Olympic National Park

Sunset along the coast of Olympic National Park. Photo by QT Luong, www.terragalleria.com/parks, used with permission.

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Gem of the Northwest, Olympic National Park offers a spectacular trifecta of national park settings.

Climb up towards the park’s roof and into the glacially sculpted mountains and you can stand atop some of the glaciers that did the carving. Head to the park’s interior and you’ll find that plentiful rains have nourished lush forests dense in undergrowth and draped with epiphytes -- piggybacking plants that draw their nourishment from the air -- both curious and unique. Finally, you can walk the cobble-strewn coasts where you’ll find artful sea stacks, seals to return your stares, and a chest -- perhaps filled with treasures, perhaps with trash -- of flotsam that Pacific rollers have tossed ashore.

The result is three wonderful parkscapes in one incredible national park. You can concentrate your stay along the coast, climb up the roof of the park to Mount Olympus with a pack on your back, or stay somewhere in between in the rain forests with afternoons spent soaking in hot springs.

Whether you take Highway 101 up from Aberdeen towards Quinault and into the south end of the park, or follow that same highway north of Olympia towards the eastern half of the park, you'll find yourself deep in a wet and wooded landscape. The Northwest's renowned dampness can make Olympic a moody park. The rainy season leads into winters that can pile tens of feet of snow in the high country and which eventually relent and give way to the spring and summer months that offer wildflower bouquets. It also is responsible, of course, for the shimmering emerald temperate rain forests that overgrow parts of the landscape.

But don’t let moodiness dictate your visit. True, beach-combing and backpacking are best when the sun is shining and the forecast clear. But winter’s fury has turned into something of a spectator sport along Olympic’s coast. “Storm watching” is enticing more and more people to coincide their arrival with a good N’orwester that flings wave after towering wave against the shores and sea stacks in an explosion of sound, fury, and more than a little spray.

Traveler's Choice For: Backpacking, beachcombing, photography, hiking, families

Park History: Olympic National Park

What is it that intrigues us so about Olympic National Park? To be sure, the park's multiple personalities are alluring. There aren't many national parks that can lay claim to not just seacoast and rain forest but also glacier-jacketed peaks worthy of mountaineering.

Getting Around Olympic

Negotiating Olympic National Park is really quite easy because there's one big loop road that circles most of the park, with spurs that run to specific destinations and attractions.

Seasons In Olympic National Park

There's a wet season, and a snowy season in Olympic National Park, and plenty of variations throughout the year. You can enjoy dazzling sunshine and warm temperatures along the coast in July, or head up to the high country and have a snowball fight.

Lodging In Olympic National Park

Lodging in Olympic National Park comes with a decidedly rustic flair, but wherever you end the day you'll find a comfortable room and a good -- sometimes great -- meal.

Camping In Olympic National Park

The 16 campgrounds in Olympic National Park offer a wide range of backdrops, from veiled rain forest to lake views and sites just a short walk from the pounding Pacific.

Hiking and Backpacking In Olympic National Park

With more than 922,000 acres, most of it offically designated wilderness, it's not hard to find someplace to go for a hike in Olympic National Park.

Kid-Friendly Olympic

National parks on their face are often kid friendly, but there are some special spots that seem to be designed with kids in mind. Here are some in Olympic.

Wildlife In Olympic National Park

Massive elk named after Teddy Roosevelt, mountain goats, black bears, and fishers are among the wildlife most often associated with Olympic National Park. But if you look to the park's waters, you can also include sea otters, harbor seals, and migratory gray whales.

Resources For Olympic National Park

This is where you can find websites, helpful phone numbers, friends groups and cooperating associations, and, sometimes, books related to the park.

Olympic National Park News

Essential Fall Guide '14: Sweating The Trail Details In National Parks, No. 1

Floods. Windstorms that down trees. Wildfires. Millions of feet. Hiking trails take a pounding from all these things. And while the paths are the responsibility of the National Park Service, the agency often lacks money and staff to tackle all but the most pressing needs. That’s where national park friends groups come into play with their financial resources and, at times, volunteers.

UPDATE: Missing Hiker Walks Out Of Olympic National Park Backcountry

A backpacker missing in Olympic National Park since Thursday turned up Monday morning in good condition.

Search Underway For Missing Hiker At Olympic National Park

A search is ongoing for a hiker overdue in the backcountry of Olympic National Park in Washington state.

Olympic National Park Images