The Washington State Olympic Peninsula is full of hiking adventures for every level of hiker. Living in the Pacific Northwest for so long, we’ve experienced so many beautiful hikes, from intense to moderate to easy. We’ve experienced backpacking trips for five days straight, over 37 miles with 30+ pound packs. We’ve done smaller, weekend backpacking trips, 10 to 15 mile round trip hikes. But today I want to talk about smaller trips, hikes you can accomplish in a day, 1-5 miles loops. These hikes are more conducive to young families, packing around a baby or toddler! Lets be real and honest, backpacking with a baby in diapers is tough work. It’s not impossible, just tough. But once we had our little girl, we knew we still wanted to get outside and explore the beautiful area we live in. So we set out to explore some of the famous day hiking options available on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.
Located in the top Northwest corner of the State, the Olympic Peninsula is full of lush greenery, mossy trees and thick forests. Alpine Lakes fed by centuries old glaciers create crystal clear conditions, allowing you to see down 30 feet or more to the lake’s bottom. Lookouts on top of mountain ridges, seeing snow caps to the South and the Ocean’s water to the North. The kind of views you have only seen in magazines or on travel channels could be a firsthand experience, just by spending one day at one of these locations.
The HOH Rain Forest
The HOH Rain Forest is a huge attraction, about 1.5 hours past the City of Port Angeles. The Rain Forest is known for its HOH River, Falls and huge, old world mossy trees. Definitely a PNW must see! In addition, the Sol Duc Falls is a small hike and a pretty easy hike though classified as “moderate”. If you enjoy waterfalls as your gifted ending, then this hike is worth the trek. Imagine rainbows casting their colors inside the fall’s mist. The sound of pouring water is loud and defining. This 1.7 mile ever so popular trail will not disappoint.
If you do decide to camp overnight, you will need a permit! For permits and reservations: Obtain by phone at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles or in person at the HOH Visitor Center. Reservations should be made for parties of 7 or more persons. All other sites are first come, first served. A great place to set up camp is at 5 Mile Island. The trail to this point is very flat and easy to accomplish, though 5 miles in. If you can make it and pack out your things, you will find yourself the most beautiful, secluded spot by a river with a rocky island shore along the HOH River, perfect for relaxing and family fun.
This trail takes you to the most Northwestern ocean view in the contiguous 48 states. It’s worth the walk, let me tell you! I’m not sure you can even call this one a hike, although please wear appropriate shoes! The trail descends a bit and obviously, what goes down must come up. But it is still considered an easy trail with areas to stop and sit on comfortable logs for a rest if needed. Lets talk about the view! The gorgeous look out at the end of the trail is stunning. You are looking out over the Pacific Ocean and on a clear day you will see an Island with a quaint lighthouse. Picture perfect. We went on a rather foggy day and we still saw some amazing views. We at first only saw a thick fog, but in time, the fog slowly moved positions, allowing us to get a glimpse of the Island. There are no direct camping spots, but research Lake Ozette for options, not far from this trail head.
On the Olympic Peninsula, Lake Crescent is one popular spot during the summer! This Lake is glacier fed and the temperature reflects its source. But during a hot Washington day, this is the spot everyone runs to. It’s located between the City of Port Angeles and The City of Forks. Along with being a great spot to go swimming, paddle boarding and kayaking, there are multiple spots for campsites and trails. Spruce Railroad Trail is a great, easy hike, perfect for families. Only 4 miles, this historic trail winds along Lake Crescent, allowing you many views of the stunning scenery.
For a more strenuous hike, check out the Pyramid Mountain Trail, just under 7 miles and worth the climb. Be careful with small members of the family due to drop offs and cliffs. But if you can make this one apart of your travels, we highly recommend it. The ending view is worth it when you’re able to clearly see Lake Crescent below you and it’s close neighbor, Lake Sutherland.
Nearby, the trail head for Marymere Falls is a great hike for older ones or big groups of people. The entire hike, up until the end, is completely flat and easy to maneuver. You will be walking through old-growth giants begging you for a hug (photo opp!). The thick tree canopy makes this hike great for hot days when you need refuge from the sun. You will feel enchanted by the lush greenery and moss covered woods. At the end, you must be able to climb a few stairs to get the view of the falls. This hike is under 2 miles, so pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the afternoon with family and friends enjoying nature’s best!
One of my all time favorite places in all of Washington is Sand Point. On a clear day, you will find yourself on shores of white sand making you question if you are truly in Washington or in Hawaii. Yes, it’s that good. The small 3 mile hike along boardwalk is easy and relaxing. You can easily take your family along this trail and end up at the secluded beach ready to search for sea glass and take a nap on the hot sand. Your choice for camping on the beach or just beneath the trees. If you go for a day trip, bring a Frisbee and a good book!
For those of you wanting an amazing view, maybe a bit of snow and a warm lodge during the winter months, head up to Hurricane Ridge. There is nothing like this view-point, and the best part is, you just have to drive to it and take it in, no hiking required! Of course, this post is on hiking and yes, there is a great trail for you enjoy if you choose. But you could also decide to stay in the lodge and enjoy your hot chocolate and snacks while staring in amazement out the large windows. There’s no describing the view, and depending on what time of year you decide to visit, the view will be different and yet always extraordinary. Personally, I love Hurricane Ridge in the winter. This will require either chains or snow tires so I suggest looking up the conditions on www.nps.gov, as well as park permit requirements. Once you get to the top, all the mountain ridges in the Olympic Mountain Range are visible and FULL of snow! In addition to seeing the mountain range for hundreds of miles, you can also see the Strait of Juan d’Fuca to the North. It’s incredible. Snowboarding, skiing, sledding and tubing are fun activities here in the winter. Bring some snowshoes or rent at the Lodge to enjoy this hike, less than a mile long. Come Spring time you will be greeted by wild flowers and a trail along the ridge with ample photo opportunities, quite possibly a deer spotting.
This is a crazy drive, you’ve been warned. But only the crazy leads to the memorable! Let me explain. As you can tell from our pictures (this is from our most recent trip, as we try to go every year) we are above the clouds on Blue Mountain. People come up here for camping, the 10 minute walk to the very tip, or just for the view… especially during sunset! Last time we visited, we drove up with camp chairs, wine, a tea kettle for hot chocolate, a camp stove and a ready to go cast iron skillet filled with chocolate and marshmallows to dip with gram crackers. While watching the sunset, this proved to be incredibly romantic.
And there you have it. Some of our families favorite places to visit and hike on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. Explore. Discover. Enjoy.