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Located in the northwest of Washington State, Olympic National Park is renowned for the diversity of its ecosystems. Glacier-clad peaks interspersed with extensive alpine meadows are surrounded by an extensive old growth forest, among which is the best example of intact and protected temperate rainforest in the Pacific Northwest. Eleven major river systems drain the Olympic mountains, offering some of the best habitats for anadromous fish species in the country. The park also includes 100 km of wilderness coastline, the longest undeveloped coast in the contiguous United States, and is rich in native and endemic animal and plant species, including critical populations of the endangered northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet and bull trout.
I think this is one of the more underrated National Parks in the US. It is a rainforest, albeit not the tropical kind people usually think of. The mosses and the pine trees create a surreal effect when you are walking through them. It is also the location of Forks, WA which as we all know is the home of sexy vampires.
The Olympic National Park is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site and a US national park in the state of Washington. The park was established in 1938 but was designated by UNESCO in 1981. As of 2016, an average of 3.3 million tourists visits the park each year. The park is currently managed and administered by the US National Park Service.
The Olympic National Park is one of the most biological and ecologically diverse parks in the United States. It is divided into four basic regions, each recognized for its unique ecosystem: the Pacific coastline, dry forests on the east side, wet temperate rainforests on the west, and the alpine areas. Aside from these four regions, there are three distinctive ecosystems comprised within the park.
About Olympic National Park
Aside from being a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, Olympic National Park is also recognized by UNESCO as an International Biosphere Reserve. It was US President Franklin Roosevelt who officially designated the park in 1938.
The establishment of the park aims to preserve the natural and geologic history in this part of the Washington state. The important components of the park are discussed in more detail below:
Coastline: The Pacific Coastline comprises a large portion of the Olympic National Park. The coast is characterized by its rugged and sandy beach that is located close to a forest. The coastline measures 97 kilometers long and a few miles wide. There are also unbroken stretches of wilderness along the beach that measure around 16 to 32 kilometers each in length. The coastal strip of the park is easier to access as compared to the interior of the park, which consists of a more rugged terrain.
Glaciated Mountains: The main feature of the Olympic National Park is the Olympic Mountains, to which the park is named after. Hence, no photo of the park is missing the famous mountain range. The most distinctive shot of the mountains is those that are covered by massive, ancient glaciers. The amount of snow that Mount Olympus receives is quite heavy; in fact, it receives the highest glaciation more than any non-volcanic peak.
Temperate Rainforest: The temperate rainforest ecosystem dominated the western side of the park. To be specific, it is home to the Quinault and Hoh rainforests. With an average precipitation of 150 inches, it is the wettest region in Continental United States. The coniferous trees and mosses are a common sight within the rainforests of the Olympic National Park.
- The entire Olympic National Park measures at 922,000 acres in land area.
- You can visit Olympic National Park at any time of the year. Depending on which season you visit, there is something unique to see in the park.
- To make the most of the park, plan to stay and explore the park for two days. This will give you enough time to hike the forest and terrain, as well as visit the key sites such as the Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent area, and Sol Duc Hot Springs, among other things.
- The park is home to a wide range of native and endemic species of plants and animals. A critical population of the marbled murrelet, bull trout, and the northern spotted owl can be found here.
- The hottest time of the year is from June to September. Meanwhile, it is coldest from December to February.
How to Get Here
To get to Olympic National Park, you must travel via US 101. This will take you through three sides of the Olympic Peninsula. The main visitor center and entrance to the park is through the city of Port Angeles.
If you are traveling from Seattle, you must take the Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island. Once you reach the island, you must travel north via Washington 104 until you reach US 101. From there, you must travel west until you reach Port Angeles. The drive will cover 60 miles.
Top Attractions in Olympic National Park
Below is a list of the top attractions you cannot afford to miss when in the park:
Olympic National Rainforest: The Olympic National Park is best known for this rainforest, which is part of the Olympic Mountain range. It is a temperate rainforest and spans over 266,000 acres.
Lake Crescent: This deep lake is located within the Olympic National Park. It is one of the most frequented areas in the park for those who are into camping, hiking, and kayaking.
Sol Duc River: This is a major river system in the state of Washington that is part of the park. It is about 78 miles in length and spans three cities: Forks, Beaver, and Sappho.
Ruby Beach: This is the northernmost beach on the park’s coastal section. You can access it via Highway 101 in Jefferson County. The beach got its name from the ruby-like crystals that are sprinkled along the beach sand.
Know Before You Go
Before you make a trip to the Olympic National Park, here are a few guidelines that you need to know about:
- There are different fees for various amenities within the park. The standard entrance fee for a private vehicle is $25 and $20 for motorcycles. For cyclists and pedestrians, it would be $10. For all overnight trips to Olympic National Park, you must pay the required Wilderness Camping Permit of $8 per person each night. There are also campground fees that range from $15 to $22 depending on the season and location of the camping site.
- You can purchase an Olympic National Park Annual Pass for $50. You can use it for a year from the month that you purchased the pass.
- This park is open 24 hours a day, all year round. However, there might be seasonal closures depending on the weather conditions and time of year. It is important to take note of these announcements prior to traveling to the park.
- The weather conditions in the park is variable and unpredictable. In the summer, the temperature range could be from 10 to 20 degrees. You should call the park hotline to learn about weather conditions.
- There are lodging and camping options for tourists who wish to stay for a few days.
View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.