The Olympic Peninsula in Washington is truly a place renowned for its remarkable range of ecosystems, cultural heritage, and abundance of wildlife.
One moment I was walking along a misty beach with rugged volcanic sea stacks and the next I’m hiking a mountain, uncovering a waterfall, or taking a walk through a lush rainforest!
There are few places in the world that offer all of these things just hours apart from each other and I feel lucky to have been able to visit!
Inside this blog, I will reveal all of the best places to stop during your Olympic Peninsula road trip! All of the places mentioned are in order assuming that you are starting your drive from Seattle. Otherwise, the stops will be in the opposite order.
So let’s get to the list, shall we?
How Long Does it Take to Drive the Olympic Peninsula?
If you start from Seattle and drive the fastest route in a loop around the perimeter of the peninsula it will take at least 7.5 hours covering 352 miles (566 km)! This doesn’t include the drive time for stops there are not right off of the road such as going out to the northwesternmost tip of Washington.
With all of the stops included in this particular itinerary, you’re looking at a drive time of approximately 14 hours or 644 miles (1,036 km).
How Many Days for an Olympic Peninsula Road Trip?
This is not the destination to explore in just a day or two – heck, even the 4 days I spent exploring the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park was just enough time to do most everything on this list and that was with very meticulous planning!
While I am happy with how our trip turned out it definitely didn’t give us enough time to go on many of the longer and more time-consuming hikes and take the drive up to Neah Bay to hike the Cape Flattery Trail or visit Shi Shi Beach.
Ideally, I’d imagine 7-10 days to be the sweet spot if you want to travel at a more relaxing pace and easily cover the places on this list and have time for even more exploration! Having extra days at your disposal will also come in handy if you run into rainy weather.
In order to see and do a good amount of things you’ll need to stay overnight in some of the different towns around the peninsula. This guide in particular is the one that I used to help me decide which towns to stay at and for how long in each place. We did one night in Olympia, two nights in Port Angeles, and two nights in Forks.
Best Time to Take an Olympic Peninsula Road Trip
Unlike Washington’s other two national parks, Olympic National Park is open to the public all year round so it is possible to take an Olympic National Park road trip at any point during the year which makes it a very versatile destination. Of course, there are some pros and cons that come with the different seasons so I will go over them in order to help you decide went to plan on visiting this amazing part of Washington.
June to August is peak tourist season because the changes of rain drastically decrease and the temperatures are the warmest making it ideal for hiking and camping. The main con to visiting during this time is that you will have to deal with the crowds and more expensive and limited accommodation options.
The spring months of April and May are still very rainy but this brings with it fresh greenery and spring blooms, plus, the crowds are fewer and the temperatures start to become more moderate. Most of the roads and trails should be clear during this time as well.
Autumn (September to October) is similar to spring in the sense of having comfortable temperatures and fewer tourists but there will be less rain. In both fall and spring the changes for spotting wildlife increases. You’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage before the trees become barren for the winter.
The winter months of November to March will definitely make for a unique Olympic Peninsula road trip experience as the landscapes will remain lush and green even though the rain returns and the temperatures will drop as low as the 30s. However, certain roads and trails will close limiting what you can actually do inside of the park. You can check the current closures here.
Olympic Peninsula Road Trip Routes
When making your way over to the Olympic Peninsula from Seattle there are actually three main routes you can take to get there. The only difference between the three options is the beginning section that gets you to the beginning of the peninsula.
- Seattle-Bainbridge Ferry and from Bainbridge Island it is around an hour and a half drive to Port Angeles
- Seattle to Tacoma on I-5 S and then take WA-16, WA-302 W, and WA-106 W to Hoodsport.
- Seattle to Tacoma on I-5 S and US-101 N to Hoodsport
This blog will cover the stops on the 3rd route from the list which begins by going from Seattle to Olympia. On the map below you can preview all of the different places I recommend visiting on the Olympic Peninsula.
Stops to Make on an Olympic Peninsula Road Trip
While Olympia is technically not out on the Olympic Peninsula it makes for an interesting first stop if coming from Seattle! The drive to Olympia is only around an hour and from checking out the murals, shops, restaurants, and bars in the Historic District, touring the Washinton State Capitol Building, walking the boardwalk around the marina, or visiting the Olympic Farmer’s Marker, there’s plenty to do and see here.
We actually drove late at night from Seattle and spent the night at the Olympia Hotel at Capitol Lake so the next day we could get an early start on hitting some of the stops on the Olympic Peninsula on the way to Port Angeles.
In the morning we had a phenomenal breakfast from Hash and grabbed coffee from the original location of Dancing Goat Coffee.
We didn’t spend the time to explore any further but we drove by the state capital building which is scenically placed in front of Capitol Lake with a walking path encompassing it. I imagine that going for a walk at either Heritage or Marathon Park and taking some pictures of the capital building would be nice if you have the extra time to do so!
2. High Steel Bridge
Your first official stop on your road trip through the Olympic Peninsula is the High Steel Bridge and I couldn’t recommend it enough! It is only 39 miles (63 km) from Olympia, or 99 miles (159 km) if coming straight from Seattle.
The High Steel Bridge is not only the tallest bridge in Washington State but is also one of the tallest in the country!
This former train truss arch bridge stands at a whopping 375 feet tall (114 meters) and provides you with awesome views of the mountains and Skokomish River.
To get here you will need to take a 20-minute one-way detour off of US 101 right before hitting the town of Skokomish. Part of the ride will be on a dirt road but it was pretty well maintained so even though we came in an SUV I think it could be done in a car just fine.
2. Lake Cushman Lookout
The Lake Cushman Lookout is worthy of making your Olympic Peninsula road trip itinerary if you want to take in beautiful views of the lake and mountains of Olympic National Park including Mount Washinton and Mount Ellinor.
Once you get back out onto US 101 from the High Steel Bridge you’ll continue south for 8 miles (13 km) until you reach the town of Hoodsport where you will turn left onto North Lake Cushman Road and drive for another 8.6 miles (13.8 km).
3. Hama Hama Farm Store
Hama Hama Farm Store has to be one of the best hidden gem places to stop at on the Olympic Peninsula! They are located about 15 minutes past Hoodsport and the signage is very minimal so I almost drove right by it I’m glad I didn’t!
Hama Hama is a family-run oyster and tree farm with a restaurant and farm store that has been in operation for 6 generations! We came during the weekday so their menu was limited but we were able to try some of their you-shuck oysters harvested straight from the Hood River – one of the shortest, coldest, and least developed rivers in Washington State.
I am no oyster expert but to me, they tasted very fresh and I really enjoy topping mine with their homemade hot sauce! My friend and I also shared an incredibly delicious grilled cheese made with Tillamook white cheddar on a panini press!
They only have outdoor seating so we sat in the cutest little A-frame picnic tables that face the river. If you visit in the colder months they do have outdoor heaters you can use.
4. Port Angeles
Welcome to the biggest city on the Olympic Peninsula! Port Angeles is home to around 20,000 annual residents so you’ll find the most options when it comes to grocery stores, restaurants, shops, and accommodations.
This is where we decided to break up our road trip and stay for a couple of nights since there are a lot of nearby attractions in the area!
If you get the chance to explore this town I recommend walking along the waterfront park, enjoying the shops, discovering the local art, and dining inside the Port Angeles Wharf. You can even dine at Bella Italia which is where Edward and Bella from Twilight had their first date!
If you are spending a few nights in Port Angeles and have some time on your hands for a unqiue adventure you can even take the Black Ball Ferry Line from Port Angeles to Victoria, BC! Just make sure to pack your passport if you’re planning on doing this!
5. Olympic National Park Sign
If you don’t get a picture with the Olympic National Park sign were you even there? For proof (and a fun selfie!) you can find the official Olympic National Park sign in front of the Olympic National Park Visitors Center.
Unfortunately, we could only get a picture with a different smaller Olympic National Park Sign because the main one was covered over due to ongoing construction.
Here is the exact Google Maps location here at the beginning of Hurricane Ridge Road which is actually the next place on this list!
6. Hurricane Ridge Road
Hurricane Ridge Road is probably the most popular road within Olympic National Park because there are so many great viewpoints and hiking trails to explore.
It begins right after the Olympic National Park Visitor Center and stretches for 17 miles (27 mi) on a windy and steep road so it will take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour when the roads are clear during the summer months (June to August).
Near the end of the road, there is a parking lot at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center where you can get out and enjoy scenic panoramas of the mountains.
When planning my Olympic Peninsula road trip I had hopes of visiting several places off of Hurricane Ridge Road but the entire road was closed for road maintenance. Typically Hurricane Ridge is open every Friday through Sunday and holiday Mondays during the winter months and every day in the summer starting as early as May. You can check the NPS website for the most up-to-date information.
7. Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent is by far one of the most breathtaking places on the Olympic Peninsula! The deep blue crystal clear waters of this spring-fed lake make the perfect display in front of the tree-covered Olympic Mountains. On a clear day, you can see as far down as 60 feet!
Our first visit to Lake Crescent was spent enjoying a picnic lunch on the picnic table and taking lots of photos!
We visited during the first week of May and I was surprised that the water felt bearable enough to swim – I was really tempted to take a dip but I didn’t have my suit with me!
I’d love to come back again in the summer and rent one of the cabins at the lodge so I could actually swim in this beautiful water!
8. Lake Crescent Lodge Dining Room
If you walk towards the little lakefront cabins that sit toward the left side of the parking lot you will find the Lake Crescent Lodge Dining Room right in the middle!
Even if you aren’t staying here you can enjoy a meal at the restaurants or do what we did and grab a cocktail from the bar and enjoy it out on the dreamiest lakefront patio! This setup felt like something out of a movie and we could’ve sat here and enjoyed the views and tranquility for hours!
Inside the lodge, there is also a gift shop that sells some high-end Olympic National Park apparel and souvenirs. The gift shop is open from 8 am to 8 pm.
9. Marymere Falls
If you want to get out in nature or enjoy one of Washinton’s amazing waterfalls You won’t want to forget about Marymere Falls! It’s a very easy 1.7-mile (2.7 km) hike (more of a walk) that is great for all ages.
The Marymere Falls Trailhead is located right next to Lake Crescent so it’s a convenient 2-for-1 stop!
Simply park at the Marymere Falls Trailhead Parking Lot which is next to the Storm King Ranger Station. If you are wondering, yes this parking lot and trailhead is the same that you would use if you are hiking Mount Storm King (more on this below!)
10. Mount Storm King
Mount Storm King is Olympic National Park’s most epic hike! If you’re someone who loves daring adventures you won’t want to miss out on this one.
The views you can get whilst hiking Mount Storm King make it one of my absolute favorite places on the Olympic Peninsula!
Mount Storm King is a short but grueling 4.1-mile (6.6 km) out-and-back trek that takes you up into the clouds for an insane view of Lake Crescent, the Olympic Mountains, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca (if the visibility is good). It takes an average of 4 to 5 hours to finish for most people (it took us 4).
This hike has a steady incline all the way up where you will gain around 2,100 feet (640 meters) of elevation. Once you reach the end of the maintained trail there are some tactical elements you will need to complete in order to summit including using ropes, scrambling, navigating narrow paths, exposed cliffs, and steep passes.
While this hike has its risks it can be done safely if you take your time, use the appropriate gear including hiking boots and trekking poles, and only hike on a clear day without heavy rain in the forecast. The last thing you want to do here is navigate slippery rocks!
Bringing enough water to stay hydrated is always important but especially for a hike of this caliber.
11. Sol Duc Hot Springs
Most of the places we visited on the Olympic Peninsula involve being active so the Sol Duc Hot Springs was the perfect relaxing road trip stop to break up the trip.
While the Pacific Northwest is known for its natural hot springs unfortunately, the only natural hot springs on the Olympic Peninsula are the Olympic Hot Springs and they involve a 19-mile (31 km) round trip hike to get there so we didn’t feel like it was worth it.
Instead, the mineral-fed pools at the Sol Duc Hot Springs were a great alternative!
There are three different hot springs pools of varying sizes and temperatures to pop in and out of as well as a freshwater pool. Admission for adults is just $18 USD for a 1.5-hour session making it one of the cheaper things to do on the Olympic Peninsula.
You can find these hot springs located an hour west of Port Angeles or if you continue on from Lake Crescent it will only be an additional 30 minutes.
Note: the hot springs are open from spring to fall. Walk-ins are first come first serve and reservations can only be made in person.
12. Sol Duc Falls
If you continue just 5 minutes past the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and park at the Sol Duc Falls Trailhead parking lot and you will be well on your way to finding the waterfall that the resort has been named after. The 48 feet tall (15 meters) Sol Duc Falls are considered to be the most beautiful waterfall inside of Olympic National Park and it is absolutely breathtaking to see in person!
What makes Sol Duc so fascinating is its three powerful cascades that create a misty spray once the water makes contact with the boulders and river below. The short and easy 1.5-mile trail (2.4 km) is magical on its own with bright green moss-covered rocks, ferns, trees, and the sound of trickling brooks.
I can see why tourists have made this place so popular! For this reason, I recommend getting here early in peak season or coming during a weekday, otherwise, parking will be a challenge.
13. Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery is not only unique in that it is the northernmost point of Washington State but the grounds the trail is on have also been part of the Makah Tribe, who have inhabited the area for thousands of years.
Throughout your walk on the Cape Flattery Trail, you’ll see beautiful coastal forest mixed with rugged terrain and once you arrive at the lookout point at the tip of Cape Flattery there will be panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, sea cliffs, rocky islands, and the waters where the Strait of Juan de Fuca merges with the ocean.
The cultural significance and natural beauty you will find here make the additional 2-hour round trip detour off Highway 112 worthy of a place of any Olympic Peninsula road trip if traveling from Port Angeles to Forks. I am still bummed out that we ran out of time to be able to do this.
To park at the Cape Flattery Trailhead parking lot you will first need to obtain a Makah Recreation Pass in person from one of the places mentioned on this list.
13. Shi Shi Beach
Only a 20 minutes drive south of Cape Flattery is Shi Shi Beach where you can expect to walk along a secluded sandy beach with towering sea stacks, and tide pools with marine life including colorful starfish, anemones, crabs, and more.
The only way to access the beach is through the Shi Shi Beach trailhead and while the 4.4-mile (7-kilometer) hike (each way) isn’t necessarily hard it is long so you will need to allow at least 5 hours in your itinerary (including time to hike and enjoy the tide pools and beach) if you want to stop here. The trail goes through an old growth forest and there will be some muddy sections where you will need good hiking boots in order to get to the steep staircase that leads down to the beach.
The trail can tend to be buggy so make sure to have your bug spray handy.
If you want to camp on the beach can even purchase a camping permit for overnight stays. Shi Shi Beach is one of the best places on the Olympic Peninsula for sunset and camping here will give you the ability to watch it without having to hike back in the dark.
IMPORTANT: For safety reasons make sure to check the tide times and plan your hike around low tide. Low tide is also when you can explore the marine life inside the tide pools.
I was really hoping to have been able to visit Shi Shi Beach in conjunction with Cape Flattery but unfortunately, we ran out of time in our itinerary to be able to do so. I guess that’s what next time is for!
The town of Forks only has a population of 3,400 people and only has made a name for itself in the past decade from it being the city described in the Twilight Saga novels. The tiny little downtown is primarily made up of Twilight-focused shops and there is even the world’s largest collection of authentic Twilight movie memorabilia. It was really fun to check out these places with my friend and meet the friendly locals who work inside them.
Regardless of if you are a fan of Twilight or not, Forks is actually a great base to spend the night in during your road trip because of its close proximity to popular attractions. The town also has a nice-sized grocery store and to our relief, a laundry mat!
17. Three Rivers Resort Restaurant
If you’re headed out to La Push Beach you need to save some room in your stomach for Three Rivers Restaurant because their fish and chips are out of this world!
A local told us about this place because of their unique Twilight-themed menu so we would’ve gone for this reason alone but when she mentioned they had amazing fish and chips we were in even more of a hurry to try it – it didn’t disappoint!
I am not kidding when I say it was some of the best fried fish I’ve had and I am always in for a yummy homemade tartar sauce! To be honest, my Jacob Black Milkshake didn’t really taste like black cherry but ice cream is always good, plus I had to get a cute picture with the Twilight characters.
18. La Push
“La Push, baby. It’s La Push.” Although this quote from Twilight is referring to La Push, Washington, the chosen filming location for the movies actually happened at Cannon Beach in Oregon. Even still, La Push and its two beaches and the mention of the Quinault Tribe are the original locations that are talked about in the books.
La Push is located on the Quileute Tribe Reservation 20 minutes of a drive going west from Forks so this stop is an Olympic Peninsula must!
First and Second Beach (clever names, right?) are the beaches that are part of La Push. Getting to First Beach is super easy, just park in the main lot that touches the beach and it’s just a short walk to reach the water. There are also a lot of large rocks to climb on towards the right, and to the left, you can take a picture with an incredibly large log named Big Log Boiiiii (probably thanks to a google maps user).
Second Beach will involve just a little more effort to get to as you will need to walk on the Second Beach Trail which has a lot of steps for about 20 minutes. Once you’re there though it is worth for it’s expansive stretches of coastline and iconic rock formations and plant life. Here too you can scope out tide pools when the tide is low or when the tide is going out.
If you have an Olympic National Park Wilderness Permit, camping is allowed and most people decide to set up by the tree line. There is a designated parking spot for overnight guests.
19. Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh Rainforest is a super special place on the Olympic Peninsula being that it is the wettest temperate (has annual rainfall) rainforest in the United States and also the largest in the contiguous US. You definitely won’t want to forget your rain jacket!
I was really in awe wandering through tall moss-draped trees and there are so many varitey here including the Sitka Spruce, Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, and Western Hemlock.
We chose to explore the Hoh Rainforest on the well-known Hall of Mosses trail which is the shortest option inside of the park that took us on a leisurely 0.8-mile loop through the forest. What I liked about this trail is that it got straight to the point and there were views around every bend.
If you have the time to combine a couple of trails there is also the Spruce Nature Trail which is only 1.4 miles (2.3 km) which is very similar to the Hall of Mosses trail but it will give you some views of the Hoh River or you can go for a longer journey deeper into the forest on the Hoh River Trail which is 5 miles (8 km) long each way. The trail follows the river and you will also see a couple of waterfalls.
20. Ruby Beach
Locals had been telling us that Ruby Beach was their favorite beach and we couldn’t miss out on stopping here. I’ll admit at this point in our road trip I was starting to wonder if ANOTHER beach stop was worth it as we were off to a late start and still needed to still drive to Cannon Beach for the night.
Who am I kidding? The locals didn’t steer us wrong because this beach is one of the most stunning places on the Olympic Peninsula! The proximity and size of the rocks here were incredible and there was tons of driftwood to climb on which made for some awesome photos.
As you are walking down to gravel path to the beach there is an awesome panorama that looks like a postcard with the way the trees frame the beach.
Out of all the places we stopped at on our road trip, Ruby Beach definitely stands out!
21. Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is one of the most unique natural wonders I’ve ever seen! This spruce tree is truly holding on for dear life with its roots completely exposed and hovering over a cave that has a gently flowing stream inside of it.
Yet somehow this tree has managed to survive for years after being uprooted and dragged down from the stream above. Just enough of its roots have been able to embed into the sandy beach cliffs to support the weight of the tree.
The locals who check on the tree each year after the winter ends have noticed that it is sagging more and more and are afraid it may not be there for much longer.
Take this as your sign to check out the Tree of Life before it washes away into the Pacific Ocean once and for all! You can find it located at Kalaloch Beach and I recommend parking at the campground for the closest access point.
Final Word on the best Olympic Peninsula Road Trip Stops
Thank you for reading this guide! There are so many cool places to see on the Olympic Peninsula and I hope I was able to clue you in on what you should add to your road trip itinerary.
We had so much fun on our road trip around the Olympic Peninsula and with some proper planning, I am sure you will too! For some more west coast reads you can check out some of my other guides below!