Olympic National Park is not something to be rushed through, but rather savored like a fine glass of wine, a bold cup of tea, or a beautiful sunset. And the road network, such as it is, ensures that you won't rush through this park, which is how it should be. There's just so much to enjoy that you shouldn't rush.
You could spend your entire visit exploring the park's incredible beachscape, which features the longest stretch of wilderness frontage along the Pacific at 73 miles. Or you could focus on the temperate rain forests and explore the world beneath the emerald canopy. Or you could head to the high country for a mountaineering excursion.
Trying to sample all three in less than a week is problematic, both because each area offers so much and because there's only one road -- U.S. 101 -- that runs around the park -- well, around three sides -- and so it takes a while to get from here to there. There are a few spurs from 101 that dart into the park to access trailheads and campgrounds, but the general rule is to pace yourself when trying to negotiate the park.
Plus this spring reaching Olympic is a bit more challenging, as the Hood Canal Bridge is closed through mid-June for repairs.
Despite the bridge work, Olympic National Park will be ready for you when you do arrive. Park staff currently are opening campgrounds, stocking up on maps and visitor brochures and training new employees.
“With summer nearly here, we invite our neighbors and visitors to come and enjoy the park,” said park Superintendent Karen Gustin. “There’s something for everyone at Olympic, from ocean beaches to quiet forests to lingering spring snow in the high country.”
Here's a snapshot of what's open and what's not open at Olympic:
Nearly all of the park’s roads are open, with only the Dosewallips Road and Graves Creek Road still closed to vehicle traffic by storm damage. The Dosewallips Road is open for pedestrian use.
The Graves Creek Road is currently open for bicycles, stock and pedestrian use but will close to both bicycles and stock on July 20 to allow contractors to begin major road re-construction. Hikers interested in using the East Fork Quinault Trail are urged to finish their hike before July 20, or choose a different route after that date. Between July 20 and October 30, hikers will encounter heavy construction equipment and possible lengthy delays along the road and will need to exercise extreme caution in order to safely pass around the multiple construction zones. Construction-related closures and delays will continue through October, when the project is slated to be completed. The Graves Creek Road is scheduled to re-open for vehicle traffic on November 1, 2009.
The high-elevation Deer Park, Hurricane Hill, and Obstruction Point roads are still snow-covered. Snow permitting, the Deer Park Road will open on June 11 and the Obstruction Point Road will open on July 4.
Except for the Deer Park campground, all park campgrounds will open in time for the Memorial Day weekend. The following campgrounds are already open: Elwha, Fairholme, Heart O’the Hills, Hoh, Kalaloch, Mora, North Fork, Ozette, Queets, Sol Duc and Staircase.
Altair campground will open on May 19; South Beach campground will open on May 21. The Dosewallips and Graves Creek campgrounds are both open for walk-in use only due to damage on their access roads. The Graves Creek campground will close to all use on July 20 when road repairs begin and will reopen after repairs are finished in late October.
The Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles on the Mount Angeles Road is open 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily. The park’s Wilderness Information Center is now located within the visitor center, but offers extended hours for hikers at a window in the rear of the building from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. The hours of both the main visitor center and WIC will be extended in late June.
The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Friday through Tuesday and will be open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on May 22.
The National Park Service and Forest Service Information Station in Forks is open Friday through Sunday and will begin seven-day-a-week service in late June.
The Kalaloch Information Station is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday through Tuesday and will be open daily for the summer beginning on May 22.
The Lake Crescent Lodge, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and Kalaloch Lodge are all open for the season. Log Cabin Resort on Lake Crescent will open for weekends only on May 22 and will open seven days a week on June 20.
The Hurricane Ridge Snack Bar and Gift Shop are open for the season; the Fairholme Store on Lake Crescent will open on May 22.
Early season conditions, including snow cover above 2,500 feet, fallen trees and other winter storm damage, exist throughout the park. Hikers are urged to check for current trail conditions online at this site or call the Wilderness Information Center at 360-565-3100.
All park picnic areas are open, except for the Hurricane Ridge picnic area along the Hurricane Hill Road, which is still snow-covered and not yet open for the season.