Going to Olympic National Park this Summer? Plan Ahead Due to Major Bridge Work

Hood Canal Bridge.

Sunrise at the Hood Canal Bridge, looking east. Photo by Washington State Department of Transportation.

Olympic National Park is deservedly considered one of the crown jewels of the National Park System. Getting there in the late spring and early summer of 2009 will require some advance planning—and a bit of patience—for a lot of visitors due to an upcoming six week closure of the Hood Canal Bridge.

The Hood Canal Bridge isn't the only way to get to Olympic from points south and east, but it's a major one, especially for those coming from the Seattle vicinity. The park staff is doing its best to alert travelers, including this information from the park's website:

Starting May 1, 2009, the Hood Canal Bridge will close to traffic so the Washington State Department of Transportation can replace the entire east half along with the east and west trusses. The construction will temporarily shut down the primary link between the north Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas and is scheduled to last six weeks.

The closure will create a challenge for travelers, but the Olympic National Park and peninsula will still be open for business.

You'll find lots more details, including information about alternate routes, on websites for the park and the state Department of Transportation.

For some travelers willing to take an alternative route, perhaps the work will be a blessing in disguise. While it's hard to predict what impact the bridge project will have on visitation to the park, it seems likely that some visitors from the Seattle area will simply postpone their trip until the constructions is finished.

If that proves to be the case, those who do visit could find the area a bit less crowded. Some of the alternative routes to Olympic include a trip on one of the Washington State Ferries, which can be a fun ride in themselves.

The weather is always a dice roll for any trip, but I've had some absolutely delightful trips to Olympic in May. You might even catch a sunny day at the Hoh Rain Forest!


When we were out there last summer we usually used the ferries to get places. I was stunned at how smoothly and efficiently (and inexpensively!) the whole procedure was conducted every time. If that was the East Coast it would be anarchy.

As for the Hoh, August is supposed to be comparatively dry, but it was raining buckets when we were there. Unlike the woman in your story, most of the guests at the VC were complaining that their trip was ruined because it was raining. My wife and I spent three hours strolling around the nearly-deserted (on a Saturday in August!) nature trail. There's just something right about walking through old growth in the summer rain.

-Kirby.....Lansing, MI

Beware of the WA ferries when they cut back their schedule in early Sept. My wife and I waited 6 hours for a ferry to get to the Olympic Peninsula from Widby Island 2 years ago. It killed an entire day.

Spent 3 days wandering the Hoh River a week or so ago.
Absolutely amazing, beyond the nature trails of the Visitor Center it was just me, the forest, the elk and the river.
Always check in with the Keystone ~ Port Townsend schedule, low tides and high winds can delay or stop crossings.
Also, you can reserve a space up to 30 days beforehand (this could change of course)

Thanks for the helpful comments about the ferries, pro and con.

Thank you for the heads up. I will def reschedule my plans for that area.

The Hood Canal bridge re-opened June 5, a week ahead of schedule.

Tahoma -

Thanks for the update. A week ahead of schedule for a project of this magnitude is pretty impressive!