Saturday, June 28, 2014

Best trails for seeing Olympic NP’s wonders

Among the best ways to see Olympic National Park’s best sights is via a day hike. Just three short trails will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – a temperate rainforest, mountain glaciers, and the Pacific coastline.

Hoh Rainforest
Among the greenest places on Earth, the park’s Hoh Rainforest annually receives around 14 feet of rain. Moss, lichen and ferns lay beneath a dense canopy of ancient tress leaves you in perpetual twilight. The Hall of Mosses Trail loops 0.8 miles loops through the temperate rain forest and begins near the visitor center. Bring a raincoat.

Glaciated Mount Olympus
Though hardly the highest peak in Washington state, Mount Olympus enjoys large snowfalls, resulting in among the greatest glaciation of any non-volcanic peak in the Lower 48. Unfortunately, only one glacier is accessible, and that requires a backcountry hike. The best bet for views of Mount Olympus via a day hike is the 3-mile round trip Hurricane Hill Trail on Hurricane Ridge, which gets you high enough to see the glacier-capped peaks to the southwest. Be aware that the trail is steep.

Pacific coastline
Olympic National Park’s Pacific Ocean shoreline features gushing seastacks, piles of driftwood logs, and colorful, wave-polished stones. To enjoy all three, take the 1.4-mile Kalaloch Beach #1 Trail. Some of the driftwood here has floated in from the distant Columbia River.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.