Best time to visit Olympic National Park

The best time to visit Olympic National Park to enjoy relatively dry days of exploration is between summer and early fall. Olympic is a large park known for its varied and unpredictable climate. Winters bring lots of rain on the coast and massive amounts of snow in the mountains, but summers, for the most part, are pleasantly precipitation-free.

By June, winter storms have made the forests lush and verdant, and snow in the higher elevations will have melted, revealing an epic network of hiking trails. Warm days and cool nights on the coast make for ideal backpacking and camping conditions. With great weather comes larger crowds, so keep in mind that if you're visiting in the height of summer (July-August), you'll have to share the space with other outdoor enthusiasts.

Seasons in Olympic National Park

Spring (March-May)

Best for: wildlife sightings and waterfall chasing

As spring temps rise and snow starts to melt, mountain runoff puts some major oomph into Olympic's waterfalls. Marymere Falls (near Lake Crescent) and Sol Duc Falls are particularly photogenic in the spring months. While temperatures will be mellow, the days will be wet, and sections of the park can see up to 19 days of rain per month. Keep a rain jacket handy even if it's not raining... waterfalls in springtime can get misty!

Late spring is birthing season for the Roosevelt elk that occupy the Hoh rainforest, so your chances of seeing calves in the lower elevation areas are pretty high!

Summer (June-August)

Best for: hiking the Ridge and camping on the beach 

Summer weather in Olympic National Park is ideal for all of the outdoor activities you can dream of. It's the driest part of the year, so you can comfortably camp under the stars on the beaches, explore the rainforests jacket-free and hike comfortably in higher elevations. With clear skies, the views at the top of Hurricane Ridge are spectacular, stretching across the strait and into Canada. Wildlife is active at this time, and you can spot seals, sea lions and otters frolicking on the coast.

Olympic is in the top 10 of the USA's most popular national parks, and with 75% of travellers visiting during the summer months, crowds are inevitable. The best way to manage crowds is by getting an early start and planning your itinerary ahead of time or joining a small group tour to access lesser-visited corners of the park.

Autumn (September-November)

Best for: exploring the rainforests and soaking in hot springs

Although autumn marks the beginning of the rainy season in Olympic National Park, it's still a great time to visit the rainforests, as the thick canopies will provide shelter from any showers. Giant maples in the rainforests will change colour, and the red and golden hues look particularly striking against the perpetually green ferns and moss.

Snow will start appearing in the high country in the autumn, and some trails and roads may begin to close. Rain will arrive in deluges along the coast and in the forests, effectively thinning the crowds. If you're exploring during the rainy fall, take advantage of a post-hike soak in the public Sol Duc hot springs before they close for the winter months.

Winter (December-February)

Best for: snow sports and storm watching

Winter weather in Olympic National Park is a bit of a doozy, and you'll want to make sure to pack all the waterproof gear you can find. In the alpine sections of the park, the winter months are snowy with a capital S. Hurricane Ridge can get between 9-10 metres of snow in the winter and will open on weekends for snow activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and tubing starting at the end of November. Icy conditions and avalanches are a genuine concern at the Ridge, so check road and weather reports before setting out.

Down on the beaches and in the rainforests, temperatures rarely drop below freezing, but winter months bring very wet weather, and it's not unusual for these areas to see 150+ inches of rain. The Pacific coast is a great place to watch a winter storm roll through, and you can see some pretty epic swells crashing to shore.

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