Winter in our National Parks can give the most spectacular memories and experiences of any season. America’s seventh most-visited National Park, Olympic, is home to seven of the most unique winter experiences in the country. From skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing on snowy ridges, to walking along rainforest rivers full of salmon, and watching storms on the coast, Olympic has something for everyone. 611 miles of trails await you in this park that is 95% wilderness, making Olympic a perfect destination to get away from it all before and after the winter season.
If you haven’t experienced Olympic in the winter, or even if you have, we recommend taking at least three trips out during the winter months to fully experience the best of what the region has to offer. It doesn’t matter if you are an expert hiker or someone who likes to appreciate nature close to your car, this awesome park in the northwest corner of Washington State is sure to become your favorite winter wonderland.
Few places in the world offer views as majestic as Hurricane Ridge. Year round, visitors from a round the globe make the 17 mile drive from the sea level town of Port Angeles up to Hurricane Ridge, which sits just under 5,300 feet. With sweeping views in every direction of glaciated peaks, and historical waterways, snowshoeing or cross country skiing Hurricane Hill is great for adventurers of all ages. For those looking for more extreme fun, try your luck at skiing and snowboarding at one of only three National Parks that has a ski lift, the Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area. Whether you are bombing down Klahhane Ridge on a bluebird day, or taking in the impressive snow totals at Hurricane Hill, Hurricane Ridge is a snow lover’s dream.
Area Hikes: http://bit.ly/1swgOdJ
Olympic has 73 miles of wilderness coastline, making it the most rugged and wild coastal area in the contiguous United States. Many will try to tell you the beaches of Oregon are great in the winter, but they have no idea what they are missing up in Olympic National Park. Huge storms slam the coast, dumping feet of rain over a weekend and blasting winds 60 miles an hour onto the coast. With many options to storm watch, from Kalaloch Lodge near Ruby Beach, to Rialto Beach, Second Beach and the observation deck at Neah Bay, the opportunity to storm watch in and around the National Park are second to now. After storms you are encouraged to beachcomb for agates, shells and other cool objects that have washed up after the tidal surge.
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Beach Hikes: http://bit.ly/IOv3Ka
In an area that receives up to 14 feet of rain a year, it is little wonder why once the rain starts, so few people take a hike out along the Hoh, Queets or Quinault Rainforests. However, those who do brave the constant dripping of moisture from the skies are rewarded with one of the most Pacific Northwest activities you can participate in: hiking in the rain. To hike in the rain, all you need is a good rain jacket, rain pants, waterproof shoes and a sunny disposition. Hiking in the rainforest during rain is soothing, relaxing and primal, letting you see a side of the park that few experience. Elk roam the forests as drops of water fall from the rainforest canopy above, feeding seasonal waterfalls and cleaning the forest, making it shiny and green. Quiet, relaxing and beautiful, watching high running rivers flow through the rainforest is the best getaway for anyone looking to escape the stresses of the city and truly reconnect with nature.
Best Rainforest Hikes: http://bit.ly/JgbBHv
It is said that Olympic is home to over 10,000 waterfalls, but in the winter, that number is quite low. With feet of raining fall each month, the rivers, creeks and streams of Olympic become flooded and swollen, filling waterfalls to impressive levels. From the multi-tiered waterfall at Sol Duc, to the majestic and serene Marymere Falls, the region is home to some breathtaking waterfalls. Throughout the park, waterfalls line roads and trails, giving visitors one of the best waterfall experiences of any National Park. You might think your favorite park has some good waterfalls, but compared to Olympic, it is average. Don’t believe us?
See the Best Waterfalls: http://bit.ly/1zHbY55
Few places in the world can one see salmon swim through a rainforest. Olympic offers this opportunity on nearly every river in the park, most in the fall months. However, late in November and December, the Hoh River and rainforest area became the final resting spot for the annual salmon run. Standing in a rainforest,visitors to the Hoh can walk the easy hikes and see salmon swimming and spawning before eventually dying and rotting. With elk, bobcat, and river otters occasionally seen chasing these delicious fish through small channels, watching the salmon run in Olympic is as impressive s any other activity.
Hoh Area Hikes: http://bit.ly/1453ZS9
Technically not in Olympic National Park, Mount Ellinor sits on the border between Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park, giving what most consider to be the best views in the Pacific Northwest. Sitting at 5,944 feet above sea level, hikers who make their way to the summit of this mountain are rewarded with views of the Olympic Mountains to the west, Mount Baker, Seattle the Hood Canal and Puget Sound to the North, Mount Rainier, Lake Cushman and the Cascades to the east and Mt St Helens and Mount Adams to the south. With panoramic views that will leave you drooling, Mt Ellinor needs to be hiked in the winter. Once snow has fallen, the trail is steep and snowy, meaning you will need crampons and an ice axe, mainly for the impressive glissade that must be taken to get off the mountain.
Hike Info: http://exotichikes.com/mount-ellinor-hike/
No trip to Olympic National Park is complete without having an adventure along the newly dam free Elwha River. Home to the world’s largest dam removal project, the Elwha is majestic, beautiful and perfect for those winter days when you need an awesome hike. Passing by historic cabins, standing at the mouth of Goblins Gate or looking upriver to the Grand Canyon of the Elwha from the Dodger Point Bridge, the Elwha River is jaw-droopingly gorgeous and incredibly accessible for all levels of hikers. Now with a short, new trail to see where the dam was removed, the area is impossibly beautiful. Just be aware that the road is still washed out and this is a long, 12+ mile trek!
More Elwha Hikes: http://bit.ly/1uWU39f
Discover a Hike a Week through Doug Scott’s Olympic National Park Area Guidebook