Travel time from Seattle: 2.5 hours
National park since: 1938
Area: 922,651 acres
Major peaks: Olympic Mountain range
Visit for: Coastal beaches, rain forests, and river valleys
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Its footprint starts at the sea, a long strip of beaches that makes up about a third of the state’s Pacific Ocean waterfront. These coastal beaches are perfect for storm watching, tide pool explorations, scenic walks, and—for the experienced—surfing. Beaches near La Push, farther north, and near Ozette Lake require a hike of anywhere between a few hundred feet and long miles past imposing headlands.
Venturing inland, the dramatic coast gives way to lush forests and craggy peaks. The old-growth trees in the Hoh Rain Forest cradle a river valley so silent it has been identified as the quietest place in the country. A visitors center and long, flat trail welcome guests into the mist, home to herds of Roosevelt elk. At Lake Quinault’s imposing lodge just outside the national park, a long lawn cascades down to a mountain lake, perfect for peaceful contemplation.
The park’s other popular body of water, Lake Crescent, is deep and wide enough for boating and home to distinct Crescenti trout not found anywhere else on the planet. Campgrounds, boat launches, waterfall trails, and sprawling Lake Crescent Lodge dot the shores, and a nearby road leads to steamy soaks at Sol Duc Hot Springs.
Higher still into the Olympics, Hurricane Ridge sits three hours from Seattle and 17 miles from the small harbor town of Port Angeles. A visitor center peeks at a vista of jagged mountains. In winter, skiers ride rope tows up short slopes or head into the backcountry. When the snow melts, the meadows erupt with purple lupine and orange Indian paintbrush blooms—a worthy seat for a god of any stripe.