Tucked away near the western edge of Washington, the Olympic National Forest offers some of the most magical landscapes in the Pacific Northwest. Waterfalls thunder over cliffs in lush rainforests, and hiking trails pass through stands of moss-covered trees and giant ferns. Hike high into the peaks in the forest's protected wilderness areas, go scuba diving in the Hood Canal, or fish for Beardsley trout in Lake Crescent. The different sections of the forest surround the spectacular Olympic National Park.
Find out how indigenous people used the bountiful resources in the Olympic National Forest on the Native American Nature Trail. Located in the Seal Rock Interpretive Site, this kid-friendly hike is lined with interpretive signs. With each one, you'll learn something new about the local Native American people throughout history. The path is asphalt; it's technically accessible for both strollers and wheelchairs as long as you're prepared for a few bumpy stretches.
Length: 0.15 mile round-trip
Discover the fascinating rainforests of the Olympic National Forest on the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail. As you stroll through the lush foliage along Willaby Creek, a series of educational panels helps you identify different types of plants. You'll also find out about the unique old-growth trees. The first section of this gravel trail is accessible for wheelchairs, and the hike is open year-round.
Length: 0.5 mile round-trip
Check out one of the spectacular waterfalls of the Olympic Peninsula on the Murhut Falls Trail. Short and easy to navigate, this lovely path takes you past wildflowers and through old-growth trees to its namesake falls. It's important to stay on the trail as the surrounding wilderness has many hidden drops and hazards.
Length: 1.6 miles round-trip
The Mt. Walker Trail is one of the most accessible summit hikes in the Olympic National Forest. The path is steep and challenging, but after just 2 miles, you'll reach the north summit of Mt. Walker. From there, you'll find lovely views of the surrounding mountains and Douglas fir forests. There's a road to the viewpoints at the top, so you can bring two vehicles to create a shuttle system. That way, it's easy to do a top-down or bottom-up hike to suit your preferences and activity level. When you reach the top of the hike, you can walk down the road for 0.5 miles to check out the views from the southern summit.
Length: 4 miles round-trip
Hike deep into the Colonel Bob Wilderness on the Colonel Bob Trail. Start early to reach the summit of Colonel Bob before the afternoon storms roll in; the route gains 4,200 feet in elevation, so make sure to bring food and water. As you hike, you'll travel through temperate rainforests and old-growth fir, spruce, hemlock, and cedar trees. If you're looking for a shorter day hike, follow the path 4 miles and turn around when you see the Mulkey Trail Shelter. This route is best in the early spring.
Length: 14.4 miles
Cast for cutthroat trout and rainbow trout from the shores of Wynoochee Lake or the hike-in Lower Lena Lake; if you prefer to fish from a boat, check out the trout and kokanee salmon at Lake Cushman. Fish the rivers and streams of the Big Quilcene area via the Lower Big Quilcene Trail or the Silver Lakes Trail. The best spot for saltwater fishing is Seal Rock Campground.
The Forest Service allows geocaching in the Olympic National Forest as long as you're outside of the five designated wilderness areas. You'll find several caches on the Highway 101 Scenic Byway Loop.
The Olympic National Forest is home to parts of the Olympic Loop of the Great Washington State Birding Trail. Some of the highlights include the dunlins, marbled murrelets, swans, and buffleheads of the Skokomish Delta. At Lake Crescent, head to Barnes Creek to look for American dippers and barred owls. Keep an eye out for the herd of Roosevelt elk that move through the region; they're usually found west of the Hood Canal in the southern section of the forest.
Stargazing is possible throughout the forest. The darkest skies are located in the western sections that are farthest from the lights of Seattle. You'll have the best luck near Lake Quinault and west of Lake Crescent.
Address: 1835 Black Lake Boulevard SW, Olympia, WA 98512
Fee: Entry fee $0
With its exceptional hiking trails and beautiful wilderness areas, the Olympic National Forest is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you're interested in summiting a mountain, wild mountain biking, or quiet afternoons of fly-fishing, this large forest has plenty of opportunities. Since many top destinations are located a long drive from the nearest town, an RV makes a wonderful base camp for all of your adventures.