As the year winds down, so do the number of individuals who head outdoors to Olympic National Park. What started as an endless onslaught of wilderness lovers flooding Washington State’s most popular National Park has slowly turned into a trickle. In November of 2015, when large retailers like REI encouraged everyone to #OptOutside, Olympic saw a 37.8% increase in visitation, with 104,297 people exploring and reconnecting with the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula. For the year, Olympic National Park has seen over three million people for the third consecutive year and the 17th time in the Park’s 77 history.
Through 11 months, Olympic National Park has seen 3,193,305 visitors. This total puts the park on pace to be the 7th most-visited National park in America for 2015, it’s lowest showing since 2012. Olympic’s least popular year since records were kept in 1979 was 1981, when the park dropped to number 8. On average Olympic National Park is the 4.94th most-visited National Park in America, making our 7th place ranking a bit disappointing.
November’s total visitation of 104,297 was a 37.8% increase over November traffic from the same month in 2014. With the total visitation now at 3,193,305, Olympic National Park is also on pace for the 10th most-popular year in the park’s history. Despite numerous storms destroying sections of the park, 2015 has been quite a good year for Olympic National Park.
As always, the Lake Crescent Region of Olympic National Park saw the most visitors, with 35,583. This stunning area best known for Marymere Falls, Devil’s Punchbowl and Mount Storm King, has seen 1,118,043 visitors so far in 2015. While monthly visitation is up compared to November of 2014 by 54.6%, total visitation to the area is down 8.9%. One fun fact about Lake Crescent in November 2015 is that only 15 people camped in the backcountry.
Since January 1st, 2015, the Hoh Rainforest has 299,824 visitors, with 26,005 of them coming in November. Those 26,000+ were part of a 521% increase in visitation from November of 2014. Obviously, this number is a bit off. However, these figures are from the official NPS site, so talk to them if you have an issue. For the year, the Hoh Rainforest has seen an increase in popularity of 42%, compared with 2014. In November, the Hoh also saw 156 campers at the Hoh Campground, and another 154 in the backcountry exploring the rainforest.
Out on the coast, the beaches around LaPush had an off month in what has otherwise been an amazing year. Through the first 11 months, the best stretch of coast on the Pacific has seen 329,527 visitors. In November alone, this region of the park saw 5,111 people, down 44% from November of 2014. While the majority of visitors to Mora/LaPush went to Rialto Beach, 2,106 stayed south and enjoyed the beauty of 2nd and 3rd Beaches. For the month, 192 people camped at the campground, while 104 stayed the night along the coastal backcountry.
As far as visitation goes, Kalaloch is a steady juggernaut. Kalaloch is the second most-visited region in Olympic National Park, having seen 518,934 visitors through 11 months. In November, 14,988 people experienced the hikes and views of Kalaloch, up 13.1% from November of 2014. Despite the bad weather, 525 brave souls camped at Kalaloch, with another 2,027 staying at the stunning Kalaloch Lodge. What impresses me are the four people who grabbed backcountry permits. Nice job, four people, nice job.
The Elwha is screwed right now. Despite the repairs made earlier in the year to major roads, the majority of the Elwha Region is inaccessible to cars. According to official National Park statistics, -520 people visited the park in November of 2015. There are two possible scenarios for this number. Park Officials either found a small community living in the woods and forced them to leave, or there was a problem with the equipment. I am assuming the latter. I did call Olympic National Park and ask for clarification. As usual, I did not hear back. For the year, NPS stats show the region has received 128,068 people. This number is down 32.6% from last year, and honestly, I believe it. For what seems like the majority of the year, the Elwha has been closed, so visitation numbers are down a ton.
Now that the snow is falling at Hurricane Ridge, we can assume that the numbers will be lower than last year. With no snow, the ridge was closed very few days it was supposed to be open. This year, winter seems to be a bit more normal. For the year, Hurricane Ridge has seen 413,328 visitors, with just 7,332 coming in November. For the year, Hurricane Ridge is up 6.2% over last year, though November 2015 is down 6.3%. In November, 127 campers braves the Heart O’the Hills Campground, while 15 awesome people headed out into the backcountry.
Ozette, like LaPush and Mora, is experiencing an increase in popularity from 2014. For the year, the Ozette region is 33.8% ahead of where it was in 2014, with 78,760 visitors. November of 2015 only saw 849, but that was still enough to keep the incredible growth of the coast going. For November, just 39 people camped at the Ozette Campground, while 257 headed out and slept in the coastal backcountry. Of the 849 visitors in November of 2015, 342 hit up Point of the Arches and Shi Shi Beach.
November was a rough month for the Quinault Region of Olympic National Park. Downed trees, landslides, washouts and closures due to safety precautions all hindered visitors from accessing the one of the more underrated rainforest regions of the world. For the month of November, the Quinault Region saw a drop of 11.6% from 2014, with 12,332 visitors. While November was slow, Quinault has seen 3% growth for the year, with 217,123 visitors. According to the data, there was no camping in November at established sites, and just nine dedicated people heading out into the backcountry. Or Barefoot Jake went nine times.
Finally, we turn to Staircase and the Hood Canal region of Olympic National Park. This is one of the fastest growing regions of the park, and November was no different than the previous 10 months. November of 2015 saw a 30.8% increase in visitation, compared to the same month in 2014. In the 11th month, 2,618 visitors explored the Staircase and Hood Canal area. For the year, the region has seen 90,787 visitors. This number is up 23.8%, proving the trend of the increase in popularity for the region. For the month, 116 campers were at the Staircase Campground, while 21 people (including me) headed out into the backcountry.