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Time to visit?

Nebraska
Level Contributor
2,256 posts
3 reviews
Time to visit?

We have decided to take a different national park visit each year. So far we have done Yellowstone/Grand Teton, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Acadia. Wanting to start our 2019 plans. Was initially thinking Glacier - but do to conflicts we probably need to do the trip prior to July 1, which is likely too early for Glacier to be fully open. Is late May or June a good time to visit Olympic NP?

How about Ranier? (I know wrong forum but figure people often combine the two - and I assume that is what we would do.)

We are looking for good, unique scenery and moderate hikes. Convince me that Olympic would be a good option for us for 2019?

15 replies to this topic
Port Angeles, WA
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
11,823 posts
20 reviews
1. Re: Time to visit?

May and June are gorgeous in ONP. It used to be that June was the best month for the rain forest, but due to climate change, mid-May through mid-June are better. That's the season of incandescent new growth, and it's beautiful. Make sure you allow for 2 nights in the Quinault region to see the lovely waterfalls and rain forest there, and allow for at least one night to see the Hoh Rain Forest.

The mountain trails start to open up in June, at least during the last few years. By the end of the first week in June, you might be able to reach the Hurricane Hill Trail. Parts of it would still be under snow, but good hiking boots should be enough to handle it. The very early alpine wildflowers, such as the avalanche lilies and glacier lilies start blooming right in the melting snow, and the fragrant alpine phlox appears in the rocky areas just below Hurricane Ridge as early as the beginning of June. However, you won't be able to do any of the higher elevation hikes such as Klahhane Ridge, the Obstruction Point Road hikes, or Deer Lake. On the other hand, you can see Sol Duc Falls at their peak, and you could hike above them until you reached the snowline. This is great fun; you can usually make it to Canyon Creek above the falls, where you can watch streams gushing out of the melting snowbanks and into the creek.

The beaches are great in May/June. There might be some drizzle but probably very little wind. Check tide tables to plan visits to Rialto Beach, Ruby Beach, Second Beach, and Third Beach. The first three have fantastic tidepools. Third Beach has no tide pools, but it has a waterfall that will be in full flow in late spring.

You can't swim in Lake Crescent, and you will be restricted in your mountain hiking, but everything else will more than make up for it. And don't forget: the salmon are fattest in early June, and they are a treat.

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
11,755 posts
8 reviews
2. Re: Time to visit?

I feel no need to convince anyone to visit Olympic National Park. Any descriptions and photographs in any publications speak for themselves. I have always felt that if someone wanted to visit Olympic’s renowned Temperate Rainforests that May is the when they are most beautiful. Rain is always a wild card, especially on the Coastal Side of the Olympics, but as Kaleberg has stated Spring is a beautiful time in Olympic if you are into moderate hikes. Mountain hikes like Klahanne Ridge are not moderate hikes anyway. Hurricane Hill is and certainly might be possible in May. Visit before the holiday. Look at Port Angeles, the Forks area and Lake Quinault as places to stay. Lake Quinault especially for moderate hikes. Once you have done some research and decided on how many nights on the Olympic Peninsula get back to us and let us know your budget for accommodations and we can recommend places to stay.

Nebraska
Level Contributor
2,256 posts
3 reviews
3. Re: Time to visit?

Thanks for the replies. Talked with our travel companions a bit today and started to focus a little more. Looking to do the trip the last week of June. Will likely stay in the area for 7 nights - with 4-5 at Olympic NP and the rest near Mount Ranier. Have found a VRBO that looks very nice along the Elwha River near the Olympic Hot Springs Park entrance. I understand it is quite a ways from Lake Quinault but otherwise seems like a good location to use as a base for seeing ONP. Is that a workable location to stay - particularly at that time of year?

Port Angeles, WA
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
11,823 posts
20 reviews
4. Re: Time to visit?

No. It's not. There is no single base from which to visit the park. If you want to confine your trip to the northern half of the park, the Elwha Valley entrance is not bad, but even then, you will have a very long drive to the Hoh Rain Forest. The Quinault and Ruby Beach are out of the question. You also need to do some research. Do you realize that the road into the Elwha Valley is closed? You cannot get to Olympic Hot Springs or the Whiskey Bend Trails. In fact, unless the park restores two temporary bridges by June - and they probably will not - you won't even be able to hike the 7 to 10 miles to the Smoky Bottom Trail beyond the Elwha Dam Overlook (7 miles beyond the main road closure).

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
11,755 posts
8 reviews
5. Re: Time to visit?

Totally agree with Kaleberg. If you pick June then you want to be neat the Rainforests. The Elwha makes no sense. Very very little chance that the bridges will even be started by then. You want to be on the Coastal aside of Olympic To be close to the Rainforests and the Beaches. The Forks area gets you closest to those highlights of the Park. If you want moderate hikes the Forks area is where to start. Two bases is always best to avoid lots of boring driving. Olympic is logging Country. Miles and miles of clearcut and tree farms on the Westside. If it were me I would stay most of the time around Forks for access to the beaches and the Hoh Rainforest. And at least one night at Lake Quinault for access to the Quinault Rainforest. This is an area with many beautiful nature trails in Rainforest with in a concentrated area near the Lake and in the Valley. It would help us to know more about your group, but if you are looking for a rental start by contacting Julie at OP Rentals in Forks. She is a lovely Lady who owns and represents several rentals. Also look at the Elk House in the Quinault Valley. Lovely home in a lovely private location.

Nebraska
Level Contributor
2,256 posts
3 reviews
6. Re: Time to visit?

Thanks again for the replies. Our traveling group is 3 couples in our mid-late 50's and all in good health. While I envisioned a visit to one of the beach areas my thoughts for our trip were much more about hiking and mountain scenery. Would also like to be in areas where we have the best chance to see Elk or other wildlife. I had thought the Elwha location looked good being just between Hurricane Ridge and Crescent Lake - and not to far to access the Sol Duc River area. (My initial look was maybe staying at the Sol Duc resort - but reviews were not that great and we don't really care that much about the hot springs pools - but the hike to the Sol Duc Falls and beyond to Deer Lake looked nice). To be honest I had not focused much on the rain forest area hikes but I just ordered a book on Olympic NP hiking trails so I will look at that some more. I did a quick search on VRBO for rentals near Forks and found a couple that might work - although did not look as nice as the one near Elwha. Assuming we don't really care about the beach areas too much (we take winter vacations to the Carribbean so we get our beach fix there I guess :) and that we want to see wildlife - are the rain forest areas the top places we should be going?

Port Angeles, WA
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
11,823 posts
20 reviews
7. Re: Time to visit?

Sometimes things clear up in a TripAdvisor thread, and sometimes they get worse. This thread is getting murkier. You will probably not be able to get to Deer Lake in June, even during the last week. Its upper reaches are likely to be under snow. Late June is not good for the mountains, as I tried to explain in my first post. Both Glaciermeadows and I both emphasized the rain forests, but you don't seem to have picked up on that. You won't see elk in the Elwha Valley. There is a herd there, but in 20 years, I have only seen it 3 times, and all of those time were in winter. If you want to see elk, you need to see the Quinault Rain Forest and the Hoh Rain Forest. As for the beaches, they are nothing like those in the Caribbean, and missing them means missing some of the most hauntingly beautiful and characteristic scenery in the park.

Nebraska
Level Contributor
2,256 posts
3 reviews
8. Re: Time to visit?

Also did look at the Elk House in Quinnault Valley and it looks terrific. But with 3 couples we will want a 3 bedroom - and it is already booked for the days we are looking at. But will keep that in mind. Maybe we end up doing a couple nights in that area and a couple nights on the north side.

Poulsbo, Washington
Destination Expert
for Olympic National Park
Level Contributor
11,755 posts
8 reviews
9. Re: Time to visit?

If you mean by the Northside around the Elwha and Lake Crescent I would come latter. June is the perfect time for the Rainforests. It is early for the Mountains as Kaleberg has told you. Also as she mentioned do not compare the Beaches of the Caribbean with those in Olympic. Not any similarities At All. They are not about sun bathing or relaxing they are about wild beaches in a National Park. Over 30 miles of nothing but wild PNW Beaches. A backpacker can hike for days out of Summer and see very few people. If you want our advise do not base your decision on how nice one rental looks. I can recommend lovely rentals outside of Forks. Up the Hoh and Quinault Vallleys are prime Elk viewing places. Remember our forests are thick with growth and Ancient Groves of trees, so mammals can easily be camouflaged. It is not open plains like in Yellowstone. You need to know where and when to look. We have other mammals like Black Bear and Cougar, but in one visit do not expect to see either. I have seen many many bear over the years hiking in the backcountry, been only been in an area where I smelled cougar once in over forty years. I have seen all of Julie’s rentals and stayed at two of her properties. A couple of her homes have at least three bedrooms. A couple are on the SolDuc River that also runs near Forks.

The Sister of the Elk House owner has a rental that has more bedrooms in the Quinault Valley. It is called the Rivers Edge. I have never been inside, but I know it’s location.

If you want to hike do some research and choose your hikes. Just keep in mind that as we have both told you June can mean that you will hit snow once you get into higher elevations. IMO given that the Elwha Road is closed it would not be my first, second or third choice for a place to stay.

Nebraska
Level Contributor
2,256 posts
3 reviews
10. Re: Time to visit?

I checked the OP Rentals in Forks and most of their properties appear to already be booked for that time. There is one on the Calawah River that might work and might be the most "central" base if we do want one location. But as I am getting into this I am more inclined to have stays in two ONP locations.

So how about this itinerary:

Arrive at SEATAC Friday evening and stay near airport

Sat - drive in the morning to Paradise on Mount Ranier - stay there Saturday spending Saturday and a good part of Sunday on Mount Ranier.

Sunday - drive to Lake Quinnault in the late afternoon - evening. There are a couple VRBO's right on the lake that look like they would work nicely - also found the River's Edge one a little bit up the valley that you mentioned which is a possibility but does not appear as scenic as the ones right on the lake.

Stay at Lake Quinnault 3 nights (Sun, Mon, Tue) - with 2 full days to see that area (Mon & Tues)- maybe both just in the valley - maybe part of one over on a beach.

Wednesday drive north on 101 with a beach stop and possibly the Hoh River valley - ending up somewhere on the north side by nightfall (Maybe the Crescent Lake Lodge or I still like that Elwha VRBO not because I want to go up that river valley or Olympic Hot Springs road at all but because it is so close to Crescent Lake, Port Angeles and Hurricane Ridge via 101 while still being in a scenic setting).

Spend Wed, Thur and Friday nights in that area - two full days (Thur & Friday) one for Hurricane Ridge and one for Crescent Lake and/or the Sol Duc river valley.

On Saturday drive back to Seattle - catching a flight home either Saturday night or Sunday morning.

I know the last week of June is borderline for the mountain hikes - but from what I am seeing the trails should be open by that time even if there is some snow cover. We can come prepared to walk through snow (we are from Nebraska - so well prepared to deal with snow :).

Am I getting closer to something that would be "doable" to allow us to get a good feel for both Mount Rainier NP and Olympic NP in the time we have available?

Edited: 18 September 2018, 08:53
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