pullouts to stare in awe and enjoy your breakfast. In the summer, bring a swimsuit and go for a dip!
Next up, drive to Sol Duc Falls for a short (~1 mile) walk to the falls. They have a couple longer hikes as well, but the falls are beautiful. If you are there in July-October, be sure to stop along the way at the Salmon Cascades and see if you can spot any jumping Salmon in the Sol Duc River.
After your hike, continue to Forks for a burger at Sully’s, or some BBQ at D&K BBQ. Check into your hotel and take a rest before packing up a picnic (or grabbing some burritos) and driving the 30 minutes to Ruby Beach where you’ll spend the rest of the day. Bring food, water, and a picnic blanket (good books also encouraged) and pick a spot to relax and soak up the sun. Staying for sunset is also highly encouraged- it’s complete magic.
Another option is to check out Rialto Beach (La Push Baby!), although we didn’t think this beach was quite as beautiful as Ruby Beach, and was much busier. Rialto Beach in La Push is most well-known from the Twilight Books. However, fun fact, they didn’t actually film a single scene in Forks. Crushed? I was too.
If you have some extra time, check out the Twilight museum in town. Twilight fan or not, it’s pretty hilarious.
Wake up early and grab some coffee, breakfast bagels, and a packed lunch from ‘A Shot in the Dark’, before driving the 45 minutes to the Hoh Rainforest. Wear shoes that can get muddy, because regardless of the time of year, the Hoh Rainforest can be pretty muddy. Enjoy the insanely beautiful drive (highly recommend putting on a Spotify playlist titled “Olympic National Park” to set the mood).
If you don’t have much time, just do the 0.8 mile hike “Hall of Mosses.” However, if you have more time, add in the Nature Walk as well (1.2 miles). There’s a ton of wildlife to look out for, including Elk and really cute little squirrels. This path takes you to the river, and it’s just absolutely stunning. The Hall of Mosses is equally as incredible. Bring your camera!
After this, drive the hour down to the Tree of Life (about 10 min past Ruby Beach). Take your pack lunches and walk down to the massive beach. Ogle a bit at the tree, and then pick a log for your picnic. Walk along the beach for a bit before starting the drive back to Seattle. You can either go back through Forks and Port Angeles to the ferry, or continue SouthEast and go through Olympia.
Where to Stay
We planned our trip with pretty short notice, and didn’t need anything fancy, so we picked a motel in Port Angeles and another one in Forks. We stayed at the Pacific Inn in Forks and it was surprisingly amazing. Very clean and comfortable. My fiance kept saying “I’m shocked at how nice this room is,” which was totally true. We had just come from the Quality Inn in Port Angeles which I can’t recommend as much.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more, check out these unique places:
https://www.georgewashingtoninn.com/ in Port Angeles
https://www.millertreeinn.com/ (This is a b&b that the Cullen’s House in Twilight was originally based on)
Sol Duc Lodge (swim in their hot springs! Currently only open to hotel guests due to Covid)
You can also camp in a bunch of different parts of the park! We didn’t camp, so can’t comment on this, but there are a ton of articles out there with camping instructions.
Before you leave, download the Google Maps area so you have directions even when you don’t have service (this happens a lot).
Be warned- Forks is simply a place to lay your head and geek out about Twilight. There is really nothing there, and it’s not a cute town. It’s very industrial and there’s not a whole lot going on. However, it’s a great place to stay because of everything surrounding it (Hoh Rainforest, for example is only 45 minutes from Forks, but over 2 hours from Port Angeles).
This place is beautiful in any kind of weather. We almost wished it had rained one of the days we were there so we could see the beautiful forest in the rain. If it is raining during your visit, I would still recommend visiting the beaches. They are beautiful in any weather!
Have the most AMAZING time! Enjoy every second!