Visiting Olympic National Park with Kids

Visiting Olympic National Park with kids will be a memorable experience for all. This incredible park offers such unique experiences that your days will be dedicated to exploring each region and connecting with nature.

The best things to do in Olympic National Park with kids are:

  1. Stop at the visitor centers
  2. Work through the Junior Ranger Program
  3. Hike the Hall of Mosses Trail
  4. Take a swim in the Sol Duc Hot Springs
  5. Hike to Sunrise Point
  6. Go tide-pooling at Ruby Beach
  7. Kayak at Lake Crescent
  8. Shop and eat ice cream in Port Angeles

Nestled in the Pacific Northwest, Olympic National Park is one of the most captivating national parks in the United States. With its diverse range of landscapes, from glistening glaciers to lush rainforests, Olympic National Park is truly a gem in the national park system.

Playing host to over a million visitors each year, Olympic National Park has something to offer for everyone.

We’ll explore the reasons why Olympic National Park is considered the most diverse of all national parks and why it should be on every nature lover’s bucket list.

Olympic National Park

The Diversity of Olympic National Park

One of the reasons why Olympic National Park is considered so unique is its wide range of landscapes and ecosystems. In just one park, visitors can experience the beauty of glaciers, alpine meadows, lush rainforests, and rugged coastline.

These distinct ecosystems are home to an incredible array of wildlife from black bears and mountain lions to bald eagles and sea otters.

The park’s diverse landscapes are the result of its location which straddles the boundary between the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic Mountains. The mountains act as a barrier causing the prevailing westerly winds to drop their moisture on the western side of the park, resulting in a lush rainforest that receives over 140 inches of rainfall each year!

On the other hand, the eastern side of the park is much drier with a more arid climate due to the rainshadow effect caused by the Olympic Mountains.

Visit the Exhibits and Visitor Centers

Olympic National Park features several visitor centers. Each center is located in different sections of the park and features different exhibits.

We suggest that as soon as you enter Olympic National Park with kids, you stop at a visitor center. Pick up Junior Ranger Books, and check the Ranger Program listings.

Between the programs and the exhibits, you and the kids will get a crash course in what makes Olympic National Park so special!

1. Olympic National Park Visitor Center (Port Angeles):

  • Location: Situated near the park’s northern entrance in Port Angeles.
  • Highlights: Offers exhibits on the park’s ecosystems, wildlife, and cultural history. Provides information on hiking trails, camping, and ranger-led programs.
  • Services: Information desk, bookstore, restrooms, and knowledgeable park rangers for guidance.

2. Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center:

  • Location: Located at Hurricane Ridge, about 17 miles south of Port Angeles.
  • Highlights: Offers stunning panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains. Interpretive exhibits showcase alpine flora and fauna.
  • Services: Information desk, gift shop, exhibits on wildlife and geology, restrooms, and ranger-led programs.
  • This location is temporarily closed due to a fire in May of 2023.

3. Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center:

  • Location: Situated in the Hoh Rain Forest, accessible from Highway 101.
  • Highlights: Showcases the unique rainforest ecosystem with moss-draped trees and diverse plant life. Offers exhibits on rainforest ecology and guided nature walks.
  • Services: Information desk, nature trails, restrooms, and ranger programs during peak seasons.

4. Kalaloch Ranger Station:

  • Location: Located near the Kalaloch Campground and Lodge, along Highway 101.
  • Highlights: Focuses on coastal ecology and provides information about beach access, tide pools, and wildlife viewing along the coast.
  • Services: Information desk, tide pool exploration, beach access, restrooms, and ranger-led programs.

5. Quinault Rainforest Ranger Station:

  • Location: Near Lake Quinault Lodge, accessible from Highway 101.
  • Highlights: Offers insights into the lush Quinault Rainforest, including exhibits on old-growth forests, wildlife, and scenic hikes.
  • Services: Information desk, interpretive trails, restrooms, and ranger programs.

6. Elwha Valley Ranger Station:

  • Location: Near the Elwha Campground and Elwha River.
  • Highlights: Focuses on the restoration of the Elwha River and its ecosystem after dam removal. Provides information on river-related activities and hikes.
  • Services: Information desk, river access, hiking trails, restrooms, and ranger programs.

Each visitor center in Olympic National Park offers its own unique experience. At this park, even more than most, it is essential to visit each center’s exhibits to fully appreciate that section of the park.

Kids love exploring visitor centers. I love exploring visitor centers. There usually bathrooms, snacks, souvenirs, and interpretive trails nearby!

Yes. Start at the visitor center!

The Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park

One of the most famous and unique landscapes in Olympic National Park is the Hoh Rainforest. This temperate rainforest is considered one of the largest in the world and is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species.

This rainforest is even home to the endangered marbled murrelet, a sea bird that nests in the forest’s ancient trees!

When visiting Olympic National Park with kids, the Hoh Rainforest is a must-visit!

It offers easy hiking trails, stunning waterfalls, and a peaceful atmosphere that is unparalleled in the national park system.

The Hall of Mosses Trail is just under a mile and begins at the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center. It is the perfect stroll for introducing guests to the magnificence and characteristics of the rainforest.

The Hoh River Trail is another popular trail. Though it is over 18 miles long, there are multiple turnaround points, making it perfect for families.

Admittedly, at the first river view along this trail, my children witnessed their first scene of nude adults frolicking in the water. We were a little surprised, but I guess it makes for a good “trail story!”

The Hoh Rainforest is a required stop for those working through their Junior Ranger programs. It is well worth it and can accommodated anyone’s needs and curiosities!

The Sol Duc Valley in Olympic National Park

Another iconic landscape in Olympic National Park is the Sol Duc Valley which is known for its lush forests, sparkling streams, and the Sol Duc Falls.

The Sol Duc Valley is a popular destination for families due to its hot springs, its hiking, and its salmon.

When visiting Olympic National Park with your kids, you will enjoy stopping at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort to enjoy the hot springs and spa services. Children will enjoy or, at least, be amused by the hot springs experience.

Sol Duc Hot Springs is also home to a popular front-country campground.

There are also several family-friendly hikes in the area including the Sol Duc Falls Trail, a short hike that leads to a breathtaking waterfall.

During the fall visitors flock to the Sol Duc River to view the salmon run. If you are looking for this experience, we suggest you book your accommodations early as it is a special time in the park.

Hurricaine Ridge in Olympic National Park

This alpine area of the park offers a completely different experience: broad vistas, cooler temperatures, and rugged mountains. The Hurricaine Ridge Visitor Center sits at the peak and comforts weary hikers with food and a day lodge.

UPDATE: In May of 2023, the Hurricaine Ridge Day Lodge burned down. As of the writing, it has not been reconstructed.

There are several, easy, paved trails near the visitor center. Our top pick for families visiting Olympic National Park with kids is the High Ridge Trail which is a half-mile loop taking you up to Sunrise Point.

How could you miss seeing such a place as “Sunrise Point?” Spoiler alert: we missed it.

We were there, but the fog was too thick to see the person in front of us! But we sure did love this alpine region of Olympic National Park!

If your family is up for a bigger challenge, you can take one of several longer trails down the mountain, but you will need to have plenty of energy in reserve to ascend back up to your parking spot!

Kalaloch & Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park

Look at this picture below…enough said, right?


The last time we visited Olympic National Park, we stayed at the Kalaloch Campground. It may be my favorite campground in the country, though the bathrooms were grim…

A rickety staircase takes campers from the elevated pad sites down to the beach where kids of all ages spent every evening combing the beach for treasures. Everyone enjoys looking up for the bald eagles and looking down through the tide pools.

The urgency of exploring during the brief periods of low tide make Kalaloch the perfect place to spend evenings with family in Olympic National Park!

For the more famous Olympic National Park beach with statuesque rock formations and thrilling tide-pooling, take the kids a few miles north to Ruby Beach!

Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park

For a completely different type of water experience, visitors always adore the glacially formed Lake Crescent. Surrounded by stunning mountain views, the cool lake water begs visitors to fall in love with its touch.

The historic Lake Crescent Lodge sits on the lake’s shore and offers accommodations from April through December. The Lodge also offers paddleboard, kayak, and canoe rentals to both its patrons and other park guests.

When you visit Olympic National Park with kids, the whole family can enjoy a paddle on Lake Crescent!

From the Lodge area, families won’t want to miss the Moments in Time Trail. At just under one mile, this easy trail winds you through ferns, forest, and landmarks.

Port Angeles: Gateway to Olympic National Park

The gateway town connected to Olympic National Park is Port Angeles. Port Angeles is a picturesque coastal city located in the northwestern region of the state of Washington.

Known for its stunning natural beauty and rich history, Port Angeles sits at the heart of the Olympic Peninsula, surrounded by the National Park and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

While taking a break from outdoor adventures, visitors to Port Angeles can explore the town’s vibrant art scene and downtown shopping district. The city also offers easy access to the nearby historic Victorian town of Port Townsend.

With its welcoming community, diverse culture, and breathtaking scenery, Port Angeles is a must-visit destination for anyone heading to Olympic National Park.

From its breathtaking landscapes to its incredible wildlife, Olympic National Park is truly one of the most beautiful and diverse national parks in the United States.

Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventurous hiker, or just looking for a family-friendly vacation, Olympic National Park is a must-visit destination that you won’t want to miss.

So, grab your family, and come discover the beauty and diversity of Olympic National Park for yourself.