The Perfect Itinerary for 48 Hours in Olympic National Park

Tucked in the northwestern corner of Washington State, Olympic National Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts seeking diverse landscapes, unique ecosystems, and breathtaking views! This pristine wilderness encompasses nearly one million acres of untamed beauty, showcasing everything from lush rainforests and alpine peaks to rugged coastline. The Olympics really do have it all! In only 48 hours, you really can hit the highlights. This is the ultimate guide to help you make the most of your short but unforgettable journey through Olympic National Park.

Olympic national park itinerary for 48 hours

Immerse Yourself in Nature: A 48-Hour Adventure in Olympic National Park


A Little Bit About the Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic National Park was established in 1938 and the park is known for its ecological diversity. There are three very distinct regions you can explore in the area- the Pacific coastline, temperate rainforests, and subalpine forests-all giving diverse looks at an unparalleled blend of natural wonders. No other National Park has it all the way that Olympic National Park does!

Long before Olympic National Park was established, the Olympic Peninsula was home to indigenous peoples, including the Quileute, Hoh, Quinault, and Mekah tribes. These Native American communities had deep connections to the land, relying on its resources for creating a full life in tune with the rhythms of nature. 

The Hoh Rainforest, part of the park's west side, is one of the few temperate rainforests in the world. Its moss-draped trees and lush undergrowth create an ethereal atmosphere, earning it the distinction of being one of the park's most iconic attractions.

Navigating National Park Passes

As you prepare for your 48-hour adventure in Olympic National Park, you will need to take into consideration the park's entrance fees and pass options. These passes not only grant you access to the wonders within but also contribute to the preservation and maintenance of these natural treasures.

National Parks Pass:

If you're planning to explore multiple national parks throughout the year, consider investing in the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. It's only $80 for an annual pass and includes access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites, including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and more! It's a cost-effective option for those who anticipate visiting several parks within a 12-month period.

If you don't think you'll need a National Park annual pass, there is an entrance fee of $30 and it will allow you to visit any National Park {Mt. Rainier possibly?!} in a 7-day time frame. After those 7 days are up, your pass has expired. This is a good way to gain entrance into the park if you don't think you'll visit often.

Fourth Grade Every Kid Outdoors Pass

If you have a fourth-grade student in your group, you can take advantage of the Every Kid Outdoors Pass. This pass grants free admission to all national parks for the fourth grader AND their family, making it a great way for families to explore the great outdoors!

Senior Pass

If you are 62 years or older, you can get a Senior Pass, which provides a lifetime pass for $80. This pass covers entrance fees to national parks and other federal recreational lands, making it a great investment for senior adventurers.

Military Pass

Current active US military members and their dependents can get a free military access pass. This pass is also available for Reserve and National Guard members. 

Volunteer Pass

Love to volunteer AND love our federal recreation land? By putting in 250 volunteer hours {the hours accumulate and don't have to all be done in one year!}, you can qualify for a free volunteer pass for admission into the national parks. You can find more information about volunteer opportunities at


How to Get to the Olympic Peninsula

There is no easy or direct route to get to the Olympic Peninsula, but getting there is half of the fun!

Getting to the Olympic Peninsula from Seattle

From Seattle to the Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula the distance is about 60-75 miles, depending on the route chosen. It will take you a drive time of about 1.5-2.5 hours

From downtown Seattle, you can take a ferry to Bainbridge Island. The ferry ride will give you incredible views of the Puget Sound and the Seattle skyline.

Once you disembark on Bainbridge Island, follow WA-305 for about 13 miles until it intersects with WA-3 N. Merge onto WA-3 N and continues on for about 20 miles until you reach the Hood Canal Bridge. As you cross the Hood Canal Bridge, you'll get some incredible views of the Olympic Mountains! After crossing the bridge, merge onto US-101 N, that is the main route leading into the Olympic National Park.

Getting to the Olympic Peninsula from Tacoma

From Tacoma, you cut out the ferry, but you add in crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Head west on WA-16 W towards Gig Harbor. After about 30 miles on WA-16 W, you will merge onto WA-3 N toward Bremerton. Follow WA-3 N for about 20 miles, cross the Hood Canal Bridge, and merge onto US-101 N. Continue on US-101 N until you reach Olympic National Park

Some Tips for the Road

Once you are on US-101 gas stations and food options are more limited. Make sure you fill up when needed! 

Don't hesitate to pull out at any of the viewpoints. You might just discover something pretty incredible!  

glamping in olympic national park

Where to Stay to Visit Olympic National Park

Choosing the right accommodation is crucial for maximizing your 48-hour adventure in Olympic National Park. There are a lot of camping options, but I'm not a camper, so I can't help you there, and some limited hotel options. The best place to make a home base is in and around Forks, WA. Yep, that Forks. As in the Twilight thriller books, Forks. 

Wandering Woodlands Glamping Campground

This is the perfect unique nature experience! Wandering Woodlands is nestled in the heart of the Olympic Peninsula, surrounded by its own rainforest. It's a glamping campground that offers a unique dome tent experience. There are two domes, both with electricity, heaters, and potable water tanks inside. There is no indoor plumbing, but I don't think you are too precious to use a really clean port-a-potty for a weekend! 

The tents have everything you need including cozy beds and lots of incredible views so that you can connect with nature without sacrificing comfort!

Whatever accommodations you decide, plan ahead! Especially during peak season!

diverse Olympic peninsula national park

Day 1 Itinerary for Olympic National Park

First Stop: Cresent Lake

As you head towards Forks, WA, along US-101 N, you'll literally run into Cresent Lake. It's a pristine glacial lake surrounded by towering mountains. The crystal-clear waters of Cresent Lake reflect the surrounding peaks, making it the most postcard-worthy scene! You can take advantage of several of the pull-out viewpoints so you can drink in this beautiful scene. There are places you can stop for a leisurely stroll along the shores, or even enjoy a picnic. 

When we pulled over, I watched an eagle swoop down hunting for food. It truly is a magical place! 

Make sure you leave Seattle or Tacoma with enough time to plan a stop at Cresent Lake before continuing on to check into your accommodations.

Explore Forks, WA

I never read the Twilight books and I never watched any of the movies. I swear! Even though I have a daughter named Bella! We did host some friends of a friend in our home about 15 years ago when they came on a road trip from the Midwest with their main destination being Forks, WA and the home of Twilight. The first book was released in 2005, and the town of Forks is very much still invested in the Twilight series and the attention its gotten from the popular series. Every September there is a four-day Forever Twilight festival that book lovers can attend. 

Forks, WA is relatively small. Most of the town is in one main strip. If you are looking for a quick stop to get a quick and dirty indoctrination to say you were in the heart of the Twilight Series, make a stop at the Forks Chamber of Commerce. You'll find a Welcome to Forks sign you can pose with {there's also one as you enter into town}, Bella's red truck, and a Twilight souvenir shop. 

Fun fact: The Twilight movies weren't filmed in Forks. The many locations in the area were aptly described in the book, but the movie was actually filmed in Oregon and later movies up in BC. 

Dinner in Forks, WA

Did I mention that we aren't campers? Even though we were glamping, we were planning on eating our meals out. There weren't many options, but we did enjoy dinner at the adults-only Blakeslees Bar & Grill. We ate at the other diner {The In Place} and I wouldn't recommend it. 

Head back to your evening accommodations and get ready for your first {and only} full day of exploring.


Day 2 Itinerary for Olympic National Park

Wake up and start your day with breakfast. There's a coffee shop called Outfitters Grind connected inside The Forks Outfitters Store. It has decent coffee prices and limited food options. We picked up lunch {a salad and sandwich} inside the Thriftway. There are very limited options when you are out in the National Park today, so plan ahead and bring something to eat with you.

Pack plenty of water and your reusable water bottle too. Plan ahead for any snacks you might need as well.

Explore Hoh Rainforest: Hike Hall of Mosses Trail

Start your day early and head straight to the Hall of Mosses Trail. You will need an American the Beautiful Pass {see above}, or pay the $30 entry fee and that will allow you access for seven consecutive days to any of the National Parks. As you drive up to the trailhead, keep your eye out for elk. We saw several herds along the edge of the river.

This is probably the most popular trail inside the Hoh Rainforest. It's a short loop trail that provides an immersive experience into the heart of the rainforest. It's also supposedly the quietest place in all of Washington! The moss dampens the sound. Sadly, that wasn't our experience as we had a toddler on the trail who wasn't super happy about hiking!

The trail is marked as one-way only {from some of what I've read, this is new} and the sign will direct you to take the loop clockwise. The trail starts at the Visitors Center, which has clean bathrooms you can use. It is a short and relatively flat trail, that is approximately .8 miles roundtrip making it perfect for all ability levels. Dogs are not allowed in the park or on the trail, so leave them behind.

The trail winds through ancient trees that are covered in mosses and ferns and it feels overall like an otherworldly experience! The sunlight filters through the thick canopy and provides the most magical play of lights and shadows. 

The summer is the driest months to visit, however, we went in February and it was a beautiful sunny day. Just pack appropriate shoes {I wore my hiking boots} but I didn't find the trail to be exceptionally muddy or anything. 

There is another short loop trail and an out-and-back trail, both located at the Visitors Center Trailhead where you depart for the Hall of Mosses. If you have time, give those a walkabout.


Explore the Area Beaches

Olympic National Park's coastline is the most captivating stretch of rugged beauty you'll see! It's where the Pacific Ocean meets the lush wilderness of the Olympic Peninsula and it provides plenty of wildlife spottings and fun hikes and exploration. Pick a beach or two and pay attention to the tides. Low tide will offer more beach to explore and opportunities to see sea life in the tide pools, high tide will provide you with waves crashing and a totally different beach experience.

Ruby Beach

I always like exploring beaches at low tide. Low tide happens twice a day and if you are lucky enough it will coincide with when you want to visit the beach {but sometimes it's in the very early morning or after dark!}. Low tide on the day we visited was in the early afternoon, so we hit Ruby Beach {notorious for tide pools} after we went to the Hoh Rainforest. Adjust your schedule as needed. It's also a fantastic place to catch a sunrise or a sunset!

The rugged coastline, littered with sea stacks and driftwood, provides a really dramatic backdrop as the sun sets below the horizon. But this beach is beautiful anytime! There's a beautiful view from the parking lot {there is a pit toilet available}. A short walk down a gravel trail will take you to another small viewing area. Then continue to walk down to the beach. 

Bring appropriate footwear. This beach is a rocky beach so it's easy to roll an ankle! There is also no shortage of driftwood at Ruby Beach either! Enjoy the exploration around the area. 

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach is breathtaking! It's known for its rocky shores, towering sea stacks and the most iconic {Instagramable!} Hole in the Wall! People come from all over, especially at low tide, to explore Rialto beach.

Most people know Rialto beach because of the hole-in-the-wall hike. It's a natural arch that's been carved by the crashing waves and it's only accessible during low tide. It's a few-mile beach hike to get to the hole in the wall, so be prepared. You may also want to take a slow walk to enjoy the tide pools and driftwood you find along the way.

First Beach, Second Beach, and Third Beach

Very original names I know. It's like someone gave up when it came time to name these various beaches! 

First beach is more family-friendly with plenty of sandy shores. It offers a much more relaxed beach experience and has some incredible sunset views. Second beach is a tad bit more secluded surrounded by mossy forests. Second beach allows wilderness camping {permits are required}, and a really unique experience. Third beach is tucked away a bit with another dense forest surrounding the beach area. Photographers love this beach because of the various lighting that they can play with while being surrounded by sea stacks, driftwood and crashing waves.

Explore the Tree of Life

It's a short drive to the Kalaloch area where you can explore the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is a weathered and gnarly-looking Sitka spruce that seems to have withstood the test of time. The tree is green despite the roots that seem to go to nowhere. There doesn't seem to be any logical explanation as to why it hasn't blown over yet since it is exposed to the elements. The tree seems to go against any rules of science or biology and no one really knows how much longer it will continue to survive.

You can wander under the tree into a Tree of Life cave. The day we visited there was a small waterfall inside the cave area. After you park your car, you can take the set of wooden stairs down and then head to the right. There will likely be people visiting already, but you really can't miss it! You can also continue on to explore other beaches after you visit the Tree of Life. 

End of the Day

Finish off the day with dinner and some evening activities. If you are feeling up for it, plan on watching the sunset at one of the various stops listed above. If you are visiting the area in the summer, know that sunset is often after 9 pm on the west coast! But if you are visiting in the fall, spring, or winter, it's at a much more reasonable time! Spoken like a true woman in her 40's, I know!


Day 3 Itinerary for Olympic National Park

All good things must come to an end! You'll be packing up today, but before you leave the area, there's one more treat in store! Start your day with some breakfast and make a plan for lunch on the road. Today you'll be chasing some waterfalls!

Chasing Waterfalls

There are several different waterfalls on your route back to Seattle or Tacoma that will provide a relatively easy hike to get to. While visiting in February, we attempted to visit Sol Duc Falls only to come upon the National Park booth with gates closed. Depending on when you visit, especially if it's in the winter, you may find that you don't have the choice to visit them both. But if you do, I'd highly suggest making the time to visit both of the falls.  Sadly, neither of these is dog-friendly. 

Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc Fall is a relatively easy 1.6-mile round-trip hike. It's a well-maintained path that meanders through old-growth forest. The best time to visit is spring and summer when the snow melt is at the highest and the falls are raging.

Marymere Falls

Marymere Falls is a 1.8-mile round-trip trail that takes you through old-growth forest and alongside Barnes Creek. It's relatively flat until the end when you come upon a bridge and then stairs that lead up to a viewing area. The falls cascade from a height of 90 feet and are tucked away into a hillside. It's a beautiful trail.

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weekend guide to olympic national park

In just 48 hours, you can experience the best that Olympic National Park has to offer, from the enchanting Hoh Rainforest to the rugged coastline of Ruby Beach, the serene beauty of Crescent Lake, the iconic Tree of Life, and the cascading elegance of Marymere Falls. It's a whirlwind trip that allows you to soak in the beauty of the area while still getting a taste of all it has to offer. You are going to love this part of the Pacific Northwest, I guarantee it!

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