Photo Courtesy of a TripAdvisor Traveler/Lili3000Rainforest, Staircase Entrance (Southwest corner) of Olympic National Park, c2016 Valletta M. LeOlympic National Park

Families will love:

  • Ocean beaches and lake shores
  • One-of-a-kind rain forest
  • Hiking, biking and camping

As you hike woodsy trails flanked by ferns and giant Bigleaf maples draped in hanging moss, it's hard not to feel like a hobbit from another age in the Olympic National Park's famous Hoh Rain Forest. One of the largest old-growth stands in the Northern hemisphere, the Hoh receives 12 to 14 feet of rain per year and bursts with lush green growth, massive Sitka spruce and ... more
As you hike woodsy trails flanked by ferns and giant Bigleaf maples draped in hanging moss, it's hard not to feel like a hobbit from another age in the Olympic National Park's famous Hoh Rain Forest. One of the largest old-growth stands in the Northern hemisphere, the Hoh receives 12 to 14 feet of rain per year and bursts with lush green growth, massive Sitka spruce and elk. Olympic is home to the largest unmanaged Roosevelt elk herd in the world, named for President Teddy Roosevelt.

Although best known for temperate rain forest, Olympic National Park is a diverse place with three distinct eco-systems: coastal beaches, temperate rain forests and snow-capped mountains. It's a wild, expansive park, spanning nearly one million acres, and offers a plethora of outdoor fun for families. With nearly three million visitors a year, the park is popular, primarily during summer months, but its size keeps it feeling less than crowded.

The majority of the park occupies the center of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, accessible from the north and west. Ninety-five percent of it is designated as wilderness and is accessible via hiking trail only. But around the park's perimeter, "front-country" family attractions, including lakes, waterfalls, kid-friendly hiking trails and stunning mountain views, are easily accessible via Highway 101, which loops the park. The separate 73-mile strip of coastal beach that's also part of the park offers sand play, tide pooling, and a chance to dip toes in the Pacific Ocean (too cold to swim).

Two small towns serve as portals to the park's entrances, as well as hubs for restaurants, accommodations and groceries. Port Angeles is the park's headquarters, home to the main visitor center and gateway to the Olympic Mountains' Hurricane Ridge area. Forks, the one-streetlight timber town made famous in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, is the West End's jumping-off spot for the Hoh Rain Forest and coastal beaches.

Families will find a range of accommodations for all budgets on the Olympic Peninsula, from campgrounds to hotels to national park lodges, but keep in mind some options are seasonal. We recommend booking early for summer visits. Also, depending on available time and kids' ages, you may want to pick a geographical focus to minimize driving, as attractions are spread out. We rely heavily on picnic fare when exploring because restaurant meals add up quickly and sometimes aren't convenient.

Written by Joanna Nesbit less

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American Heritage Campground
by espenlaub4
My family absolutely loves this campground. American Heritage is tucked right outside of Olympia Washington. The campground is well maintained with ... read more
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