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Seattle To Olympic National Park: Best Routes & Stops

If you think a trip from Seattle to Olympic National Park is just a boring car ride, think again.

Trust us, we’ve made this pilgrimage a handful of times, always promising, “This time will be different.” Spoiler alert: it never is, but not for the reasons you might think.

Turns out, each trek is a unique blend of “Are we there yet?” and “Wow, did you see that?” moments.

For those of you scratching your heads, wondering whether you should take the ferry, drive around, or maybe even hike (because, why not?), we’re here to put you at ease and give you the scoop on the best routes to the park.


Short On Time? Here’s The Scoop

Your Quick Guide To Olympic National Park From Seattle

Mileage Between Seattle & Olympic National Park: Between 100 and 225 miles, depending on the park entrance you choose
Route Options: 3, Driving along the Northern Olympic Peninsula, Driving along the Southern Olympic Peninsula, or the Ferry + Drive
Best Stop On Northern Route: Sequim
Best Stop On Southern Route: Olympia
Average Time In Car: 3 to 4 hours

What To Know About Olympic National Park Before Deciding Your Route

Before we discuss the routes available, we need to discuss the regions (or ecosystems) of the park. Why? Because where you want to visit plays an important role in which route you take.

If you already know where you want to spend your time, feel free to skip ahead to our suggested routes.


Olympic National Park isn’t just any old park. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of natural beauty, packing not one, not two, but three ecosystems into its vast expanse.

We’ve got the frosty mountaintops, the moody rainforests, and the Instagram-worthy Pacific Coast.

However, we’re letting you in on a little secret—there’s an unofficial fourth ecosystem, in our opinion, the valleys.

Yes, those often overlooked, underappreciated slices of paradise that are just waiting for their moment in the spotlight.

Let’s take a quick look at each ecosystem to help you decide which part of the park you want to explore.

Mountains

hurricane ridge in the mountain region of olympic national park in summer with purple flowers in bloom and mountains in the the distance
Credit: Depositphotos

The mountains—you think you’ve seen ’em all until you waltz into Olympic National Park and get smacked in the face with the sheer awesomeness of Hurricane Ridge (and other white-topped beauties).

It’s not just another pretty view; it’s THE place where the drama of the Olympic Mountains unfolds like a reality TV show, minus the commercials.

Imagine a spot where you can stand and play “I Spy” with wildflower meadows, snow-capped peaks, and, if you’re lucky, the elusive Olympic marmot—yeah, that’s right, a marmot that’s got its own exclusive Olympic fan club.

And here’s a kicker: Hurricane Ridge isn’t just for the summer selfie crowd; it’s a year-round superstar. You can literally throw a snowball in winter and chase butterflies in spring without leaving the park.

It serves up panoramic views that’ll make your followers green with envy, all while whispering, “This, my friend, is the unfiltered, untamed Pacific Northwest.”

Valleys

Because not everyone’s cut out for the thigh-busting thrill of mountain climbing, let’s head into the valleys.

Down in the chill zone of Olympic National Park, specifically the Sol Duc and Elwha Valleys, it’s all about taking it easy.

Sol Duc is basically the park’s spa day package, with hot springs that beg the question, “Why pay for a mud mask?” And then there’s Sol Duc Falls, one of the most popular Olympic National Park waterfalls, showing off its water-splitting hair flips that put even the best shampoo commercials to shame.

Meanwhile, the Elwha Valley’s been playing the long game, showing off its eco-glow-up after the biggest dam removal party in U.S. history. Salmon are back, baby, and they’re here to stay.

The valleys region of the park is a serene retreat for those who prefer nature with a side of relaxation. And might just be the best place to spot the park’s bears if you are looking.

Rainforests

a moss covered tree in hoh rainforest in olympic national park
© Discover Parks & Wildlife

Oh, and then there’s the rainforest—because, of course, a place as overachieving as Olympic National Park just has to have one of the only temperate rainforests in the U.S.

Welcome to the Hoh and Quinault, where the trees are so old and wise that you half expect them to start dispensing life advice.

“Stay mossy, my friends,” the ancient Sitka spruce and western hemlock seem to whisper among themselves (probably).

With up to 14 feet of rain yearly, the Hoh is less of a “rain” forest and more of a “how-is-everything-not-a-floating-raft” forest. It’s a moss-covered, fern-garnished spectacle where everything is fifty shades of green and dripping with mystery.

Then there’s the Quinault, strutting around with the world’s largest Sitka spruce like it’s no big deal. Yeah, we get it, Quinault, you’re fabulous.

This part of the park stole our hearts, hands down. It’s like stepping into another world where the laws of reality politely excuse themselves at the door.

You’ve got moss that’s taken the “go big or go home” motto more seriously than any high school football coach we’ve known, and small waterfalls that pop up around every corner like nature’s own version of a popup ad—except you’re actually thrilled to see these.

Pacific Coast

Finally, there’s the Pacific Coast of Olympic National Park, a slice of the world that looks like Mother Nature threw a temper tantrum with some serious artistic flair.

Imagine beaches like Rialto and Ruby, where the sea stacks stand tall like the world’s most dramatic game of Jenga, and the sands are littered with enough driftwood to build a small, albeit very uncomfortable, village.

The tide pools are basically nature’s aquariums, showcasing more marine life than your local pet store, and yes, that’s a challenge. Sea otters? They’re just out there, living their best comeback story, frolicking in the waters like they own the place (because, technically, they do).

This coast isn’t just part of the Olympic wilderness; it’s a VIP section of the planet where nature has basically said, “Nope, humans, you can’t sit with us,” preserving its wild, unspoiled beauty.

How To Get To Olympic National Park From Seattle

Finding the best way to get to Olympic National Park from Seattle is an adventure in itself — and no, despite your hopes and dreams, teleportation isn’t an option… yet.

Seattle to Hurricane Ridge Via Driving

Hitting the road from Seattle to Hurricane Ridge is less “Nothing to see here?” and more “Can we turn around for a photo?” Seriously, it’s like Mother Nature shotgunned a Red Bull and went all out decorating.

This ride along US-101 serves up coastal eye candy, forest galore, and small towns that scream quirky.

map with route from seattle to hurricane ridge entrance of olympic national park
Credit: Googlemaps

Perfect Route For A Visit To:

  • Mountains Region
  • Valleys Region
  • North Half of the Pacific Coast

Ferry To Olympic National Park From Seattle

Jumping on the ferry from Seattle to Olympic National Park is basically like a VIP limo service. Why sit in traffic when you can cruise on Puget Sound, taking in the scenic waterfront views, and maybe even spotting a dolphin or two if they’re not too busy?

It’s the scenic detour you didn’t know you needed but appreciate once you have it.

There are a couple of ferry options from Seattle, including heading to Bainbridge Island as well as Bremerton.

Choosing Bainbridge Island for our ferry route turned out to be the unsung hero of our trip. Not only did we get an incredible panorama of the Seattle skyline, making everyone back home green with envy, but the entire ride felt like we were on a leisurely cruise minus the fancy dinner attire and shuffleboard.

If you want a refreshing change of pace, this is our top choice of the options available.

a google map of the route from seattle to olympic national park via the ferry crossing from seattle to bainbridge island
Credit: Googlemaps

Perfect Route For A Visit To:

  • Mountains Region
  • Valleys Region
  • North Half of the Pacific Coast

Seattle To Hoh Rainforest Via Driving

Driving from Seattle to the Hoh Rainforest is like toggling the scenic mode on your GPS. You’ll wind through towns so quaint they could be on postcards and landscapes so green that you’ll wonder if you’re still on Earth.

It’s your gateway to tree-hugging 101, right in the park’s mossy, cedar-scented heart.

google map of the route from seattle to the hoh rainforest area of olympic national park, this route takes you around the south of the olympic peninsula
Credit: Googlemaps

Perfect Route For A Visit To:

  • Rainforests Region

Seattle To Ruby Beach Via Driving

Get ready for a road trip from Seattle to the Pacific Coast that’ll make you question whether you’ve teleported to a screensaver.

This southern trek through the Olympic Peninsula turns every traveler into an amateur photographer, itching to capture where wild forests crash into the drama of Washington’s coastlines.

google map of drive between seattle and ruby beach, this route travels the southern part of the olympic peninsula
Credit: Googlemaps

Perfect Route For A Visit To:

  • South Half of the Pacific Coast

Olympic National Park Distance From Seattle

  • Seattle to Hurricane Ridge Entrance via the North Route: Between 100 to 155 miles, depending on if you take the ferry across or drive
  • Seattle to Hoh Rainforest Entrance via the South Route: 216 miles
  • Seattle to Pacific Coast: 150 to 185 miles, depending on the beach you choose and whether you drive around the north or the south of the Olympic Peninsula

7 Best Stops To Enjoy While Driving To Olympic National Park From Seattle

Why rush straight to the park when you can turn your drive into an adventure-packed sideshow featuring attractions so good they almost make you forget your final destination?

Let’s take a look at just a few of our recommendations.

Along The Northern Route Of The Olympic Peninsula

If you thought the Seattle to Port Angeles drive was just about getting from A to B to head into the park, spoiler alert: it’s also a treasure hunt for those who love a good pit stop with a side of “Wow, didn’t see that coming.”

1. Gig Harbor

Distance From Seattle: 44 miles

a wooden dock leading to sailboats in gig harbor
Credit: Depositphotos

Gig Harbor, where the past and present do a little dance by the water.

Discovered by accident in 1841 by some Navy guys who were probably asking for directions, it’s the kind of place that makes you go, “They found this beauty while lost?!”

Fast forward to now, and it’s a quaint maritime village that’s a magnet for anyone with a penchant for artsy vibes, killer shopping spots, and all things water-related.

Fancy a bit of history with your ocean breeze? Gig’s got you. In fact, it’s been drawing in fisherfolk and boat lovers for ages, proving that some places just have that timeless charm.

Things to do in Gig Harbor:

  • Kayak in the Harbor: Why walk when you can glide on water like some sort of maritime superhero?
  • Explore the Harbor History Museum: A place where you can pretend to be a historian or just enjoy learning that, yes, places other than your living room have history, too.
  • Stroll along the Waterfront: Perfect for practicing your “thoughtful look into the distance” pose for photo ops.

2. Winslow on Bainbridge Island

Distance From Seattle: 10 miles via ferry or 92 miles via driving only

winslow on bainbridge island with boats moored along the shore next to a garden with sculptures
Credit: Depositphotos

Winslow, the self-proclaimed gem of Bainbridge Island, practically begs you to ditch the Seattle bustle for its small-town drama.

It’s like those old sitcoms where everybody knows your name, but with more trees and art galleries.

The local dedication to sustainability? It’s like everyone’s competing to be the next eco-warrior superhero—recycle bin cosplay, anyone?

And the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art loves flaunting its free admission like it’s the town’s golden ticket—step right up for your dose of culture, minus the price tag.

Nature, art, and a no-cost ticket to sophistication? Winslow’s practically a trifecta of “Why not?”

Things to do in Winslow:

  • Visit the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art: Because staring at art is how you upscale your brain and impress your friends.
  • Bicycle Around the Island: Experience the island’s scenic beauty at a pace that’ll make you feel like you’re in a low-budget indie movie.
  • Sample Local Wines at the Wineries: It’s like global wine tasting, but you don’t need a passport, just a robust palate and the ability to nod thoughtfully.

3. Sequim

Distance From Seattle: 67 miles via ferry or 122 miles via driving only

a lavender ice cream sign sits among a field of lavender in sequim
Credit: Depositphotos
rows of purple and white lavender in sequim washington
Credit: Depositphotos

Oh, Sequim, that legendary patch of green where lavender plants think they’re in the French countryside, not the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks to some geographical wizardry and a bit of mountain shade, Sequim fancies itself as the U.S. answer to Provence, minus the fantastic accent.

It’s “Sunny Sequim,” the town that somehow dodged the classic Washington memo of rain, rain, and—surprise—more rain.

Here, the lavender is so abundant that you might just start questioning whether you’ve accidentally bathed in your grandma’s potpourri.

But it’s not all about sniffing flowers—Sequim serves as your entrance pass to the great outdoors, offering a front-row seat to Dungeness Spit, which is as much a natural wonder as it is fun to say.

Things to do in Sequim:

  • Frolic in Lavender Fields: Ever wanted to recreate those fancy perfume commercials? Here’s your chance.
  • Bike the Olympic Discovery Trail: Feel the wind in your hair and question every life choice that led you to not do this sooner.
  • Visit the Dungeness Spit: Gaze at a ridiculously long sand spit and wonder, “Why on earth is it named after a crab?”

4. Port Angeles

Distance From Seattle: 82 miles via ferry or 138 miles via driving only

port angeles waterfront with a dock and observation point out on the water
Credit: Depositphotos

Port Angeles, perched at the edge of the Olympic Peninsula like it’s thinking about jumping into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is more than just a place with a cool, angsty name.

It’s the town where seafood gets its own festival, and honestly, who wouldn’t celebrate the almighty Dungeness crab? It’s like Mardi Gras for crustacean enthusiasts.

Plus, this place is so artsy that you might trip over a sculpture walking down the street or accidentally find yourself in a gallery if you’re not careful.

And here’s a fun fact: it’s closer to Canada than it is to a Starbucks in Seattle.

Things to do in Port Angeles:

  • Stroll Along the Waterfront: Perfect for pretending you’re deep in thought while actually scoping out the best food trucks.
  • Explore Underground Heritage Tours: Discover the city beneath the city because who doesn’t love a bit of subterranean mystery?
  • Join a Whale Watching Cruise: Spot majestic whales and act like you knew they were orcas without the guide telling you.

Along The Southern Route

The southern Olympic Peninsula driving route to the national park is where the real adventure begins, featuring stops so enchanting you’ll start questioning whether you accidentally drove into a fantasy novel.

5. Tacoma

Distance From Seattle: 34 miles

mount rainier at sunset rises above the city of tacoma in washington
Credit: Depositphotos

Tacoma isn’t just your average city – oh no, it’s where the vibe of an industrial powerhouse meets the finesse of the art world.

Ever strolled through a city and found yourself under an absolutely jaw-droppingly gorgeous bridge made entirely of glass? Yeah, that’s Tacoma for you, flaunting its Museum of Glass like it’s the bee’s knees (who came up with this saying anyway?!).

And because we all love a good makeover story, Tacoma went and turned its once gritty waterfront into the Ruston Way promenade. Now, it’s where everyone goes to ogle at Puget Sound and Mount Rainier when they pretend to jog.

Seriously, Tacoma’s glow-up from industrial beast to a cultural feast with a side of nature appreciation is pretty epic.

Things to do in Tacoma:

  • Visit the Museum of Glass: Marvel at the possibility of glass being more than just windows and accidentally start planning your new career as a glass artist.
  • Stroll through Point Defiance Park: Lose yourself in 760 acres of natural beauty or find yourself, depending on how existential you’re feeling.
  • Explore the Tacoma Art Museum: See art pieces that make you go, “I could do that,” then remember your struggle with stick figure drawings.

6. Olympia

Distance From Seattle: 61 miles

the capital building in olympia at sunset, seen behind a garden in front
Credit: Depositphotos

Slip into Olympia, Washington’s answer to the question, “Can a city be both a political powerhouse and a nature lover’s paradise?” Spoiler alert: Yes, yes it can.

With its downtown area that practically begs you to ditch your car and walk, you’ll find shops that sell things you never knew you needed and art galleries that make you feel cultured just by standing in them.

Then there’s the food – oh, the food! It’s like every meal is a bid for your undying love.

And if that wasn’t enough, Olympia throws in access to the Olympic Peninsula like it’s no big thing, turning the great outdoors into your personal playground.

Things to do in Olympia:

  • Bask in the Olympia Farmers Market: Where you can buy vegetables so fresh, they might start singing about their life stories.
  • Tour the State Capitol Building: Because nothing says “I’m an adult,” like appreciating architecture and history. And hey, it’s free!
  • Sample local brews at Olympia’s craft breweries: Engage in a noble quest to find your new favorite beer, or at least boast about your refined palette.

7. Forks

Distance From Seattle: 211 miles

Jenny standing next to the "city of forks welcomes you" sign in washington
© Discover Parks & Wildlife

Forks might sound like your run-of-the-mill, sleepy town tucked away on the Olympic Peninsula, flanked by rainforests.

But it turns out it’s the kind of place where the trees might know more Hollywood gossip than we do, thanks to its starring role in a certain vampire saga that had everyone questioning their relationship with the sun.

Once famous for its logging prowess – and yes, they throw an entire festival for it because why not celebrate trees by showcasing how well you can chop them down? – Forks now enjoys the spotlight as the moody backdrop for “Twilight.”

The franchise turned it from a lumber hub to a bucket-list spot for those who dig the whole nature-meets-novelty vibe.

Come for the trees, stay for the chance to spot a sparkling vampire – that’s the Forks promise.

We spent a bit of time in Forks on our visit to the Olympic Peninsula, and while we were slightly crushed not to bump into any vampires (seriously, not even one Edward look-alike?), the stunning surroundings more than made up for it.

If you’re going into the trip hoping your love story with a vampire begins in Forks, you might want to dial those expectations down. Instead, get ready to fall head over hiking boots with the natural beauty.

By the way, if you want to do an overnighter, Forks is the perfect place!

Things to do in Forks:

  • Ponder the Twilight Saga sights: Fulfill that teenage dream, secretly or not, by visiting the spots that inspired the books. Sparkling is not guaranteed.
  • Visit the Forks Timber Museum: You’ll learn that logging isn’t just about flannel shirts and yelling “Timber!”
  • Explore the beaches of La Push: Where you can pretend to be in a music video, dramatically looking out over the sea, contemplating life’s vast mysteries.

How To Get Around Olympic National Park

Navigating Olympic National Park is pretty straightforward if you remember one golden rule: there’s no magical bus to whisk you away. Yep, this isn’t Hogwarts, so be prepared to wish you had a flying broom—or at least a car.

Seriously, owning a set of wheels (or renting them!) is as essential as knowing which end of a compass points north because, fun fact, Olympic National Park sprawls over a whopping 922,651 acres.

That’s a lot of ground to cover, and unless you’re planning on sprouting wings or befriending a local eagle, having your own car is the only way to roll.

With no bus system to speak of, you’ll have the freedom to explore at your own pace—assuming you remember where you parked, of course.

a road through olympic national park leading off around the bend surrounded by tall green trees along the roadway
© Discover Parks & Wildlife

Best Seattle To Olympic National Park Tour

Oh, so you’re rebelling against the car rental mafia, are you?

Fear not, dear adventurer sans vehicle, for your dreams of frolicking in Olympic National Park aren’t as crushed as your spirit when you saw the rental prices.

Sure, you’re sacrificing the “stop-anywhere-to-take-a-selfie” freedom, but who needs that when you’ve signed up for the rollercoaster that is the all-day, small-group, natural wonders on wheels tour?

Led by a guide who’s probably more outdoorsy than anyone you’ve met, you’ll traipse through ancient forests, gawk at those big blue ocean views, and squint at mountain peaks so majestic, you’ll wonder if they’re real or just a very convincing backdrop.

Luxury vans or SUVs are your chariots, complete with nature walks that don’t require you to be half mountain goat.

Snowshoes in winter? Sure, because apparently, we’re pretending to be polar explorers now.

And because wandering through a forest works up an appetite, there’s a gourmet picnic lunch thrown in, along with snacks and enough beverages to make sure you’re more hydrated than a cucumber.

All of that without ever touching a steering wheel.

Check Prices and Availability for this Tour

a lake with driftwood sits below green mountains with the tops covered with fog
© Discover Parks & Wildlife

FAQs: Olympic National Park To Seattle

Now, for the moment you’ve all been secretly waiting for—dishing out answers to those burning questions that keep you up at night, wondering about the options between Seattle and Olympic National Park.

Is There A Ferry From Seattle To Olympic National Park?

Oh, absolutely! Crossing the Puget Sound by ferry is practically a rite of passage. Imagine standing on the deck, wind in your hair, feeling like the captain of your very own adventure. It’s scenic, it’s breezy, and it’s the perfect opener for your “I braved the elements” story. Who needs a bridge when you’ve got ferry-style?

How Long Is The Ferry From Seattle To Olympic National Park?

Enjoy a rip-roaring 35 minutes to one hour of pure, unadulterated ferry bliss. That’s right, depending on which ferry you fancy that day, you could spend less time on the water than it takes to watch an episode of that series you’re binging. Talk about an efficient sea-crossing.

Do You Need A Car In Olympic National Park?

Oh, you could try hitchhiking or befriending a local deer to chauffeur you around, but yeah, you’ll need a car. Olympic National Park isn’t exactly bursting with buses or shuttles waiting to cart you from one breathtaking viewpoint to another. It’s all on you. Freedom comes with four wheels in this vast wilderness.

How Much Time Do You Need To See Olympic National Park?

Ah yes, the age-old question that’s up there with “What’s the meaning of life?” Honestly, trying to squeeze Olympic National Park into a quick jaunt is like trying to read “War and Peace” on a coffee break. Give yourself at least three days. Anything less, and you’ll be doing the natural wonders a serious disservice.

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Olympic National Park?

Picture this: you, wrapped in seven layers of clothing, exploring Olympic National Park in the dead of winter. Romantic, right? Not so much. Aim for summer or early fall when you can actually feel your face and the scenery doesn’t resemble a giant freezer. That’s prime time for pretending you’re in a nature documentary without the frostbite.


  • And just when you thought we were done, plot twist! Ready to trade your sofa for some real splash action? Check out our suggestions for Olympic NP waterfalls because who needs a shower when nature offers the full-body experience?

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