Fall in Olympic National Park is full of beauty and wonder unlike anywhere else in the world. The moment snow dusts the towering, craggy peaks of the Olympic Mountains, the rainforest river valleys below become alive. When the snow hits the mountains, rain in the lower elevations triggers something in the plants and animals. Almost overnight, the forest floor erupts in mushrooms, the leaves on the huge maples in the Hoh and Quinault start to turn color, slowly falling on the elk majestically bugling away the morning and evening hours. Salmon, returning to their spawning grounds after years at sea swim upstream, jump over logjams and rocky cascades to the arriving to fulfill their life mission in the famous waters of the Hoh, Quinault, Sol Duc and Elwha Rivers.
Until the rain arrives, the weather around this normally wet park is beautiful. Cool sunny days, empty of clouds and a perfectly refreshing breeze, is a common experience to visitors of the Pacific Northwest. While most of the country thinks we are receiving our 14 feet of annual rain the minute fall starts, the truth is that the first few weeks of this season are some of the most gorgeous times to be outdoors. Even when the rain does start to fall, the dense canopy of the rainforests shields us from getting completely drenched. Sure, you will get rained on if you visit Olympic in the fall, but that is part of the beauty, part of the charm and just might be the reason you “fall” in love with Olympic National Park this autumn.
Olympic National Park is one of the most-visited National Parks in America, but for eight months out of the year, the park is virtually empty.
Once the rain does start, the forests aren’t the only place to have fun in the park. Exploring the coastal regions of Olympic National Park go from a day at the beach to an experience that will blow you away, literally. The beaches of Olympic may be crowded by Pacific Northwest standards in the summer, but the fall leaves them empty and secluded, perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of the city. Standing on a beach in the fall months is a moment you won’t forget. With the wind blowing salty air on your face, watch as huge waves crash against sea stacks and piles of driftwood along the dark sands of over 73 miles of coastal wilderness.
The standard areas like Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Falls and Lake Crescent are extremely beautiful in the fall, but they aren’t the best possible place to experience fall in the park. Yes, seeing fresh snow on a late November day at Hurricane Ridge is breathtakingly gorgeous and if you are in the region you should go, but this publication is for those looking for a true fall experience. One with colorful plants, amazing animal experiences, incredible storm watching and the very best of Olympic National Park in the fall months.
Places in Olympic National Park average 14 FEET of rain each year, an unfathomable amount of rain for the majority of the world. Yet, once the rain starts to fall on the Olympic Peninsula, the beaches, mountains, rivers, forests and waterfalls of the region come alive as the life-force of the region finally returns.
Olympic National Park is one of the most-visited National Parks in America, but for eight months out of the year, the park is virtually empty. Once summer ends and the rain returns to the region, the parking lots, visitor centers and trails that were packed to the gills with tourists in the summer are only seen by the hearty souls who brave the weather. The rainy season in Olympic National Park typically runs from October to June, and while the majority of visitors avoid the rainforest, mountains and coastal regions of the park during these months, this is actually the best time to explore the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Once the rain starts to fall, the park goes through changes that need to be seen, experienced and felt by all.
Places in Olympic National Park average 14 FEET of rain each year, an unfathomable amount of rain for the majority of the world. Yet, once the rain starts to fall on the Olympic Peninsula, the beaches, mountains, rivers, forests and waterfalls of the region come alive as the life-force of the region finally returns. Fall in Olympic National Park is the reason we have this national park, and there is no more beautiful time to experience the region. From rivers full of salmon, swollen to the banks with fresh rainwater, to storms along the rugged coast and everything in-between, taking a Fall adventure to Olympic National Park needs to be added to your list.
To best experience Fall in Olympic National Park, remember to bring waterproof gear. Realistically, the months of September and early October are pretty nice, but storms rolling in can dump up to six inches of rain a day on you, so be prepared. I personally never leave home without my trusty rain jacket from Outdoor Research and have yet to get wet, thanks to them understanding just how wet the region is. Once you have good gear to stay dry, head on out to this wet and wild corner of America and experience the five best aspects of Fall in Olympic National Park
During the summer, the waterfalls of Olympic National Park are pretty but lack the energy that they possess the rest of the year. While many people have seen Sol Duc Falls, few have seen it as a raging torrent of water, further deepening the channels that erosion has caused. Once the rains start to fall, the waterfalls become much more impressive, with seasonal waterfalls springing up around every corner and well-established ones growing exponentially as more and more rain falls in the rain-forested valleys and steep mountains.
Elk are the reason that the Olympic National Park was formed. Due to mass hunting of these unique Roosevelt Elk, Teddy Roosevelt set aside the land to protect the elk habitat. Now, the elk are thriving, and seeing the males in the rut, with their huge antlers covered in moss to impress the ladies, is a sight to see. The best places to see elk are the Quinault and Hoh River Valleys, but smaller herds can be found up nearly every river in the park. Early morning and evenings are the best time to view and hear them, but with cooler weather each day, they become more active later in the season.
If you have never experienced a storm on the Washington Coast, seeing one near the sea-stacks of Olympic National Park needs to be added to your bucket list. Once October starts, storms become more frequent along the beaches, with huge swells, near hurricane force winds and torrential downpours blasting the rugged shores of the Pacific Northwest. The best places to see huge waves crashing against sea stacks are either the beaches near Kalaloch, LaPush or Shi Shi Beach, but nothing is quite as amazing as seeing a storm roll in from Cape Flattery, which is the northwestern-most point in the contiguous United States. From the bluffs on the Cape Flattery trail, watch the waves approach from miles away, pounding on the exposed rocks on which you are standing. There is no greater experience than standing here during a storm and no experience more true to the spirit of the Pacific Northwest. Be aware that Shi Shi and Cape Flattery are off-limits to non-tribal members during the Covid-19 Pandemic. We suggest Ruby Beach as a great backup option.
Whether you love eating mushrooms or enjoy seeing mass amounts of fungus spread across the rainforest floor, the trails during the fall months in Olympic National Park are a mushroom lover’s dream. With numerous edible species and far more inedible type of fungus around the park, here one can find some of the best in the world. With chanterelles in every forest, those looking for a unique delicacy are in for a treat. The best places to find mushrooms are near the Quinault, Hoh and Staircase regions of Olympic National Park, with the Staircase Region being most accessible for day trips from Seattle. Before you head out, check with the National Park and National Forest service for updated rules and regulations about foraging.
While salmon are common in nearly every river in the Pacific Northwest, Olympic National Park gives a unique and breathtaking salmon experience not found anywhere else. Each river in the park has a unique salmon run, but the two best locations to witness the event are the Hoh and Sol Duc Rivers. In late October and early November, the Coho salmon return to their spawning grounds, swimming upstream from the Pacific Ocean. Along the Sol Duc River, these determined fish are force to jump up a rocky waterfall called the Salmon Cascades. An extremely short trail and overlook have been built to help visitors witness this event, providing an up-close and personal look at the difficulties the salmon have to fulfill their lifelong purpose of spawning. On the Hoh River, things are a bit more calm. Lazily swimming and spawning in the small creeks around the Hoh Visitor Center, salmon can be seen by visitors as they walk along the Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rainforest. Seeing salmon swimming in small streams in a rainforest is an event that has occurred for thousands of years, and along the Hoh River, you can witness with very little effort. Salmon in the Pacific Northwest represent out hard-working determined spirit, and seeing these durable creatures fulfill their purpose is inspiring and beautiful, just like the fall months in Olympic National Park.
Want to Discover the Best Fall Experiences in Olympic National Park?
Only The Outdoor Society has compiled a book for the perfect autumn adventures in one of America’s Favorite National Park. This ebook, The Ultimate Fall Guide to Olympic National Park, is 260 pages, has full color images, links to important resources, and even full hiking information for 75+ of the best trails in and around Olympic National Park. If you haven’t experienced Olympic in the Fall, or if you are a local, this guide will help get you excited to explore one of America’s most popular National Parks. Fall in Olympic National park is a magical time for exploring. With salmon, elk, mushroom hunting, fall colors and even mountain snow, finding the best places to have an adventure in Olympic National Park has never been easier. Thanks to this ebook, you will be able to see the excitement of Fall throughout the region.