Olympic National Park
Sunset along the coast of Olympic National Park. Photo by QT Luong, www.terragalleria.com/parks, used with permission.
I celebrate the splendor and variety of the natural and human heritage with my photography. For the past twenty-five years, I have been privileged to travel, trek, and climb in some of the most remote and beautiful corners of the earth. Laying down in a colorful meadow dense with wildflowers, clinging precariously to a vertical icy mountain face, listening to the silence of desert sand dunes or to the calls of a bustling floating market might seem like very different experiences, however, I feel that they share the same life-affirming benefits.
For more of Tuan's national park images, visit www.terragalleria.com/parks
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
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.
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.