Beat the Heat: Nine Hikes to Stay Cool Around Olympic National Park

The region in and around Olympic National Park is known throughout the world as being a wet, damp, and sometimes dreary place. With an average rainfall in some locations of over 14 feet, it is easy to see why we have that reputation. During the summer months, especially in the last couple of years, the rainforests, beaches and ridges of Olympic National Park and forest have been ridiculously dry, with forest fires and other drought symptoms starting to plague this normally lush environment. As temperatures start to increase around the Pacific Northwest, I felt it was time to share a few of my favorite places to stay cool on the hot summer days in and around Olympic National Park. From the rainforests, to the beaches and even some rad little waterfalls, cooling off in the hot summer heat is perfect in and around Olympic National Park. 

Second Beach, Olympic National Park
Second Beach, Olympic National Park

LaPush

The beaches of LaPush are some of the most beautiful and accessible sections of coast in America, making Haystack in Oregon look like it is just a rock. With endless sea stacks, thousands of tide pools and access to over 70 miles of coastal wilderness, coming here on a hot day is highly recommended. Typically, LaPush is 20 degrees cooler than the Puget Sound region, and often will have a layer of fog when the rest of the state is roasting. There are four beaches to access, but the coolest one is probably Second Beach, which gets you to hike through a shady forest before coming out on a picture perfect section of coast. Detailed information on this region and more coastal options can be found here.  Directions to LaPush can be found here.


 

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park
Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

Ruby Beach and Kalaloch

If driving out to LaPush seems like it might take too long, the beaches of Kalaloch offer stunning views and fun exploration, all along Highway 101. Typically, the beaches of Kalaloch are much cooler than the rest of the state. Last summer, when it was 85 degrees in Olympia, it was often 60 degrees and foggy at Ruby Beach. Ruby Beach and the beaches around Kalaloch offer some great tide pooling, exploring and awesome little destinations for day hikes. My suggestion would be to hit up Ruby beach early, set up a spot to have a picnic lunch and stay until sunset. If you find yourself getting bored, head to the Kalaloch Lodge for food, history and a ranger station. Detailed information on this region and more coastal options can be found here. Directions to LaPush can be found here.


 

The face of drought in the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park
The face of drought in the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park

Hoh Rainforest

Under the canopy of lush firs, cedar, spruce and maple trees, the Hoh Rainforest is one of the coolest places to go on a hot summer day. Despite the current drought, temperatures in Forks and out into the Hoh Rainforest are 20 degrees cooler than most of the Puget Sound, making it a great escape from the sweltering heat. With elk, eagles, and miles of trails through one of the more beautiful sections of rainforest in the world, taking a trip out here is worth the 3 hour drive. The road to the Hoh has some cool shops which are worth stopping by, and the hiking destinations in the area range from short and easy day hikes to a long backpacking trip to the summit of Mount Olympus. Either way, feel free to cool off in the milky blue, glacier fed river. Detailed information on this region, including camping, backpacking and dining options can be found here. Directions to the Hoh Rainforest can be found here.


 

The Staircase Loop bridge over the SKokomish River of Olympic National Park
The Staircase Loop bridge over the SKokomish River of Olympic National Park

Staircase Loop

Close to Olympia, Seattle and Tacoma, Staircase is one of the fastest growing areas in Olympic National Park. Giving visitors a chance to climb mountains, explore alpine lakes, and take the gorgeous and short loop trail around a section of the Skokomish River, this is a great destination no matter the season. However, temperatures are much cooler along the Skokomish, giving a reprieve to the sweltering heat of the Puget Sound. With places to dip in the cold waters coming from the melting glaciers upstream, soaking in the river after a long day hiking and exploring is a perfect way to cool off. The region also ha kayaking tours available, making it a one stop destination for all things awesome. Detailed information on this region, including camping, backpacking and dining options can be found here. Directions to the Staircase can be found here.


 

The always gorgeous Lake Crescent, just a few miles from Port Angeles
The always gorgeous Lake Crescent, just a few miles from Port Angeles

Spruce Railroad and Marymere Falls

The region around Olympic National Park’s Lake Crescent isn’t just one of the more scenic and historic regions in the park, it is also the site to a cooling waterfall, awesome trails and the location of one of the best cliff diving locations in Washington State. Marymere Falls is a short, flat, easy trail that is accessible for nearly everyone. With a small stream to wade in, as well as being sheltered from the sun by the cool canopy of the forest, temperatures drop here by 15-20 degrees. For those looking for serious swimming opportunities, consider swimming in Lake Crescent, or take a plunge into the Devil’s Punchbowl along the Spruce Railroad Trail.  Detailed information on this region, including camping, backpacking and dining options can be found here. Directions to the Lake Crescent can be found here.


 

Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park, just a short drive from Port Angeles
Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park, just a short drive from Port Angeles

Sol Duc

Sol Duc might be a bit of a drive from the major urban areas around Puget Sound, but that should not deter anyone from take the trek to this gorgeous and cool destination. Typically 20 degrees cooler than the hotspots around the region, Sol Duc gives wonderful forrest to those who make the drive. The highlight for many will be the hike to Sol Duc Falls, a short 1.5 mile out and back hike that gets you to a fantastic three-tiered waterfall. Standing on the bridge to along one of the observation platforms, the cooling spray of the falls rises up and douses visitors millions of droplets of water. During sunrise and sunset, rainbows are visible above the falls, making it even more beautiful. The trail and region is heavily forested and well worth exploring. Tie this destination in with Lake Crescent and you will have an amazing day. Detailed information on this region, including camping, backpacking and dining options can be found here. Directions to Sol Duc are can be found here.


 

Point of the Arches, Shi Shi Beach
Point of the Arches, Shi Shi Beach

Shi Shi Beach and Cape Flattery

Ridiculously remote, Shi Shi Beach and Cape Flattery get those looking for an adventure all the way to the northwestern-most corner of the contiguous United States. Cape Flattery (pictures at top of post) is a well maintained trail through a pretty little forrest that eventually leads to an observation platform overlooking the mighty Pacific Ocean. As the ocean swells against the steep rocks, watch for seals, birds and even whales. The temperature here could be up to 30 degrees cooler than the hot areas of Puget Sound, so be prepared. A little south of Cape Flattery, Shi Shi Beach awaits. This beach is one of the most iconic, wild and gorgeous beaches you will ever see, and is a pretty short hike. Year round, the trail might be muddy, and the temperature will be 15-20 degrees cooler than the large cities of Washington. At Shi Shi, enjoy tide pools, endless views and sea stacks on stacks on stacks. Detailed information on this area including trail descriptions, camping, backpacking and dining options can be found here. Directions to the region are can be found here.


 

Pony Bridge, Olympic National Park's Quinault Rainforest
Pony Bridge, Olympic National Park’s Quinault Rainforest

Quinault Rainforest

There are very few areas as cool as the Quinault, in every definition of the word. The Quinault region is typically 20 degrees cooler than Olympia, making the hour and a half drive from Washington’s Capitol city seem well worth it. With 20+ miles of day hikes around the way, finding the perfect hike will be your only tough decision. While I recommend Pony Bridge or the Quinault Rainforest Nature Loop Trail for families, mountains like Colonel Bob are waiting to be climbed. Be aware that the higher in elevation you get, the more likely you will see hotter temperatures, thanks to sun exposure. Visiting the Quinault in the heat is  one of your best bets to stay cool. Kayak rentals are available at the Lake Quinault Lodge, and swimming in the lake could also be possible.  Detailed information on this area including trail descriptions, camping, backpacking and dining options can be found here. Directions to the region are can be found here.


 

DouglasScott_MurhutFalls

Murhut Falls

Murhut Falls is located on the Hood Canal’s Duckabush region, making to often overlooked by the millions who drive around the Olympic Peninsula. Just 2.5 hours from Downtown Seattle, Murhut Falls is beautiful and a typical Olympic Peninsula waterfall. Surrounded by ferns, towering Douglas fir trees and moss covered rocks, this downfall-riddled waterfall is the epitome of beauty. With two tiers, each equally spectacular, Murhut Falls is a fantastic place to sit and watch the power of nature. Murhut Falls will be about 15-20 degrees cooler than the rest of the Puget Sound. With options to explore the falls and even stand behind it, getting nice and cold won’t be a problem!  Detailed information on this area including trail descriptions, camping, backpacking and dining options can be found here. Directions to the region are can be found here.

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By Doug and Mathias on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State

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