Olympic National Park is incredibly diverse with ecosystems ranging from glacier-capped mountains to old-growth temperate rainforests. Add that to over 70 miles of wild coastline and there is something for everyone in the family to enjoy. The park is open year-round, with fun activities in all seasons such as skiing and tubing in winter at Hurricane ridge and incredible wildlife-viewing in spring and fall. However, some roads close down due to weather conditions in the colder months. You are most likely to get full access to the park between the months of June and September. While there are an incredible amount of family-friendly activities and trails in this park, we have compiled a list of our top ten things to do with kids during your visit:
1. Explore a Rainforest
The Pacific Northwest is the only place you can find temperate rainforests in the U.S., complete with their massive ferns and old-growth trees dripping with moss. There are four rainforests within ONP: Hoh, Quinault, Queets and Bogachiel rain forests. Search for nurse logs and the rare Roosevelt Elk on this family-friendly trail through the intensely green Hoh rainforest.
2. Head to the Beach
ONP protects more than 70 miles of coastline including numerous gorgeous beaches. From Shi Shi Beach in the far north to the Kalaloch beaches in the south, you can’t go wrong taking a family hike to the beach, tide-pooling, or catching a beach sunset (check out this gorgeous hike down to the second beach for an epic sunset). Insider tip: the tidepooling is best at Ruby Beach, Kalaloch’s Beach 4, and Rialto Beaches’ famed “Hole in the Wall”.
3. Hike to a Waterfall
There is little a kid likes more than to find a towering waterfall in the forest. Regardless of where you visit in the park, you are bound to find a waterfall nearby. Check out this list of waterfalls within the park. For a family-friendly option, here is a hike in our Family Trail Guide to Marymere Falls from Crescent Lake.
4. Visit Crescent Lake
This deep, brilliant blue lake was carved from glaciers during the last Ice Age and boasts amazing mountain views. Kayaks and rowboats can be rented to explore the lake in the summer months, and various hikes start from the lake. A gorgeous, jogging-stroller friendly option is the Moments in Time interpretive nature trail that leads through the forest, a meadow, and lakeshore giving historical and ecological information on the area. Insider tip: the Lake Crescent Lodge serves delicious coffee, hot chocolate, and lemonade.
5. Search for Wildlife in the Mountain Regions
Marmots and goats and bears, oh my! The open mountainous portions of the park provide excellent wildlife viewing. Check out this trail on Hurricane Ridge that is great for all ages (the lower loop of the trail is wheelchair and stroller accessible), and don’t forget the binoculars.
6. Become an Ocean Steward or a Junior Ranger
ONP has two programs to help inspire kids to learn about, explore, and help protect the ecosystems within the park. Just pick up a copy of the Junior Ranger and Ocean Stewards Booklets, follow the instructions to complete the designated number of pages (it differs based on child’s age), turn it back in and receive patches to get “sworn in” as a Junior Ranger/Ocean Steward of ONP!
7. Take a Dip in Natural Hot Springs
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort offers 3 mineral hot springs pools along with a freshwater pool available for use from March 20 – Oct. 26. The temperatures vary between the pools, with two of the pools safe for all ages. Check here for rates and hours.
8. Borrow a Discovery Backpack
Get the most out of your family visit and help your little explorer learn about the area by borrowing a discovery backpack from one of the ONP visitors centers. Each backpack includes field worksheets, interactive games, six photo field guides, binoculars, a hand lens, and other goodies. A suggested $5 donation is appreciated to keep these backpacks updated.
9. Tubing at Hurricane Ridge
Looking to visit the park in winter? Head to the Ski, Snowboard, and Tubing area at Hurricane Ridge for tons of snowy fun. Kids 8 and under can sled or tube at the Small Children’s Snowplay Area at no cost (bring your own sled/tube). For bigger thrills, the Tubing Park within the Ski Area is open to all ages (you must use their tubes in this area). Check here for their rates and hours.
10. Visit Quinault Valley
Also called “Valley of the Giants” Quinault Valley is home to the Quinault rainforest which boasts some of the largest Sitka Spruce, Hemlock, Douglas Fir, and western red cedar trees in the world. It borders the gorgeous Lake Quinault and offers a variety of hiking trails along with swimming and boating opportunities. Located in the southwest portion of the park, this area also happens to be one of the less busy (though equally beautiful) portions of the park.
Do you have a favorite activity in the Olympic National Park? Share in the comments.
Join a community of like-minded parents and caregivers with a shared mission of connecting families with babies and young children to the outdoors and each other. Learn about Hike it Baby donation-based membership options and join the fun today!
About Hike it Baby
Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at HikeitBaby.com, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Photos courtesy of Rebecca Hosley.