Summer is finally here and after a record rainfall over the past winter, Pacific Northwest residents are drying out and are getting ready for wilderness exploration. School is out, summer vacation is just getting started and families from all over the nation are flocking to the great state of Washington to experience the natural beauty of America’s greenest region. The start of the summer means a lot of things, from the return to hiking and camping to exploring our backyard National Parks and experiencing the serenity of nature. Our little corner of the world is blessed in endless beauty and the return of summer gives us a much needed connection to nature. Luckily, we have thousands of options, but no place in America is as saturated in beauty as the trails around Olympic National Park.
Olympic National Park receives more rain than most people can fathom. Over 12 feet of rain typically falls in blankets each year, but once spring ends, Olympic National Park is basks in warmth, sun and gorgeousness. In an area known best for oppressive rainfall totals, summer in the rainforests, on the mountains and along the beaches makes Olympic National Park incredibly beautiful and the ideal destination for families and those looking for jaw-dropping hikes.
Olympic National Park has 611 miles of trails, while nearby Olympic National Forest has another 301, giving you access to nearly 1,000 miles of incredible trails in the worlds most diverse and gorgeous territory. Offering access to glaciers, wilderness coast and salmon-filled rivers, alpine lakes and windswept ridge lines, finding the right hike for you and your family can be a tough chore. This is why we got together and figured out our eleven favorite family-friendly hikes. Hike one, hike them all and fall further in love with spending family time in the most-impressive wilderness in the nation.
RUBY BEACH, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Distance: .5 miles roundtrip
Ruby Beach is one of those insanely gorgeous destinations where you might think it is too good to be true. Located directly off Highway 101, just a few short miles from the Kalaloch Lodge, Ruby Beach consistently defies expectations. Offering tide pools, stunning sea stacks and home to some of the best sunsets imaginable, Ruby Beach is less of a hike and more of the ideal coastal playground for you and your family.
SOL DUC FALLS, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Distance: 1.6 miles roundtrip
Sol Duc Falls might be one of the most iconic waterfalls in the National Park Service. The path is just a little over one mile round trip, leading to a triple-tiered waterfall that is mind-blowingly gorgeous. Passing an old wooden shelter, crossing numerous small streams of cascading water, this short path is ridiculously picturesque. The falls are spectacular and by far the main draw to the region, with views from the bridge and the platforms leaving you inspired to further explore the Olympic’s natural beauty.
HURRICANE HILL, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Distance: 3 miles roundtrip
Hurricane Hill is a safe, paved, and well-marked trail, just shy of three miles round trip. It’s worth it anytime of the year. This subalpine hike gives you a great feel of a backcountry hike without having to slog a ton of miles before you actually get there. The Hurricane Hill Trail offers spectacular views of the Olympic mountain range and the Elwha River Valley for the entire hike. Once you reach the peak, you’re greeted by stunning views of Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the North.
HOH RAINFOREST, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Distance: 5.5 miles roundtrip
Those visitors who decide to hike a few miles up the Hoh River Trail are rewarded with a perfectly Pacific Northwest waterfall. Mineral Creek Falls falls down a fern-ladder gully, the whites of the frothy water becoming illuminated against the dark greens of the saturated rainforest. In a region known for rain, Mineral Creek Falls is a perfect example of the beauty of living in a rain drenched region. With moss-covered maples flanking the trail, as well as endless ferns next to the milky blue waters of the Hoh River, this hike is gorgeous year round. This walk becomes a step back in time with every passing mile. The deeper and deeper into the wilderness you get, the more wild it becomes. Once you cross the wooden bridge, look left and see the falls plunging through the ferns and tall trees.
SECOND BEACH, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Distance: 1.4 miles roundtrip
More rugged than Hole in the Wall, Second Beach is another one of the 3 incredible beach hikes in the LaPush region of Olympic National Park. At just four miles long round trip, Second Beach’s lack of an original name is more than made up for with views of sea stacks, crashing waves, tide pools and wildlife sightings. Gazing at Second Beach for the first time, it is easy to see why the LaPush called this place home thousands of years ago. Take me time, explore the coast and stay for one of the best sunsets on the planet.
MOUNT ELLINOR, OLYMPIC NATIONAL FOREST
Distance: 3.2 miles roundtrip
We consider Mt Ellinor to be the BEST view from a hike-able mountain in Washington State. While this might not be ideal for younger kids or those new to hiking, the trek up to Mount Ellinor is worth every drop of sweat and feeling of exhaustion. With views of the Puget Sound, the Olympic interior, 4 volcanos, and Grays Harbor, you can’t beat this amazing trail. On clear days, look for the city of Seattle to the northeast. Also, keep an eye out for mountain goats near the trail and keep 50 yards away at all times!
MOUNT TOWNSEND, OLYMPIC NATIONAL FOREST
Distance: 8.2 miles roundtrip
With views of Seattle, Sequim, Port Angeles, and both the Cascade and Olympic Mountain Ranges, it is hard to find a more accessible mountain to climb than Mount Townsend. Standing just above 6,000ft, this tree-free mountain is everything you would expect from a mountain on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula. With over 30 switchbacks and varying terrain, this is a trail for hikers of nearly all abilities, especially those with active kids who are looking to start going further into nature.
STAIRCASE LOOP, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
Considered one of the new classic hikes of Olympic National Park, the Staircase Loop Trail is the perfect day hike for day hikers of all ages. Following the North Fork of the Skokomish River for a mile on each side, the highlight of this trail for most is the gorgeous new suspension bridge spanning the deep blue waters of the river. With large trees, hidden lookouts and miles of trails to extend your day, Staircase is the perfect family destination.
QUINAULT RAINFOREST LOOP, OLYMPIC NATIONAL FOREST
Distance: 2 to 13 miles round trip
Complete with a paved parking lot, a bathroom and interpretive signs, the Quinault Rainforest Nature Trail Loop is a great introduction to the rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula and less crowded than the Hoh Rainforest. Not only can you add more distance by exploring the other local trails of the Quinault Region, but this trail has everything you need for a great family-friendly experience. Full of waterfalls, cedar trees that seem to reach to the heavens, picturesque creeks and a gorgeous trail system, a trip out to the Quinault Rainforest will leave you fulfilled and inspired for your next adventure.
UPPER FORK OF THE SOUTH SKOKOMISH, OLYMPIC NATIONAL FOREST
Distance: 4 to 8 miles round trip
The South Fork of the Skokomish is a hidden gem of beauty, tucked away in the southeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula. Far from modern amenities and up a long, dirt road, the South Fork of the Skokomish is where families should go to experience a slice of solitude and beauty. The trail is well-maintained, easy to follow and grants access to awesome wooden bridges and incredible stands of old growth forests. If you want beauty, a bit of solitude and the feeling of roughing it in wilderness, this is where you need to go.
BIG CREEK LOOP, OLYMPIC NATIONAL FOREST
If the Staircase parking lot is full, why not opt for Big Creek? With a great loop through cascading creeks and small moss-banked waterfalls, this trail never fails to disappoint year-round. With a connecting trail to mountain goat filled, panoramic summit of Mount Ellinor, you can choose just how impressive of a day you want. Kids of all ages will love the rocks and trees, making this a perfect place to explore off the trail.
Distance: 4,5 miles round trip