Here are three top spots in Olympic National Park where you can get a taste of the park’s three major ecosystems: mountains, rain forest and coastal wilderness.
Rialto Beach: A don’t-miss wild Pacific beach. Walk from the oceanside parking lot over a low, driftwood-draped dune, then go 1.5 miles north along the beach to Hole in the Wall, a dramatic rock formation pierced by an arch.
Time your visit for low tide so you can walk through the Hole in the Wall and see the nearby tide pools, brimming with sea life. Keep going miles farther if you have the energy; backpackers can camp along parts of the beach.
People with limited mobility also can enjoy the Rialto Beach views, thanks to a rubber wheelchair ramp that goes from the parking lot to the top of the low dune.
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Hoh Rain Forest: This verdant, rain-bathed valley, also on the west side of the park, offers a small visitor center (with a moss-draped phone booth that’s a visitors’ photo favorite), massive conifers and moss, moss everywhere. Walk a level mile-long loop trail among old-growth or go for miles along the Hoh River trail. The milky Hoh River is born in the glaciers of 7,980-foot Mount Olympus in the park’s heart.
Hurricane Ridge: Drive the 17 miles from Port Angeles up a twisting road to 5,242 feet.
At the top is Hurricane Ridge’s large parking lot, which must be one of the world’s most scenic, with a panorama of peaks and meadows. Walk short meadow trails, such as the paved and wheelchair-accessible Cirque Rim, or longer (unpaved) trails.
Or simply enjoy the views from the terrace of the visitor center. Inside are natural-history exhibits, a gift shop and snack bar. But with a sandwich costing more than $7, you may want to take a picnic.
Hurricane Ridge takes its name from the winds that can howl through, sometimes at more than 70 mph. And be prepared for snow that lingers late, and arrives early, in this subalpine world that can get up to 35 feet of the white stuff in a year.