7 Days 317 Miles
Spend a Week Exploring Olympic National Park and the Pacific Northwest
Looking for a coastal road trip that combines the best of the mountains and the ocean all in one place? You might be surprised to find it tucked away in the northwest corner of the U.S. in Olympic National Park, located in Washington State.
There are no roads cutting across this National Park, so the best way to explore is by driving a loop, beginning in the Seattle area. At around 400 miles and 9 hours of driving time (plus one ferry), this Pacific Northwest itinerary takes six or seven days to complete. Some highlights include easy beach access, photo-worthy waterfall hikes and delicious regional cuisine. You can easily extend the trip by spending more time in each destination.
Start: Seattle, Washington
If you’re coming in from another part of the country, you can start the trip by flying into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and renting a car. Otherwise, you can start from anywhere in the Seattle area, including Olympia or Tacoma.
Before you leave, be sure to pack for a range of weather conditions. Summer is the “dry” season, but if you’re heading into the Hoh Rain Forest in the center of the park, you can expect a bit of a drizzle any time of year.
What do you get in return for all that rainfall? You’ll find several great hikes through moss-covered forests, scenic vistas, waterfalls, hot springs, and more.
Day 1 – Seattle to Bainbridge Island
Our first stop is Bainbridge Island, known for its locally grown produce, art galleries, and views of Mount Rainier. You can either drive the long way through Tacoma, or catch the ferry from downtown Seattle, which takes about 35 minutes.
The ferry terminal is just a few blocks away from Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, so why not stop for lunch at Pike Place Chowder for a mouthwatering selection of hot chowders? We recommend the Smoked Salmon Chowder for an authentic taste of the Pacific Northwest.
On Bainbridge Island, you’ll leave the city behind for a more relaxed atmosphere. Visit the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, take in the views from Waterfront Park, or forage for wild blackberries at Ford Ward Park.
You can either stay at one of the boutique hotels on the island—the Eagle Harbor Inn is a standout—or drive 30 minutes north to Kitsap Memorial State Park, where you’ll find campsites and cabins available by reservation.
Day 2 – Bainbridge Island to Port Angeles
If you’ve stayed in town, stop for breakfast at the ivy-covered Pegasus Coffee House before starting the two-hour drive to Port Angeles, Washington. Once you’ve arrived, head to the Olympic National Park Visitor Center to pick up a map and purchase your park pass, valid for seven days. You’ll also want to stock up on food and supplies since this is the last major town for a while!
Port Angeles is the gateway to Hurricane Ridge, one of the main entrances to Olympic National Park. It’s only 17 miles outside of Port Angeles, but the steep road will bring you to some of the most dramatic views in the region.
This is also the starting point of several great day hikes that will take you through subalpine forests and meadows, with views of snow-capped Mount Olympus. The Cirque Rim trail is 0.5 miles each way and wheelchair-accessible, while Hurricane Hill is a paved trail that totals 3.2 miles round-trip. If you’re lucky, you might see wildlife such as the black-tailed deer and the Olympic marmot.
Since there’s no through-road to the rest of the park, drive back to Port Angeles for the night and stay at the Maitland Manor Bed & Breakfast or the All-View Motel. Fuel up for your next day of adventure at Next Door Gastropub, serving elevated pub fare made with local ingredients and a regional selection of beers, ciders and wines.
Day 3 – Port Angeles to Forks
Our next destination is only an hour’s drive west of Port Angeles but take it slowly since there’s a lot to see along the way!
If you’re traveling with your loved one, a visit to the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is a must. Enjoy a relaxing soak in the thermal pools or pack a picnic lunch to eat beside Lake Crescent. You’ll also pass by several gorgeous waterfalls, including Marymere Falls and Madison Falls, both of which are an easy walk from the main road.
End the day at Sunset Lanes in Forks, a quirky ten-pin bowling alley with beer and bar food. Once you’re ready to get some sleep, make your way to your pet-friendly, oceanfront accommodations—Kalaloch Lodge in Olympic National Park. You’ll spend the next four nights here, so settle in and get cozy! You can choose from a private cabin, or a room in the Main Lodge or Seacrest House, many of which come with a kitchen or kitchenette. Traveling with kids? Take advantage of the lodge’s board games for a fun night back at the room.
Day 4 – Hoh Rain Forest
Rise and shine! The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the highlights of Olympic National Park, so get up early for today’s adventure. Although it’s less than an hour’s drive from Kalaloch, its secluded location and dense vegetation make it one of the quietest places on earth.
You can spend the day hiking the Hall of Mosses or go waterfall hunting for some of the most majestic falls in the state. From Wynoochee Falls to Merriman Falls, the options are truly endless. For a longer trek, venture along the 18-mile Hoh River Trail which offers several campsites for backpackers along the way.
Return to Kalaloch and grab a bite to eat at Creekside Restaurant, located on property. Here fresh and local cuisine is paired with stunning views of the Pacific. Even the wine list is regional, featuring bottles produced in the state of Washington.
Days 5 & 6 – Kalaloch Lodge
Kalaloch Lodge prides itself on being free from distractions, so the only things you won’t have are TV and Wi-Fi. Instead, you can savor local flavors at Creekside Restaurant and head down to the beach to check out the tide pools and admire the sunset.
Spend another full day at Kalaloch Lodge relaxing on the coast and taking part in seasonal activities like whale watching or simply enjoying the beauty of the Pacific Northwest—remember, this is your time to relax and reset! This is also a good opportunity for a day trip to La Push, where you can access the picturesque Rialto Beach and learn about the Quileute Tribe who has hunted and lived on the land for thousands of years.
Kalaloch also offers dozens of other outdoor activities, including bike riding and kayaking. Wherever you go, keep an eye out for river otters, bald eagles, and other species that call the Pacific Northwest home!
Day 7 – Kalaloch Lodge to Seattle
The last day is the longest drive on our route—around four hours. Before you hop in the car, take one last morning stroll along the coast toward the Tree of Life, also known as the Tree Root Cave. We could go on describing this wondrous sight in Olympic National Park, and just a short walk from the lodge, but you’ll just have to see it for yourself!
On your drive to Seattle, break up your trip with a visit to the Westport Maritime Museum in Westport or pull over at the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park: the Nirvana frontman was born and raised here in Aberdeen. From here, you can drive straight back to Seattle or stop in Olympia for lunch or dinner. You’ll find several notable breweries to choose from, including Fish Brewing Co., which took home the prize for the World’s Best Beer in 2015.
Stretch your legs along the Deschutes River at Tumwater Falls, then take your rental car back to SeaTac Airport or drive home to wrap up an unforgettable road trip through the Pacific Northwest.