Olympic National Park is one of those ‘wow’ places that you see in photographs but are never really sure if the reality is quite as spectacular. I can assure you, it is. This place is almost like a dreamscape, or at the very least a dream National Park. Set apart from mass civilisation and isolated from surrounding environments on its own little peninsula, the park contains three distinct and completely different environments: from electric green temperate rainforest filled with waterfalls, to a rugged and wild coastline, to glacial peaks and alpine meadows. It contains one of the world’s largest stands of virgin temperate rainforest, the 100km wilderness coastline is the longest undeveloped coast in the contiguous United States, and it is the lowest latitude in the world where glaciers exist below 1000 feet. No wonder this place is an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Area.
There are no road criss-crossing Olympic National Park, maintaining the vast majority of the land as a true wilderness. As a result, this is place you need to spend time. We came in February on a whim for two days. It had always been on the wish list, we were in Oregon and pretty close. All those two days did was give us a tiny and extremely tempting glimpse into all the majesty this park has to reveal. I want to go back. For weeks not days, in each of the four seasons.
Only a few kilometers into the National Park and there are waterfalls like Merriman Falls in lush green rainforest, with bright green moss growing on large rocks; Water flows through the small rainforest creek at the base of Merriman Falls over pebbles and around bright green mossy rocks.
Merriman Falls, a rich lush green rainforest landscape with a small waterfall flowing through and moss over everything.
In the rainforest, a fern grows out of a green mossy rock; The small Merriman Falls waterfall flows in to a rocky stream in the lush bright green mossy rainforest.
Drive another 20 minutes and you hit the coast at Beach One, a wild pebble and sand beach with huge piles of driftwood logs and a tall forest on the foreshore that was home to a pair of Bald Eagles; Large pebbles mix in with the huge pile of driftwood, including logs and tree stumps, washed up on the wild beach.
Looking through the green leafy foreshore undergrowth in the late afternoon light to a wooden sign pointing to the trail to the beach.
Ferns and green leafy undergrowth on the foreshore beneath silhouetted tall trees with bulbous tumours, as the golden afternoon light gets caught in the sea mist; Large flat grey pebbles and huge driftwood logs on the rugged beach, with the tall forest behind.
The path to the beach through a forest of tall skinny trees on the foreshore in golden late afternoon light.
Huge piles of logs washed up on the wild pebbly beach as driftwood, with the tall forest behind; Silhouetted bulbous tumour trees in the foreshore forest above the beach, with the ocean glistening in the late afternoon light below.
Golden rays of late afternoon sunlight through sea mist amongst the silhouetted foreshore forest of bulbous tumour trees.
A wooden bench seat amongst skinny trees on the foreshore, with the ocean at Ruby Beach glowing behind in the golden light of a later afternoon sun; Looking through the foreshore vegetation to Ruby Beach, with it’s dramatic and unique rock formations on the sand and in the ocean.
Looking across sand, a small flowing creek and pebbles to a large rock formation out in the ocean at Ruby Beach, with trees growing over it; A small rock cairn is built on a large piece of driftwood on the grey pebble beach, the thin foreshore pine trees of Ruby Beach behind are hazy in the sea mist.
A dense forest of different types of trees and grasses on the Ruby Beach foreshore, with a large pile of driftwood and pebbles in the sand leading to the small creek; Looking up the misty Ruby Beach over pebbles and shallow water to a lone person dwarfed by the wild landscape.
A lone person on the wild and misty Ruby Beach with a foreshore forest, tall rock formations, pebbles, reflections and patterns in the sand.
The reflection of the misty Ruby Beach forest foreshore in a pool on the pebbly beach; Looking down on Ruby Beach through the skinny foreshore trees to a beach with massive rock formations, large driftwood logs and a creek carving its way through the sand.
Huge driftwood logs on pebbly Ruby Beach with the misty forest behind in the golden light before sunset.
A close up of small green leaves covered in frost near Lake Crescent.
Although it’s past 10am, the sun hasn’t yet reached Lake Crescent thanks to its mountain surrounds, the grass and a fallen brown autumn leaf remain in shade and covered in frost from a cold winter night; Different types of fallen green and brown leaves and needles are covered in frost at Lake Crescent, frozen in the cool winter morning shade.
From the frosty lake side of Crescent Lake, head into the dense trees and immediately find a rainforest where thick bright green moss covers tree trucks and baby ferns growing from it.
One thin beam of morning sunlight pierces through the thick green rainforest along the trail to Marymere Falls.
Bright green ferns make a thick undergrowth while moss covers everything else, turning the rainforest landscape on the trail to Marymere Falls totally green.
A thin rough wooden bridge made from a single log crosses a river in the dark but richly green rainforest as the ascent to Marymere Falls begins; A bright green fern wraps itself around a large moss-covered tree trunk in the dark rainforest near Marymere Falls.
A bright green rainforest with ferns and moss-covered trees by the side of the rocky river that flows out of Marymere Falls.
All types of vegetation in different shades of green hang over the rocky rainforest creek that flows from Marymere Falls.
A thin steep path with steps and a wooden handrail wraps around rainforest trees looking out over the waterfall that is Marymere Falls; Looking across blue river water flowing over rocks to a wooden bridge in the thick green rainforest near the base of Marymere Falls.
The Marymere Falls waterfall hits the rockface and splashes down to form a creek in the middle of the mossy green rainforest.
In the rainforest near Marymere Falls small bright green ferns grow out of a thick mossy tree trunk.
Looking through a thick mess of bright green ferns to the Marymere Falls rainforest waterfall.
Back at Crescent Lake now that the sun is out over the hills, trees growing on the lake edge have a thick layer of green moss over their roots; Looking though silhouetted thin bare winter tree branches overhanging Crescent Lake, with forested hills and blue sky.
Looking through brown autumn leaves still clinging onto winter branches to a pier on Crescent Lake, with thick forested trees behind.
Silhouetted tree trunks growing on the waters edge at Crescent Lake, with moss growing on their root and the blue sky reflected in the still water.
Out on Hurricane Ridge, in the north of the park, a winter landscape where snow sits in the branches of tough gnarly trees.
Tough windswept trees on the snowy mountainside at Hurricane Ridge, with layers of forested and snowy peaks going deep into the park beyond; Thin rugged trees in a windswept snowy landscape with mountain peaks behind them.