How to See Olympic National Park in 3 Days

Olympic National Park boasts over 1400 square miles of some of the most pristine, rugged terrain in the continental US. Trying to take in as much diversity of its beauty as you can in a short time frame is no small feat. To help all of the would-be travelers to this amazing area, we’ve compiled this beginner-friendly itinerary we are calling: How to See Olympic National Park in 3 Days. Let’s get going! 

Day 0: Seattle to Port Angeles. Total miles hiked: 0 miles. We took off work a little early on Thursday and caught an evening flight from San Diego to Seattle. Our friend picked us up (you can also rent a car at SEATAC) and we headed off in the night to a KOA outside of Port Angeles. Here we car-camped for the night and woke up to the light pitter-patter of rain and mist-swept mountains.

Landing at SEA airport. 

Day 1: Port Angeles to Cape Alava. Total miles hiked: 3 miles. That morning we drove down along the Elwha River to the  former site of the Glines Canyon Dam to witness the sight of the largest federal ecosystem clean up in our nation’s history/ this resilient aquatic ecosystem returning to its natural state (if you’ve never heard of the Glines Canyon Dam, check this amazing video – you’ll thank us later). After a quick camp-stove breakfast, we headed back to the Strait of Juan de Fuca Hwy toward Lake Ozette. We completed the first section of the Ozette Triangle a few hours before sunset giving us enough time to pitch our tent, explore the tidepools before cooking dinner and laying on the beach watching the stars.

The Elwha River.

Sunset at Cape Alava.

Day 2: Cape Alava to Hoh River Valley. Total miles hiked: 11.6 miles. We woke up the next morning to the sound of the ocean waves and light rain falling on the tarp above our tent. We packed our bags quickly to take advantage of the outgoing tide and headed down the beach toward wedding rocks. Pro tip: be sure to take a tide chart (practice reading it!) as this will help you avoid being stranded on the beach! It spat rain on us the entire time and we dried off in the bathroom at the ranger station prior to hopping in the car for our 2-hour drive to the Hoh River Valley. After a much-needed break from the rain, we were greeted by the natural almost magical silence of the moss covered forest. After a few hours of hiking, we reached our campsite near Five Mile Island. We quickly set up our tent, cooked our dinner and enjoyed the beauty of the forest canopy at twilight.

Mossy Giants of the Hoh River Valley.

Trying to climb high on mushrooms.

Day 3: Hoh River to Seattle. Total miles hiked: 5 miles. The next morning we jumped rocks across the massive Hoh River and further explored our surroundings before packing up and backtracking the way we came. It was awesome getting to see the forest first in the afternoon/evening and then the same path in the early light of day. It was amazing all of the intricacies we missed the first time through. We made it back to the car around noon and hit headed toward Seattle taking the southern route through the Park. We made a brief stop at Ruby Beach to climb the massive rocks, dance one last time in the waves, and catch a glance of some grey wales before heading back to Seattle to catch our Sunday night flight back to San Diego.  

Ruby Beach.

It was a fun-filled weekend full of hiking and exploring the wild, untouched place that is Olympic National Park. We packed as much as we possibly could into 3 days without feeling overwhelmed or overworked. Truly one of the greatest trips we’ve ever taken.