This post contains all the best (and worst) of our Olympic National Park short family hikes.
Olympic National park is unique in that there is so much diversity within the park. Because the park encompasses so much of the Olympic Peninsula navigating the park is done by driving along the perimeter of the park with roads heading in to specific sights. To break up what would have been long drives, we ended up staying in 2 different areas for our stay in Olympic and these hikes are spread throughout the park. Don’t miss our complete itinerary for Olympic National Park in this post.
Quinault Rain Forest Hikes
Our first couple of short hikes were a stop on the way to our resort in La Push in the Quinault Rain Forest area of Olympic National Park – the hike to see the World’s Largest Sitka Spruce Tree (0.6 miles round trip) and the Quinault Rainforest Nature Loop (0.5 miles round trip). If you won’t be down near this side of the park, we don’t feel it is worth driving down to do these hikes but it was a fun way to stretch our legs on our drive.
Kalaloch Beach Hikes
When driving along the coast, any of the Beach hikes are pretty quick to access, though some are somewhat steep. We happened to stop at Kalaloch Beach 3, which was a short but somewhat steep hike down and back up, and were lucky enough to see whales just 30 or 40 feet from the beach. We stayed there for a long time just watching the whales play. It was one of the highlights of our trip!
Ruby Beach is a more popular beach stop with a decent sized parking lot and a flatter, shorter hike down to the beach at around 0.2 miles round trip. It was way busier at this spot than Beach 3 and you have to climb over a lot of driftwood to get to the actual beach, but it is a pretty spot. The sea stacks and more Northern location likely draw the visitors and the freshwater river flowing into the ocean was a popular spot for kids to play. We were glad we stopped and would have spent more time here if we hadn’t been anxious to get out to our hotel.
Hoh Rainforest Hikes
We did both the Hall of Mosses Trail (0.8 mile easy loop) and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 mile loop) in the Hoh Rainforest. If you are short on time, we would probably suggest just doing the Hall of Mosses Trail but there are pretty things to see along the Spruce Nature Trail as well, even a small part where you hike along the Hoh River. We had high expectations of seeing a Roosevelt Elk here, but despite the numerous warning signs we didn’t see any. We attended a Ranger program here and learned more about the uniqueness of this Temperate rainforest.
La Push Beaches Hikes
We stayed right on First Beach in the La Push area and I wouldn’t recommend going out to see First Beach unless you happen to be staying there like we were. It was littered with garbage and not as pretty as the other beaches, most likely because it is not part of the National Park and has no restrictions on fireworks or expectations to be tidy. We did find a neat huge hollowed out log that was fun to explore though.
We had a lot more fun when we went at low tide to see the Second Beach tide pools. The parking lot at Second Beach was consistently full, even early in the morning, because many people camp on the beach here. We were able to find a spot to park in the overflow lot by getting there really early. There is a port-a-potty in the parking lot if needed, but nothing down by the beach. The hike down to the beach was longer than I expected, 2 miles one way, with a lot of switchbacks towards the end but you are rewarded with views of sea stacks and amazing tide pools. We spent quite a bit of time here exploring the tide pools and seeing a literal ton of sea stars, anemone, barnacles, and more before heading out towards Sol Duc Falls. Check the tide schedule as it was amazing to see areas that are covered on high tide and see first hand the intertidal zone creatures.
Sol Duc Valley and Lake Crescent Hikes
On our way to Port Angeles leaving the La Push area we stopped to hike the Sol Duc Falls Trail and the Marymere Falls Trail. If you have a love for waterfalls (like Kim does) these are both worth hiking. The Sol Duc Falls trail is 1.6 miles roundtrip and the Marymere Falls trail is 1.8 miles roundtrip. Both are beautiful hikes in their own respect.
Hurricane Ridge Hikes
On the North end of the park, Hurricane Ridge is accessed from Port Angeles. The third environment we encountered in Olympic (rainforest, beach, and mountains) was impressive with the mountains looming across the peninsula as far as the eye could see. This is also a great place to view the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the North. Since we visited on one of our rest days where we don’t hike as much, we chose to do the Cirque Rim Trail. This trail was paved and pretty easy, but even in early July had some snow covered sections and is at a higher elevation than the other areas we visited. If we went back, we would undertake the High Ridge or Hurricane Hill trails.