best time to visit olympic national park- Hoh Rainforest (thru-hike) Olympic National Park

Are you dreaming of hitting up the Pacific Northwest and trying to gauge the best time to visit Olympic National Park? To quickly answer your question, there’s never really a bad time to visit ONP.

The question, instead, is, what’s your vibe? What weather do you want to embrace on vacation?

This park is very diverse and it’s also very fickle, which makes the weather somewhat unpredictable.

In this guide, I’ll explain what you can expect in each season of the Olympic Peninsula so you can make the most out of this one-of-a-kind national park.

The key to visiting ONP is to plan ahead but remain flexible. Just because it starts to rain doesn’t mean it has to rain on your parade. Just bring along a rain jacket instead!

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Rialto Beach- Olympic National Park

Key Takeaways

Follow these tips based on your trip timing and interests to make the most of your Olympic National Park visit!

  • Spring (March-May) is best for seeing waterfalls and wildflowers, with manageable crowds and weather before peak tourism season.
  • Visit summer (June – August) for long sunny days and the widest range of recreational activities, but be prepared for crowds or heat.
  • Plan a trip in September or October for brilliant fall colors at elevations and less rain on the coast.
  • In winter (December – February), only steadfast adventurers will appreciate deep snowpack at Hurricane Ridge or storm-watching on the coast.
  • For moderate weather and fewer crowds, target the shoulder seasons of late spring (May/June) or fall (September/October).
  • The fastest travel route from Seattle is via ferry across Puget Sound to cut driving distance significantly.
  • US-101 circles the park for access, but some roads close seasonally, so check park conditions and closures before visiting.
  • Bring layers and rain gear no matter the season – mountain weather changes rapidly in Olympic National Park!
  • Expect supreme scenery, nature’s gorgeous spectacles, and access to unique ecosystems year-round with proper preparation.

Did You Know?

Did you know that 2.4 million people visited the Olympic National Park last year?

Weather in Olympic National Park

Located in Washington state, Olympic National Park has some of the best national park hikes in the entire country due to its diversity.

This guide will help ensure you pick a season to make the most out of those hikes.

Here is a quick overview of the average weather at the most popular destinations in Olympic National Park.

Just be prepared – no amount of strategic planning will guarantee sunny skies in this fairytale wonderland.

MonthHurricane Ridge (°F)Quinault Rainforest (°F)Rialto Beach (°F)Rainy Days
January20-4040-5040-5018
February20-4040-5040-5016
March20-4040-5040-5019
April30-5040-5545-5516
May35-6045-6050-6014
June40-7050-7055-7010
July45-7550-7560-757
August45-7550-7560-758
September40-7050-7055-7011
October30-5545-5550-5518
November20-4040-5040-5021
December20-4040-5040-5020

Weather can change on a dime in this area. We planned our vacation day to day depending on the weather forecast. I suggest checking reliable weather websites for up-to-date information on the forecast in Olympic National Park. They can provide specific, real-time data tailored to the area so you have the most accurate information for your plans.

Related: Spending the day in Seattle? Check out my guide to the Best One Day in Seattle Itinerary to get the low down on how to maximize your short time in the Emerald City.

Sunset View in Olympic National Park- Quileute Oceanside Resort

When is the Best Time To Visit Olympic National Park?

Find the right seasonal rhythm in sync with your interests, and you’ll be on cloud nine, no matter the forecast! Just be sure to pack your hiking essentials and be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice.

Spring (mid-March through May)

Spring is a transitional period in Olympic National Park when winter snows are melting and exposing scenic mountain vistas while wildflowers start blooming in the valleys.

March through May is one of the best times to visit if you want to see waterfalls at their peak flow before the drier summer months.

Some iconic waterfalls like Madison Falls and Sol Duc Falls are at their most impressive in spring. The lowland forests also come alive this time of year, with trillium, skunk cabbage, and other wildflowers carpeting the ground.

The only downside to spring is that the higher elevations may still have some lingering snow, especially early on in March. But by May, most hiking trails are accessible.

We went to Olympic National Park in mid-April, and there was still quite a bit of snow at Sol Duc Falls, so we couldn’t hike there. That’s why it’s important to check weather forecasts daily and sometimes hour by hour to ensure you choose the best route for your trip.

Rain gear is always a good idea in Olympic no matter the season, but expect April and May to start drying out a bit. Spring crowds also tend to be manageable before the summer rush.

flower blooming on a hiking trail in Olympic National Park

Summer (June through August)

The summer season may be the time for peak tourism, but nice weather provides excellent opportunities to explore Olympic’s outdoor recreation like hiking, backpacking, camping, kayaking, and climbing adventures.

July and August can get hot, so heading to the Hoh Rain Forest might feel sticky and humid. But driving up to the mountains or swimming at Lake Ozette or Lake Crescent can help beat the heat.

In summer, iconic spots like Hurricane Ridge and Hoh Rainforest get the most visitors. But travel mid-week or on less popular trails to escape crowds.

One distinct advantage to visiting Olympic National Park in summer is the long days. At the solstice in June, the sun doesn’t set until after 9 pm – perfect for late-night paddle boarding or beach bonfires.

Just prepare to deal with peak crowds from mid-July through August, especially on weekends. Lodging also fills up far in advance, so book early if traveling in high summer.

Pro-Tip: Summer tourism crowds also affect the availability of spots on the ferry boats. So, make sure to book your ferry ticket way in advance. Otherwise, you’ll have to drive all the way around instead of taking the fun and easy route of riding the ferry.

Hoh Rainforest- Olympic National Park

Fall (September through mid-November)

If you’re looking for stunning fall foliage with no crowds, Olympic National Park is the place to be. Come September, the park turns into a riot of colors.

The weather is perfect for hiking and backpacking, with cool temperatures and a mix of sun and clouds. You can also enjoy picturesque views that were hidden behind the summer haze.

Fall is also a prime time for storm watching on the Pacific coast with big waves, howling wind, and lashing rain.

Early October is perhaps the best month for pleasant temperatures combined with jaw-dropping autumn displays in Olympic forests. Certain roads also reopen for vehicle access after closing for the winter months.

You might even get lucky with a dusting of snow on Hurricane Ridge, accentuating the fall scenery. Just expect lodging availability and park accessibility to drop off by late November with the coming winter.

Winter (December – February)

I’m not going to lie, I’m intimidated by the winter weather of Olympic National Park. After all, I am a Southern girl at heart. But if you’re a hardcore adventurer and not afraid of massive piles of snow, then winter is just for you!

In winter, the snow measures in feet rather than inches! While the lower elevations get regular rainfall, the higher mountain elevations get pummeled by Pacific storm systems all winter long.

For cold-weather adventurers, this is epic! Deep snowpack translates to exceptional skiing and snowboarding at Hurricane Ridge, which operates several lifts and groomed runs from December through March. Serious hikers and mountaineers can also take on steep, snowy trails with proper gear and experience.

Winter is also a special time to visit the rainforest and coastline, with far fewer crowds than the tourist-clogged summer. Just bundle up!

Between wind, rain, and frigid temperatures, the weather can be harsh. But catching epic sunsets along the Pacific beach as huge waves crash ashore makes it worthwhile.

Certain areas also become accessible again, like the snow-covered Sol Duc Valley, perfect for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Just note that winter storms frequently close roads for avalanche control or downed trees. Pay attention to the weather and come prepared!

huge tree trunk wash ashore at Olympic National Park

The Best of Both Seasons

If you can only visit Olympic National Park once and want the best compromise between weather, accessibility, long lines, and avoiding crowds, late spring and early fall are your best bets.

Specifically, May through mid-June is in the spring, and September through mid-October is in the fall. These shoulder seasons deliver pleasant weather that isn’t too hot or too cold while offering good accessibility throughout the park. You’ll also beat the biggest summer and winter crowds.

While spring still has some lingering snow at high elevations, enough has melted to access most areas. Waterfalls gush with peak runoff, and lowland wildflowers flourish.

Hiking and backpacking trails emerge snow-free outside the highest mountain zones. Temperatures tend to sit comfortably in the 50s and 60s during the day for outdoor adventures. Just bring rain gear, as scattered showers are common!

Come September, the crowds dissipate as kids return to school, yet the weather is still mild, with highs in the 60s. Low 70s stick around through October, depending on the year.

Hiking is prime during this window, with leaves just starting to change. The autumn colors then grow increasingly vibrant into October, especially in the temperate rainforest valleys blanketed with vine maples. Early fall also means less rain on the coast and smaller storm waves – though always be prepared for the weather to shift quickly!

Wherever you travel in Olympic National Park, seasonal advantages exist. But for the best combination of prime conditions and the fewest visitors, aim for May-June or September-October. Then, get out and enjoy wildflower meadows, thundering waterfalls, towering rainforest trees, and craggy mountain peaks in this uniquely diverse wonderland!

Getting to Olympic National Park

No matter what season you choose to visit, you will need to plan transportation to Olympic National Park, located in the northwest corner of Washington.

Driving

Olympic National Park is a 2 to 5-hour drive from Seattle, Tacoma, or Portland. The fastest route is via US-101, which runs along the park’s perimeter.

Total mileage is:

  • From Seattle: Approximately 180 miles, 3 hours
  • From Tacoma: Approximately 150 miles, 2.5 hours
  • From Portland: Approximately 290 miles, 5 hours

Tips for Driving

  • Use tire chains if driving in winter due to potential snow and ice at higher elevations
  • Fill your gas tank before entering the park since stations are limited
  • Stock the vehicle with emergency supplies like warm clothes, flashlights, snacks, etc.
  • Pick up park maps before arriving to plan your visit

Taking the Seattle Ferry

You can also reach Olympic National Park by ferry from Seattle to Bremerton, then drive approximately 2 hours, 120 miles to the park.

Tips for the Seattle Ferry

  • Walk onto the ferry or make a car reservation in advance
  • Ferry ride takes 60 minutes
  • Multiple ferries run per day from early morning until night
  • Grab lunch or a snack on board during sailing
  • Link up with shuttle buses or taxis upon Bremerton arrival

The Best Route from Seattle

The fastest and most scenic drive from Seattle to Olympic National Park is to take I-5 south to Tacoma, then head west on Highway 16 until you reach Bremerton.

Here, you’ll pick up the scenic ferry across Puget Sound to Seattle. Upon arriving in downtown Seattle, follow Highway 104 west.

In approximately an hour, you’ll reach US-101, the highway that encircles the entire Olympic Peninsula. Once you reach US-101, head north to drive along the coast of the Hood Canal, with nice views across the water.

Continue north on US-101 for about 75 miles as the road winds its way around the Olympic Mountains, eventually reaching the Lake Crescent area.

This marks the official entrance into the Olympic National Park! Be sure to stop at the Lake Crescent Lodge area for spectacular views, hiking trails, and the perfect spot for a picnic.

From here, US-101 continues north through the park, with many trailheads and exits to choose from. Some notable areas to stop include the Hoh Rain Forest, Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Hot Springs, and Kalaloch Beach, which has incredible coastal scenery.

While US-101 circles the entire Olympic Peninsula, this route from Seattle delivers jaw-dropping views of snow-capped mountains, lakes, forests, and the Pacific Ocean.

The 155-mile drive takes around 3 hours without stops. Allow more time, of course, for taking in the best sights Olympic National Park has to offer along the way! Have your camera ready and hit the road from Seattle for a great Northwest adventure.

Seattle One Day Itinerary

Top 10 Olympic National Park Road Trip Essentials

  1. Quality rain gear – jacket, pants, waterproof hiking boots
  2. Layers for changing mountain weather – fleece, down jacket, base layers
  3. Daypack to carry gear
  4. Hiking poles for uneven terrain
  5. Water bottles and water filters for refills
  6. Nutritious, high-energy trail snacks
  7. Bear spray for safety
  8. First aid kit – bandages, wraps, medications
  9. Headlamp for early starts/late finishes to hikes
  10. Road maps and trail maps of Olympic National Park

Having versatile layers, proper footwear, hydration/nutrition, and gear for safety and navigation will ensure a fun, comfortable trip.

Prepare for rapidly changing mountain weather by packing for sunny days, bad weather, and torrential downpours. Break in hiking boots before big treks and gear up to match the adventure! With the right preparation, Olympic National Park offers a quintessential Pacific Northwest experience.

Olympic National Park- Hiking Essentials- Marymere Falls Trailhead

Final Thoughts

If you want to make your visit to Olympic National Park unforgettable, make sure to go at the right time. You’ll see incredible scenery, have the chance to do some cool stuff, and make memories that you’ll never forget. No matter when you choose to go, the park’s amazing beauty and different environments will totally blow your mind.

Find Out More: Want to explore more travel ideas? Check out the comprehensive guide to the 13 Best Road Trip Destinations!

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