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What Is Olympic National Park?

Olympic National Park has numerous hiking trails.
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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2014
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Olympic National Park, located outside Port Angeles, Washington, is a United States designated national park. It encompasses more than 920,000 acres (3,723 square km), of which nearly 95% is a Congressional Wilderness Area. The park is known for its wide variety of landscapes, ranging from beaches on the Pacific Ocean to damp rain forests to snow-capped glaciers. Approximately 650 sites of archaeological interest are in Olympic National Park as well as more than 100 historical structures. People visit the park to camp, hike, photograph, and explore the scenery, plants, animals, and cultural discoveries.

There are three main areas in Olympic National Park: the mountains, the forest, and the ocean. Two of the more popular scenic drives in the park are to areas called Hurricane and Deer Park in the mountains. Both offer visitors the opportunity to camp, hike, and picnic along the scenic alpine roads. These roads are only open during the summer months because snow accrues during the winter, blocking access. Since roads are only on the outer parts of the park, the inner wilderness area cannot be viewed by car.

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Located along part of the Pacific Ocean, Olympic National Park has approximately 73 miles (117.5 km) of coastline. The coast varies from sandy beaches to rocky cliffs with steep drop-offs into the ocean below. Many coastal areas in the park, such as Mora Beach, Rialto Beach, Kalaloch, and Lake Ozette, have campgrounds, picnic areas, and nature trails. When hiking along a coastal trail, it is often a good idea to carry and use a tide table, as many coastal trails go underwater when the tide comes in.

There are two types of forests at Olympic National Park: temperate forests and lowland forests. The western valley of the park is a temperate forest. It receives more than 12 feet (3.7 m) of rain annually. The Hoh Rain Forest and the Quinault Rain Forest are both great examples that can be found in the western part of the park. The lowland forest areas in the park, such as Staircase, Heart O’the Hills, Elwha, Lake Crescent, and Sol Duc, are known for their mature forests and pristine rivers.

For visitors who do not want to camp, there are other lodging options inside Olympic National Park, such as Log Cabin Resort, Lake Crescent Lodge, Kalaloch Lodge, and Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. Other features of the park include a hot springs at Sol Duc and boat rentals at Lake Crescent. Pets are not allowed on most trails or beaches in the park, but they are allowed in the campgrounds, parking lots, and picnic areas. Consequently, arrangements should be made for most pets before visiting the park.

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