Trip Planners might think that a National Park
that was 95% wilderness was probably too wild for a family adventure, but there
are actually a number of areas at the Olympic
National Park that make it a very kid-friendly place. If you really want to give your children a
taste of primitive Earth yet are still close to amenities (& civilization
in general), take them to this unique National Park in Washington.
What sets this park apart from the rest is that Olympic National Park is divided into three distinct regions: The rugged Pacific coastline, the Olympic Mountains, and the lush rainforest. Three distinctly different biospheres…one fantastic vacation.
popular area is the 9-mile Ozette
Loop. It features 3 miles each of a
coastal forest, ocean beaches, and camping at Ozette Lake. Even though it’s 9 miles and may be too much
for children younger than 5, it’s an easy hike with an elevation change from
sea level to 100 feet. You could always
do a 3 mile hike in the morning, rest during a lovely picnic on the beach, do another
3 miles before nap and rest time, and the final 3 miles after that. Dad could always carry a tired one on his
shoulders cuz 2 of these 3 stretches are on a level boardwalk. Since 2 points of this triangular hike end on
beaches, you could go up and back on the same boardwalk & hike just for 6
If you’ve got smaller children, and only want to experience the “wild” during the day, then explore during the day but return each evening to your hotel. One great resort to add to your road trip planner is the Kalaloch Lodge in Forks, a family-friendly resort that sells kites in their gift shop and has other amenities like a gift shop, dining, and groceries store onsite. It’s highlighted in this trip: Family Fun Trip to Olympic National Park.
Nearby, you’ll find another popular resort, the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, which has 3 mineral pools and 1 freshwater pool. The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort has the added attraction of providing RV sites as well as cabins (tent camping is nearby at the Sol Duc Campground with 80 sites).
Coastline: The coastal portion of the park is
a rugged, sandy beach along with a strip of adjacent forest. The beach
has unbroken stretches of wilderness ranging from 10 to 20 miles.
Mountain zone: The Olympic Mountains rise from the center of the park, dominated by the peak of Mount Olympus, which rises to 7,965 feet. It has several glaciers, the largest of which is the Hoh glacier, nearly five kilometers in length. Looking to the East, the range becomes much drier due to the rain shadow of the western mountains. Here, there are numerous high peaks and craggy ridges. The tallest summit of this area is Mount Deception, at 7,788 feet.
Rainforest: At the Hoh Rainforest’s Hall of Mosses, you’ll need waterproof shoes. Trees stretch toward the sky while mosses, lichens and mushrooms cover the ground. This hike is easy enough for a family to enjoy.
Scenic Drives: Catch the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway Loop and drive along till it connects with Upper Hoh Road. This 18-mile stretch traces the silvery Hoh River and is simply gorgeous to behold. There’s also a 17-mile Hoh River trail that takes you across the flat valley to Mount Olympus's Blue Glacier.
Other points of interest:
- Hurricane Ridge brings you from the lowlands blanketed with old growth forests to spongy meadows. A number of trails can be found here, depending on the group’s ability. Be sure to check out the views of the Olympic Mountains and Strait of Juan de Fuca.
- Lake Crescent is an excellent place to walk along the 12-mile shore of this glacier lake.
- Rialto Beach is more active, with waves crashing on cobblestone beach sections and rocky islands known as seastacks are easily visible from the Beach. This is a stunning place to photograph during sunset.