Washington State already has a reputation for wet, rainy weather and thickly forested country, but within that state lies Olympic National Park. This vast wilderness enclosure so epitomizes the climate and terrain of the Pacific Northwest that it was used as a setting for the Discovery Channel’s program “Dual Survival.” Visitors to Olympic National Park should gather as much information about the conditions of the park, so as to properly plan an outdoor adventure there.
Wet conditions ensure that Olympic National Park is thickly forested.
Location and Size
Olympic National Park dominates the center of the Olympic Peninsula, located roughly 30 miles west of the city of Seattle. Although the park is found relatively close to a major urban area, it encompasses more than 1,440 square miles of territory and therefore represents a major wilderness area. Visitors traveling to the park from the Seattle-Tacoma area should use Route 104 to reach U.S. Highway 101, and from there drive to the park’s visitor center in Port Angeles. Alternately, one might try to fly to Port Angeles’s Fairchild International Airport. Despite the name, however, this is a tiny airport and receives scheduled passenger traffic from only one local airline, Kenmore.
A sound rule about visiting Olympic National Park at any time of year is to prepare for rain and wet conditions, so bringing rain gear is a must. A change of socks is a wise precaution as well. The climate at Olympic National Park is generally mild and wet but prone to sudden changes. Summer is the driest and warmest time, with temperatures plateauing in the mid-70s Fahrenheit, while winter sees daytime highs in the 40s and plenty of rain. In the mountains of the park, winter temperatures are below freezing and the rain translates into as much as 10 feet of snowfall each season.
Olympic’s interior hosts a diverse set of trails. Two of these, Boulder Creek and Spruce Railroad, are open to mountain bikers. The remaining trails are open only to hikers and range from the 0.2-mile (round-trip) Madison Falls path to the 7-mile journey up to an aircraft spotting station atop Pyramid Peak and back. These trails are also often used by rock climbers to reach boulders and cliff faces. Bird-watching is another major pursuit in the park, as is fishing. The park also hosts several hot springs in the Calawah area.
Although camping is a popular accommodations choice within Olympic National Park, staying in the park does not necessarily mean roughing it in a tent. The Lake Crescent Lodge, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and Kalaloch Lodge offer a mix of rental cabins, hotel rooms in the lodge and motel-style rooms in separate buildings. The Lake Crescent Lodge and Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort are located in the western part of the park, while the Kalaloch Lodge is found in the southwest.
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