Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is one of the most unique and ruggedly beautiful areas the state has to offer. From a dense rainforest to rocky beaches and quaint coastal towns, there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy. If you get the opportunity to explore the Olympic Peninsula for yourself, here are some must-visit spots to include on your itinerary!
Hole-in-the-Wall at Rialto Beach
Hole-in-the-Wall at Rialto Beach is an incredible rock feature that shows you firsthand just how uniquely beautiful Washington’s coast can be. Rialto Beach is located within Olympic National Park, so be sure to pack your national park pass, or you’ll have to pay $30 per car to enter. The Hole-in-the-Wall feature is roughly 1.5 miles from the Rialto Beach parking area (so just about 3 miles roundtrip).
Note: this trail becomes inaccessible at high tide, so checking the tide schedule is key!
From the parking area, head north along the rocky shoreline toward the towering rocks ahead. Soon, you’ll catch a glimpse of the incredible, naturally-formed arch known as Hole-in-the-Wall. If the tide is low enough, you may also see a number of tidal pools with sea creatures like starfish and barnacles. Overhead, keep an eye out for a variety of seabirds and the occasional eagle, and don’t forget to check the ocean for signs of otters or even whales.
Hole-in-the-Wall offers some stunning views for minimal effort, making it a great option for families and hikers of all experience levels.
I was shocked when I first learned that one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S. was located in Washington state, and seeing it for yourself is a truly amazing experience. The Hoh Rainforest is also located in Olympic National Park, and is easily accessible from the town of Forks, another popular destination. There are a number of hiking options to explore the Hoh Rainforest, though I would recommend the Hall of Mosses and the Hoh River Trail.
The Hall of Mosses Trail is an incredible hike considering it is less than one mile in length and will take you through towering trees and, you guessed it, thick blankets of moss. If you only have time to do one hike, or you want to get the most bang for your buck, the Hall of Mosses Trail should be your first choice.
If you have a little more time to explore, the Hoh River Trail is another great option. Though the trail is 18.5 miles one-way, ending at Blue Glacier, it only takes about one mile from the Visitor Center to reach the Hoh River itself. I recommend at least making the trek to the river because the water is crystal clear, flowing directly from the Hoh Glacier on Mount Olympus.
The village of La Push, located within the Quileute Reservation, is a gorgeous spot for views of forested coastal islands and dramatic sea stacks. The village itself is small, though it does offer some food and lodging options, and the area of First Beach in particular is worth a stop for views of the Pacific and a chance to see some wildlife (we saw a young eagle on our last visit). These beaches aren’t like the ones you may be used to seeing in California or Florida: they’re typically very rocky and often scattered with driftwood of all shapes and sizes. First Beach is also a popular destination for surfers, and though I’m not much of a surfer myself, it is fun to watch and admire from the shore.
Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is another fascinating natural feature located in Kalaloch, just south of La Push. The Tree of Life can be found just off the 101 Highway, near the Kalaloch Campground. Once at the campground, simply walk down the stairs and bear right along the beach. Soon, you will see the precariously perched tree for yourself. The roots of the tree actually form a cave, though I would caution visitors from spending too much time climbing under and around the tree, as erosion is clearly taking its toll. Though you may not spend an extended period of time at the Tree of Life, it’s a truly unique sight that is well worth a detour in my mind.
I’d also like to mention that while the town of Forks may be worth a stop for mega Twilight fans (hey, I don’t judge!), it is very small and quiet, and isn’t a must-visit in my opinion. The town does offer some easy access to fishing spots which may appeal to some, and it can serve as a good home base for visiting all of the spots I’ve listed above. When we first visited the Peninsula for a few nights in 2020, we camped at 3 Rivers Resort in Forks, which was a very comfortable and budget-friendly option!
I hope you found this guide helpful and use it as a source of inspiration when planning your visit to the Olympic Peninsula. Keep in mind, there are many other towns and areas worth visiting that I didn’t mention here, so make sure you do your research and visit as many spots as you can!