An illustrated map of Olympic National Park featuring vibrant landscapes and iconic activities: hiking, camping and wildlife watching, drawn in a colorful, engaging style.

Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in Olympic National Park

The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in Olympic National Park

If you're drawn to the allure of lush forests, diverse ecosystems, and the enchanting solitude that only nature can offer, backpacking in Olympic National Park might just be your next grand adventure. Spanning almost a million acres, this park features a staggering variety of terrains and ecosystems, making it a premier destination for backpackers around the world. This guide is designed for both novice backpackers ready to take on their first serious trek as well as seasoned hikers looking for new challenges.

Why Choose Olympic National Park?

Olympic National Park, located in the state of Washington, offers a unique mix of coastal, mountain, and forest ecosystems. With its verdant rainforests, alpine peaks, and rugged coastline, the park provides a wide range of settings and challenges for every level of backpacker.

Planning Your Trip

When to Go

The best time for backpacking in Olympic National Park largely depends on the areas you plan to explore. Here’s a general breakdown:

  • Late July to September: Ideal for high-altitude trails as most of the snow has melted.
  • April to June: Perfect to witness the blossoming of spring flowers in the lowland forests.
  • Early Fall: Experience the splendid colors and cooler temperatures, suitable for both coastal and forest hikes.

Permits and Reservations

To preserve its wilderness, Olympic National Park requires all overnight backpackers to have a wilderness permit. During peak season, it is advisable to reserve your permit in advance through the park’s official website. These permits are crucial not only for your safety but also to help manage the park's environmental impact.

Getting There

Most visitors arrive at the park by flying into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and then driving to the park, which can take around 2 to 3 hours. There are multiple entry points, so plan your route based on your chosen trailhead.

Packing Essentials

Your packing list can make or break your backpacking experience. Here are some essentials you should consider:

  • Navigation Tools: Map, compass, and GPS device.
  • Appropriate Clothing: Weather can be unpredictable, so pack for all conditions.
  • Camping Gear: Lightweight tent, sleeping bag, and mat.
  • Cooking Equipment: Portable stove, fuel, and utensils.
  • Emergency Kit: First aid supplies, knife, and water purification tablets.

Top Trails to Explore

Olympic National Park boasts over 600 miles of trails. Some of the must-hike trails include:

  • Hoh River Trail: This trail offers an incredible journey through one of the park's temperate rainforests to the Blue Glacier.
  • High Divide Loop: A challenging loop that rewards hikers with spectacular views of Mount Olympus and its surroundings.
  • Rialto Beach to Chilean Memorial: A coastal trek that showcases dramatic sea stacks and tide pools.

Leave No Trace Principles

As backpackers, it's our responsibility to maintain the beauty and integrity of the natural environments we explore. Adhering to the Leave No Trace principles is critical in Olympic National Park. These include planning ahead, disposing of waste properly, respecting wildlife, and minimizing campfire impacts, among others.


Backpacking in Olympic National Park offers an escape into some of the most pristine and diverse wilderness areas in the United States. With careful planning and respect for nature, your expedition can be both thrilling and fulfilling. Whether crossing paths with elk in the Hoh Rainforest or gazing at the stars from a rocky beach, the memories you make in Olympic will last a lifetime.

Are you ready to embark on your Olympic National Park adventure? Prepare thoroughly, respect the natural landscape, and dive headfirst into the experience of a lifetime!

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