Known by out-of-towners as the location for the Twilight series, the Olympic Peninsula is one of the best-kept secrets for outdoor enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest. If you’re willing to make the trek, you’ll enjoy fewer crowds than the popular Cascade Range, charming towns and some of the best hiking trails around.
We recommend exploring the area by taking an epic road trip around the full perimeter of Olympic National Park. National Geographic calls it one of the “drives of a lifetime.” The 329-mile loop on Highway 101 can be done in a day, but we would argue you need three days to a week to really take in the sites.
Here are a few can’t-miss spots along the route:
Town to Explore: Port Townsend
Easily accessible from Seattle, Port Townsend is a charming and historic town filled with Victorian buildings, restaurants and shops to explore.
After you’ve hit the town, head just a few miles to Fort Worden State Park, a beautiful 400+ acre park that sits atop a bluff with views of Puget Sound, Mount Baker and Olympic Mountains. You can also explore the old military barracks or enjoy a long walk on the beach.
Birds to Watch: Dungeness Spit in Sequim
Just north of Sequim is a must-visit natural phenomenon: the Dungeness Spit – one of the world’s longest natural sand spits. More than 5 miles long, the National Wildlife Refuge is a bird watcher’s dream, with more than 250 bird species to check out. Make it to the very end of the spit and you’ll find the old Dungeness Lighthouse, dating back to the 1800s.
Mountain to Drive: Hurricane Ridge
If it’s a cloudy day, you may want to skip the drive up. But if you’re lucky enough to catch a clear Northwest day, Hurricane Ridge is a must see. Seventeen miles from the town of Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge is part of Olympic National Park. In the winter, it’s great for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. In the summer, the abundance of wildflowers and views of the Olympic Mountain range are truly spectacular. For an easy, family-friendly hike, take the paved Hurricane Ridge trail that starts from the visitor center.
Mountain to Climb: Mount Townsend
If you have time for a full-day hike, check out Mount Townsend, one of the best hikes in the Northwest. Usually snow free in early summer, the 8-mile hike begins in an old growth forest and ends with stunning 360-degree views of the San Juan Islands, Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountain Range.
Lake to Jump in (if you dare): Lake Crescent
Whether you’re just driving by on Highway 101 or looking to spend a few days on the peninsula, you can’t help but notice the jaw-dropping beauty of Lake Crescent. If you have time for a short hike, make sure you do the 2-mile trail to Marymere Falls, which will lead you through old growth forests to a 90-foot waterfall.
Forest to Get Lost In: Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh Rainforest is unlike any forest you’ve probably seen before. The 12-14 feet of rain this forest receives every year turn the area into an enchanting green wonderland, with hanging moss, towering old growth trees and an abundance of lush greenery all around. Make the trek and see it for yourself.
All trails start from the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center. Lodging is available an hour away in Forks, or you can camp at one of the park’s campsites.
Coastal Sites to See: Ocean Shores
If you make the full loop, enjoy a night in Ocean Shores to explore the sandy beaches, coastal trails and epic kite flying. We’ve outlined our favorite Ocean Shores hikes and kite flying sites for you to check out.
See the sights: To see the beauty of the peninsula for yourself, take in the sights in the video below.
Lodging, maps & attractions: For help planning a full excursion, visit OlympicPeninsula.org.
Tags: Active Adventure