Heading on an Olympic Peninsula road trip? This 2 day Olympic Peninsula itinerary shares the best hikes, beaches, sights, and where to stay on the Olympic Peninsula!
The Olympic Peninsula, with its snow capped mountains, lakes, beaches, a National Park, and rainforests, is one of the most diverse spots in Washington. We love taking day and weekend trips out to the peninsula and hiking the beautiful trails, seeing waterfalls, and walking the beaches. There’s no other place like it in Washington!
We’re super pumped to share a 2 day itinerary for the Olympic Peninsula. It hits up some of our favorite spots, as well as popular spots we have yet to visit. Our travel philosophy is to see as much as we can in a short period of time, especially on a road trip, which is how we have structured this itinerary, so it’s really jam packed!
To make things easier, we are including the amount of hours driving and recommended amount of time for each stop to make sure you can squeeze it all in. (Note: The hours driving numbers are assuming that Seattle is your starting and ending point.) Don’t let the hours driving scare you, driving on the peninsula is part of the experience!
If you want to slow down and spend more time at each place, we recommend either cutting some of the stops that are less appealing to you or adding on an extra day and spreading it all out. It’s impossible to enjoy everything the peninsula has to offer in 2 days, so we also included some additional activities if you want to extend your Olympic Peninsula road trip or take additional trips in the future.
PS: If you’re looking for more ideas of things to do in Washington, check out all of our Washington blogs & guides! Some of our favorites include:
- 3 Days in Seattle
- Seattle Bucket List
- A Weekend in North Cascades National Park
- Our 37 Favorite Hikes in Washington
- 6 Seattle Day Trips
Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!
These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.
When to visit the Olympic Peninsula
The Olympic Peninsula can be a great place to visit any time of the year, depending on what you’re hoping to do. With a wide variety of climates, it is very common for there to be different weather happening in different regions of the park, so even if it will be rainy in one area, it may be nice in another.
For example, the western side of the peninsula gets significantly more rain than the eastern side of the peninsula. The Olympic Mountains act as an obstacle for storms, which causes moisture to be released on the western side of the peninsula so the storms can pass the mountains. The eastern side of the peninsula is therefore in a rain shadow and receives much less rain.
We have visited the Olympic Peninsula during every season and each season has had its pros and cons. In the winter, expect there to be much more rainfall on the western side of the peninsula and lot of snow up in the mountains, making some spots on this itinerary not as accessible (some campgrounds and roads will be closed).
In the spring, the weather becomes nicer, but can still be a bit unpredictable. There’s snow still in the mountains and some rain. We did our first ever backpacking trip to the Hoh Rainforest in April. We got rained on the whole time, but it was still a blast!
By the summer, the rain chances are much lower, snow has melted, and the temperatures are warmer. The summer, similar to basically anywhere in the PNW, is typically the best time to visit! However, there can sometimes be fog on the coast and the peninsula will likely be more crowded during this time.
The fall can be a bit iffy, especially in late fall, when it comes to rain and snow. We have visited in early November and been able to visit high elevation spots just fine, but this can vary week by week. Warning: campgrounds and roads can be closed during this time.
Getting to & around the Olympic Peninsula
The Olympic Peninsula, depending on where you are going, is located around 2-3 hours from Seattle. If you’re visiting Washington, we recommend flying into Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to begin your Olympic Peninsula adventure!
You will definitely need to have a car to get to and around the Olympic Peninsula, but you do have a few options of how to actually get to the peninsula.
You can either drive the entire way or drive and take the Bainbridge ferry. For this Olympic Peninsula road trip itinerary we will suggest driving through Olympia. But don’t worry, you can take the ferry on the way back, which we will cover at the end of this guide.
Where to stay on the Olympic Peninsula
One thing we love about the Olympic Peninsula is how remote and untouched some areas are. However, this can make it a bit trickier to find places to stay.
For this Olympic Peninsula itinerary we suggest staying on the west side of the peninsula, which will be convenient after the first day of your trip and to start your second day.
If you want to camp, we suggest camping at Mora Campground, Second Beach, or Rialto Beach. A few things to note:
- Camping at Second Beach and Rialto Beach requires a permit.
- Mora Campground takes reservations for June 10-September 16, so plan to lock down your spot early!
There are also some free campgrounds (with a Discover Pass) around the peninsula. For this guide we suggest Bear Creek Campground, as it’ll be convenient for where you’ll start day 2!
If you want something a more comfortable, we suggest looking at this Cabin in Forks, Tiny Home in Forks, or the Manitou Lodge Bed & Breakfast.
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Olympic Peninsula Road Trip: Day 1
Total hours driving: 5.5
The first day of your Olympic Peninsula road trip will take you through Olympia, along the coast, and into the rain forest! We suggest getting out the door by 7 AM at the latest (earlier is even better!) to make sure you have enough time for everything this day.
Stop #1: Olympia Coffee Roasting Company
Length of stop: 30 mins
Grab some coffee at Olympia Coffee Roasting Company. We love this spot and always make a stop here on the way to the Peninsula. Their lattes and Americanos are delicious and you can even catch a glimpse into their roasting facility.
Tip: While in Olympia, pick up a picnic lunch at the store for later.
Stop #2: Ruby Beach
Length of stop: 1-2 hours
Ruby Beach is one of our favorite beaches on the coast! From the parking lot (which has probably 20-25 spots), you follow a short and slightly steep trail down to the beach.
The trail takes about 5-10 minutes and across a bunch of driftwood, so if uneven ground is challenging for you, you may have a more difficult time with this hike.
At the beach, there is tons of driftwood to explore, sea stacks, and what feels like an endless beach to walk on. We have visited here many times, all throughout different times of the year and it has never felt overly crowded to us. But make sure to arrive early to get parking!
We suggest exploring this beach for a while and eating your picnic lunch. If you can, try to visit at low tide if possible to see some cool sea life (you can check the tide schedule here).
Stop #3: The Hoh Rainforest
Length of stop: 1-2 hours
The Hoh Rainforest is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the US and is absolutely magical! The trees are covered in this bright green moss and runs along the river, making you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale.
One of the best things about the Hoh Rainforest is that it is super easy to access and explore. You could walk for just 30 minutes and get to experience the beauty. Some of the short hikes we’d recommend are the Hall of the Mosses trail (0.8 miles round trip) and the Spruce Nature trail (1.2 miles).
This is also a great place to go backpacking due to the many campsites and relatively flat elevation. We took our first ever backpacking trip here and had a blast!
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We use AllTrails+ on every single hike and it is the most helpful hiking tool out there! Some of the features we love are offline maps (so we can navigate even without cell service), wrong-turn alerts, and its 3D maps feature, so we can get a feel for trails before we hike.
Stop #4: Second Beach or Rialto Beach
Length of stop: 2-3 hours
Spend the rest of the day at Second Beach or Rialto Beach!
If you’re doing well on time and it’s close to low tide, head to Rialto beach and walk to the Hole in the Wall, which is 3.8 miles round trip along the beach. You can only safely visit Hole in the Wall if it’s low tide, so make sure that you have enough time to visit before the tide changes!
If you’re running low on time or not there during low tide, Second Beach would be a better bet. It requires a 15-20 minute walk from the parking lot to the beach. Both are great places to watch the sunset!
Stop #5: Have dinner
After a fun day of exploring, have some dinner! Warning: Restaurant options are pretty limited on parts of the Olympic Peninsula, so don’t expect the fanciest or best meal of your life. But here are a few dinner ideas for you:
- Pack a picnic to take to the beach (you can stop by the grocery store in Forks along the way)
- River’s Edge Restaurant in La Push
- There aren’t a ton of dining options in Forks, but some decent spots are FYABES Mexican Cuisine, Taqueria Santa Ana or BBG Blakeslee’s Bar & Grille (21+ only)
Olympic Peninsula Road Trip: Day 2
Total hours driving: 7-7.5
On day 2 of your Olympic Peninsula road trip you’ll visit the northwestern-most point of the continental US, see a gorgeous lake surrounded by mountains, get a close up look at the Olympic mountains, and chase a waterfall before heading back to Seattle. Try to get on the road between 7-8 AM to make sure you have enough time!
Stop #1: Have Breakfast!
Similar to dinner, breakfast options are a bit scarce on the Olympic Peninsula. If you’re staying at the cabin, yurt, or B&B we suggested earlier in this guide, breakfast is provided. And if you’re camping, crack some eggs over a fire to start your morning.
If none of the above, we suggest grabbing something at the store so you can hit the road early!
Stop #2: Cape Flattery
Length of stop: 1 hour
Cape Flattery is one of our favorite stops on the Olympic Peninsula! It’s the Northwesternmost point of the contiguous U.S. and is so stunning.
A quick 1.2 mile walk through the woods, with only a 219 ft elevation gain, brings you to a few viewpoints overlooking rock formations and the beautiful blue ocean. The drive out there is long, but scenic and worth it in our opinion!
Note: This spot is maintained by the Makah Tribe and you have to purchase a recreation permit in advance. You find find where to purchase one here.
Stop #3: Lake Crescent
Length of stop: 2 hours
Lake Crescent is a gorgeous, 650 feet deep lake (but some say it may be deeper) nestled in the mountains. We love visiting this lake for the views alone, but there is also a lot to do here!
We suggest soaking up the mountain and water views along the shore of Lake Crescent (park by the lodge). You can eat lunch here at the Lake Crescent Lodge Restaurant or bring a picnic lunch to eat on the beach. If you have more time to spend, you can also rent a kayak.
While you’re at Lake Crescent, we highly suggest making the quick and easy 1.8 mile hike to Marymere Falls. This waterfall is beautiful!
There are some other hikes in the area you could consider as well:
- Mount Storm King, which is a difficult 4.7 miles and 2,065 ft elevation gain. We’d personally save this for its own day since it’s challenging.
- Spruce Railroad Trail (Closed until November 2020): This up to 10 mile round trip hike is relatively flat with only a 250 ft elevation gain, but the most popular part of the hike is only a mile in. This spot has a bridge that goes across the lake and on the right hand side is a gorgeous, still pool of water called the Punchbowl.
Stop #4: Hurricane Ridge
Length of stop: 1 hour
Hurricane Ridge is another one of our absolute favorite spots on the Olympic Peninsula. It is the most easily accessible mountainous area on the peninsula, with a steep, paved road from sea level to 5,242 feet.
It costs $30/car to get to the top of Hurricane Ridge, but free if you have the America the Beautiful Pass, which is $80/year and gets you access to all National Monuments and Parks. It’s totally worth the cost!
At the top, you’ll be able to admire the breathtaking view of the Olympic Mountain range, visit the Olympic National Park visitor center, and maybe even see some deer. It’s absolutely incredible!
If you are doing well on time and want to add a hike to this stop, Hurricane Hill is 3.1 miles and 797 ft elevation gain.
Note: While Hurricane Ridge is typically accessible year round, they do sometimes close the road in the winter, so check the Olympic National Park website for updates.
Stop #5: Grab Dinner
After another amazing day on the Olympic Peninsula, grab dinner in Port Angeles! A couple spots we recommend are: Next Door Gastropub and Sabai Thai Cuisine.
Running low on time? There are a lot of quick, fast food spots in Port Angeles too!
Getting back from the Olympic Peninsula
Depending on where “home” is, you have the option to drive the entire way or take a ferry part of the way.
You can catch the ferry in three different areas on the Olympic Peninsula back to the Seattle area: Kingston, Bainbridge Island, and Bremerton.
The ferry costs around $30, depending on the size of your vehicle. But it’s a super fun experience and a nice break from driving!
You could also stay the night in Port Angeles if you’re feeling tired and don’t want to head home yet.
If you have extra time…
If you have more than 2 days on the Olympic Peninsula or just want some other ideas, here’s a list of some of our other favorite stops on the peninsula!
- Tree of Life: This tree hangs between two bluffs and despite having no soil for its roots, it’s still growing!
- Lake Cushman: drive around the lake, kayak, or explore the trails nearby
- Mount Ellinor: we recommend starting at the Upper Trailhead, which is 3.2 miles round trip and 2,444 ft elevation gain
- Murhut Falls: 1.5 miles, 390 ft elevation gain
- Lena Lake: 6.2 miles, 1,500 ft elevation gain
- Quinault Lake/Rainforest
- Shi Shi Beach & Point of the Arches: 8.8 miles, 560 ft elevation gain. Requires a Makah Tribe pass.
- Mount Storm King: 4.1 miles, 2,100 ft elevation gain.
- Sol Duc Falls Nature Trail: 1.6 miles, 226 ft elevation gain
- Port Townsend: wander around this cute waterfront town. Hungry? Grab brunch at Blue Moose Cafe or Owl Spirit Cafe.
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