Where to stay, where to play!
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Olympic National Park is a beautiful, green, wet kind of place that captures breathtaking views and forests inside. From finding some of the largest trees to playing on the beautiful rocky beaches, there is a variety of things to do in Olympic National Park with kids. Here is a guide on where to stay and what to see in Olympic National park and it’s all family-friendly!
What Does it Cost to Visit Olympic National Park?
It is currently $30 per vehicle to enter Olympic National Park. You can buy your pass ahead of time here, or if you plan to visit many National Parks within a year, I suggest the America the Beautiful Pass. This pass allows you entrance to all national parks and federal recreation lands for 1 year from purchase.
A Little About Olympic National Park’s Layout
Where is Olympic National Park?
Olympic National Park covers a huge area on the northwest side of Washington. It covers land a bit inland, and then it also has a strip along the western coast of northern Washington which is not connected to the main area. In between these two area is highway 101 which runs the length of the northern, western, and eastern sides of the park. You’ll have to drive highway 101 to get from one main area of the park to another.
On the western side, highway 101 goes through the town of Forks. If that sounds familiar to you, let me clear up any hopes you have. There isn’t any Twilight memorabilia or fandom as you drive through Forks. In fact, the only thing we saw related to the series was a sign on a hotel that said “Edward Cullen did NOT sleep here.”
Nearest Airport to Olympic National Park
The nearest major airport near Olympic National Park is in Seattle (SEA). From there, it’s roughly 2-1/2 hours to Olympic National Park. Don’t forget to rent a car, and make sure to reserve it early!
Hotels Near Olympic National Park
There are quite a few hotels to choose from depending on where you’d like to be.
Kalaloch Lodge (year-round)
Kalaloch Lodge is located within the park and is right on the coast with ocean views. Choose a room with a kitchen for convenience, or use the onsite restaurant.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort (seasonal)
The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is a little drive off the main highway, but it’s worth it! Located near the popular Sol Duc Waterfalls, this resort gives you your own little cabin (kitchen optional). Plus, the resort is the place to soak in the hot springs. Admission to the hot springs is included for hotel guests.
Lake Crescent Lodge (seasonal)
Located along the beautiful Lake Crescent, Lake Crescent Lodge will truly take you on vacation. Internet is available in the lobby (where even then it is limited) and you can choose a room with a cozy fireplace. You can even choose a 2-room accommodation to have a little space from the kids.
Forks, WA Hotels
The above lodgings fill up pretty quick and are limited both in space and in when they are open. While Port Angeles is a bigger city, it is a bit of a drive if you’re wanting to go to the western side of the park. I would recommend staying in Forks, where there are a few highly rated, clean, and comfy hotels to choose from.
Rentals Near Olympic National Park
We don’t like to drive more than we have to, and when you’re sightseeing throughout the park, it’s a lot of driving. So we chose this rental property and it turned out to be the cutest property! It’s right on Lake Sutherland, which is right next door to Lake Crescent. It was perfect for our family of 6 (the kid beds and low on the floor, so I wouldn’t put 6 adults here. But the kids loved it!)
There are plenty more properties on this gorgeous lake to choose from that can hold a family easily. Plus, you get beautiful sunrises and scenery all day long. Lake Sutherland is really a great location when it comes to both scenery and access to the park.
What to do in Olympic National Park with Kids
Some might wonder “Where can I take my kids in Olympic National Park?” Never fear, there are SO many stops that and kid-friendly hikes in Olympic National Park. Do what you can and take your time to enjoy it! You may be able to see them all, you may not.
Tip: I’ve written the following in order from East to West (and then south when highway 101 turns) to help you with your planning!
Ok, here goes the list of awesome things to do with kids in Olympic National Park.
Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center
This was about the only visitor’s center that was open when we visited (Oct 2021), so we felt lucky to go inside. It had some cool exhibits with skulls of native animals, taxidermy animals, and a little gift shop.
Hurricane Ridge with kids- Olympic National Park
Hurricane Ridge is a popular destination where you are given a gorgeous view of the mountain tops. It is a bit of its own entrance into the park, and not near too many other trails. But it’s worth the drive if you like a million-dollar view.
The drive to hurricane ridge should be enjoyed, taken slowly as there are many curves up the mountain. You can stop by the Visitor’s Center (currently closed: Oct 2021, check before going) and pick up materials for the Junior Ranger Program and learn about the area.
Right at the parking lot are spectacular views of Hurricane Ridge. The tops of the mountains in view are more than likely to be covered in snow, and this beautiful range extends beyond the lens of a camera. There are a few trails in the area, long and short, if you choose to see a different view.
Parking/Visitor’s Center View: 0 miles
Meadow Loop Trails: 1/4 to 1/2 mile, depending on how many trails you combine
Hurricane Hill: 3.2 miles Round Trip. Strollers for first 1/2 mile only
Madison Falls Kid-Friendly Hikes at Olympic National Park
Distance: .2 miles round trip
Madison falls is a quick, easy trail with a big reward. Access Madison Falls south of Port Angeles, toward the Elwha ranger station. The road is closed off right where you find the parking lot for Madison Falls. There are a few spots in the parking lot and a bathroom. The hike from here is quick and easy. Strollers would be fine (a good 3-wheeler, not a city stroller) on this paved asphalt trail.
Don’t Forget to pack some snacks and lots of water. Take a look at these great packs! (The second is our favorite at a great price!)
Marymere Falls Kid-Friendly Hike in Olympic National Park
Entrance: Storm King / Lake Crescent
Distance: 1.8 miles roundtrip
Marymere Falls trail begins right along Lake Crescent. Look for the sign for Lake Crescent Lodge (and Marymere Falls, listed at the bottom) as you drive along highway 101. Turn toward the lake and eventually this trail will cross through a tunnel under the highway.
Only the first half-mile is a nice paved trail. It then turns into rougher dirt trail. It’s easy enough for kids, but I you can’t bring a stroller. There is a fun little log bridge that is narrow, but has largely spaced rails on the side. The very top makes a loop which consists of a lot of stairs. Again, kids can do this! Ours did it fine, plus we saw lots of other littles. Take your time and enjoy the beautiful Marymere Falls at the top.
Lake Crescent with Kids
Entrance: Storm King / Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent is a gemstone of Olympic National Park, stretching for miles of scenic views as you drive. It was created from a glacier and once was a larger lake with Lake Sutherland. That is, until a landslide happened and separated the two. Enjoy the beauty, or if you’re there in summer you can rent rowboats from Crescent Lake Lodge. Find a nice picnic area and take in the view while you fuel up.
Bonus: Moments in Time Trail
We really wanted to make it to this trail, but we ran out of daylight. It’s an easy .6 mile loop that starts at the Lake Crescent Lodge. If you’ve done this trail, let me know how it went in the comments!
Sol Duc Falls Trail with kids
Entrance: Sol Duc
Distance: 1.6 miles roundtrip
Sol Duc Falls is a classic attraction to visit while in Olympic National Park. This system of waterfalls are powerful and beautiful. This trail is a packed down forest floor that is maintained. It’s got a few trip hazards like roots and rocks here and there, but it is overall pretty easy.
While Sol Duc Falls is beautiful, there is plenty of beauty before you even arrive. A light, gentle cascading stream flows down moss-covered rocks about half-way there. It’s a gorgeous backdrop for a family photo.
Sol Duc Hot Springs (seasonal)
Entrance: Sol Duc
One of my kids’ favorite stops in Olympic National Park was the Hot Springs. On the way to Sol Duc Falls, you’ll notice that you pass Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. While guests of the resort can use the hot springs free of charge, the hot springs are open to the public for a fee. There are three different hot springs with different temperatures and depths. The shallow pool (about 1-foot deep) is the least hot and perfect for kids. There is also a pool if you need to cool down a bit.
When you enter Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, you pay per-person and you can rent a towel for a few dollars each. Then you need to head to the locker room to change and rinse off. You have to shower both before and after you enter the hot springs. They are filled with minerals that are said to be healing, but you want to rinse them. You also want to take any metal jewelry off as it will tarnish.
Ancient Groves Trail– highly recommend
Entrance: Sol Duc
Distance: .6 mile loop
This trail is a perfect, kid-friendly hike in Olympic National Park. We hadn’t heard much (anything) about this trail before we visited, but when we saw the sign we decided to give it a try. And it was one of our favorite trails!
The trees are tall and the ground is covered in a blanket of magical green moss. We felt like we were in a fairytale movie. The trail walks along a tall mountainside at one point with a river down below. Less-stable little ones might want a hand here for reassurance. It’s a short stretch and not too bad. The rest of the trail, you are just walking through the magical forest until you loop back to the car.
^ The Part where the trail is a little more on the edge with a river below
Salmon Cascades– perfect for kids and fun!
Entrance: Sol Duc
Depending on when you visit Olympic National Park, you might be lucky enough to see fish trying to jump upstream through the cascades. This is just a short walk from the car to the viewpoint of the cascades. From here, you can see different kinds of fish depending on when you visit.
March through May: Trout
If you’re here during one of those months, keep your eyes on the rushing cascade and you’ll most likely see the fish trying to jump up!
Can you spot the jumping salmon?
Hall of Mosses – Hoh Rain Forest
Distance: .8 mile loop
To get to the Hall of Mosses, take Upper Hoh Road (from highway 101) all the way to the end. The trail for the famous Hall of Mosses begins right at the Visitor’s Center. (Tip: there are real bathrooms here!) It’s a fairly easy loop where you can witness giant trees covered in moss. It’s a bit of a fairy-tale feel inside the forest!
While a stroller wouldn’t be ideal in the Hall of Mosses, kids can walk it easily. If you’d like a stroller, you can do the mini trail (.1 miles) right at the parking lot area.
Make sure to have all the right gear for a successful day exploring!
The Beaches of Olympic National Park
There are quite a few beaches in Olympic National Park. They are all really beautiful and fun to visit. They are the perfect stop because kids have plenty of space to run around, dip their toes or fingers in the water, look at tide pools, climb driftwood, and play on rocks. We visited 5 beaches during our visit. These beaches are right along highway 101 and you have great views of the ocean as you drive. To learn more about Ruby Beach and the others nearby, check out my Beaches in Olympic National Park post.
Kestner Homestead Trail– perfect hike for kids in Olympic National Park
Distance: 1.3 mile loop
The Kestner Homestead Trail is not only beautiful, it packs a small punch of history. You’ll walk through a mossy green forest as you follow the signs to the old Kestner Homestead. Kids will love seeing the old home, workshop, and big rusty truck that sits on the land.
While this trail isn’t difficult, it does get really muddy and flooded where you have to improvise a little. For that reason, I would not take a stroller.
To see all these spots in action, check out this short YouTube video!
How Many Days Do You Need in Olympic National Park?
We had 2-1/2 days there and seemed to cover quite a bit! I think 3 full days would have felt just a little less rushed (though we did keep a nice enjoyable pace. We had a 4-year-old afterall) and maybe we could have taken longer breaks. That said, we had lots of down time in the car driving from one place to another.
A Bonus Stop - Dungeness Spit
The Dungeness Spit is not part of Olympic National Park, but it makes a great stop on the way out. The Dungeness Spit is a piece of skinny land that extends for miles out into the ocean. If you walk out a little, you'll have ocean on both sides of you!
It is located in Sequim, WA and is part of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. There is a small fee to enter ($3 at the moment, but entrance is covered with the America the Beautiful pass). Once you hike through the forest for around a half-mile, you'll see the ocean and spit extending into it. Take your time enjoying walking along the shores. Watch for driftwood, beautiful rocks, shells, and crabs or their shell remains.
Fun Things to do with Kids in Olympic National Park
For only 2-1/2 days, I thought we really made the most of our time! Hopefully you have a good idea of what you'd like to plan for Olympic National Park with your family. Questions? Excitement? Feel free to comment!