20 Iconic Landscapes That Will Take Your Breath Away on the Olympic Peninsula!

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The Olympic Peninsula stands out as a unique destination in the northwest corner of Washington State. It boasts diverse landscapes, including rugged coastlines, lush rainforests, and snow-capped peaks in Olympic National Park. Additionally, the Olympic Peninsula is home to organic farms, wineries, and cultural centers along Highway 101. With its maritime history and scenic beauty, there’s something for everyone to explore and enjoy.

Rich Native American Culture

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La Push Beach on Quileute Tribal land on Credit DownshiftingPRO

In addition to its natural wonders, the Olympic Peninsula is rich in indigenous heritage, with several native American tribes contributing to the region’s cultural tapestry. Among them are the Quinault, Hoh, and Makah tribes, whose ancestral connections to the land stretch back for millennia.

These tribes have cultural centers and heritage sites that offer insight into their traditions, art, and way of life. Visitors can learn about their history, attend cultural events, and even participate in guided tours to gain a deeper appreciation for the indigenous peoples who have called this land home for generations.

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach Credit sepavone via Depositphotos
Rialto Beach Credit sepavone Depositphotos

Rialto Beach provides scenic coastal vistas and opportunities for beachcombing, tide pooling, and enjoying the rugged beauty of the Pacific coastline. You will love the giant drift logs, the sound of the pounding waves, and views of offshore islands known as ‘sea stacks’ on Rialto Beach.

Hole-In-The-Wall

Hole in the wall Rialto Beach Credit Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau
Hole-in-the-Wall, Rialto Beach, WA Credit Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau

Discover the unique natural wonder of Hole-In-The-Wall, a distinctive rock formation on Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park. Accessible during low tide, it’s a scenic hike offering tidal pools, sea stacks, and beachcombing fun.

La Push Beach

La Push Beach Photo Credit DownshiftingPRO
Sunrise on First Beach, La Push, WA Credit DownshiftingPRO

Three beaches near La Push (First, Second, and Third Beach) provide a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. Situated on Quileutes Nation territory, the beach shows the rugged beauty, tidal pools, and iconic sea stacks. The waves’ roar and the seagulls’ sound can be therapeutic. If you decide to stay they have luxurious accommodations. Trust me, You will not be disappointed if you are lucky enough to see a sunrise or sunset here.

Lake Quinault

Lake Quinault Credit Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau 1
Lake Quinault Credit Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau

Lake Quinault, located in the southwest region of Olympic National Park, offers opportunities for fishing, boating, and scenic drives along the shoreline, surrounded by lush temperate rainforest. Rich in Indigenous history, Quinault territory is the home of the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN), which consists of the Quinault and Queets tribes and descendants of five other coastal tribes: Quileute, Hoh, Chehalis, Chinook, and Cowlitz. 

Forks – Land of Twilight

Forks WA home of Twilight Credit DownshiftingPRO 1
Forks, WA home of Twilight Credit DownshiftingPRO

A charming town with a quirky yearly festival, Forks, Washington, is a great place to stop for a little vampire-inspired fun. The magic of the Olympic Peninsula, which inspired Stephenie Meyer’s series, continues to dazzle visitors to this day. Celebrated each September, the Forever Twilight in Forks event brings the “Twihards” flocking for exclusive experiences that even include surprise celebrity appearances.

Sol Duc Hot Falls

Sol Doc Falls Credit Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau
Sol Duc Falls Credit Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau

Traversing the path to Sol Duc Falls is a breeze, offering a straightforward and physically easy hike. Covering a distance of 1.6 miles round trip, you can expect to complete the trail in about an hour.

Seven Lakes Basin Loop

Sol Duc Falls Trail Credit mkopka via Depositphotos
Seven Lakes Basin Loop, Olympic National Park, Credit: mkopka via Depositphotos

Seven Lakes Basin Loop. This classic 19-mile loop on the Olympic Mountains’ Seven Lakes Basin and High Divide Trail offers stunning views, stargazing, backcountry lakes, and plentiful wildlife. For a well-rounded adventure, consider combining your outing with visits to nearby attractions such as Salmon Cascades, the Scenic Byway, Hoh Rainforest, and Lake Crescent, all conveniently located or accessible along the way.

Olympic Discovery Trail

Olympic Discovery Trail Credit Olympic Peninsula Website
Olympic Discovery Trail Credit Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau website

The Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT), begun as a rails-to-trails project, is located along the northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula. When complete, it will traverse over 135 miles of lowlands between the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It runs through many different types of terrain, several towns, two counties, Olympic National Park, and Native American tribal jurisdictions.

Marymere Falls

Marymere Falls Credit Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau 1
Marymere Falls Credit: Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau

Marymere Falls is a picturesque waterfall near Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park, accessible via a short, well-maintained trail through lush old-growth forest, offering a refreshing stop for visitors. According to one hiker, a short 1.1-mile loop round trip will take approximately 45 minutes.

Neah Bay

Neah Bay Credit DownshiftingPRO
Neah Bay toward the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, WA Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Quiet and unassuming, until the middle of the 20th century, Neah Bay was only accessible by water because it was primarily a fishing village. This is home to the Makah Tribe. From seals to salmon to whales, the sea was – and still is – a large part of the livelihood of the Makah. Fifteen minutes north of town is the most northwestern point in the contiguous U.S. – the starting point for the picturesque hikes to Cape Flattery and Shi Shi Beach.

Makah Cultural and Research Center Museum

Makah Cultural and Research Center Museum Credit DownshiftingPRO 2
Makah Cultural and Research Center Museum Credit DownshiftingPRO

The Makah people called themselves Qwiqwidicciat or Kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx (pronounced kwee-DITCH-cha-uck), meaning “people who live by the rocks and seagulls,” referring to their lands along the rocky coastline. One of the best-kept secrets is the Makah Cultural & Research Center. Located in the center of town. Be sure to take the time to visit this exceptional Native American museum.

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery Credit DownshiftingPRO 1
Quinault Rain Forest Trailhead Credit DownshiftingPRO

Before you leave the museum, don’t forget to pick up a parking pass and head up to Cape Flattery. You need one to park if you plan on hiking the trail. Roughly a 40-minute hike to the point, Cape Flattery Trail provides spectacular views of the rugged rocks, crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean, and a wide variety of sea birds. Keep a lookout for bald eagles! This is a ‘must-do’ trail.

Sequim

7 Cedars Sequim WA Credit DownshiftingPRO
Totem poles at 7 Cedars Resort, Sequim, WA Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Sequim is pronounced “skwim,” this arid community and the surrounding Dungeness Valley benefits from its location in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains. Visitors flock every summer to view its lush lavender fields. Stop at 7 Cedars Resort to see the beautiful totem poles. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has been carving totem poles for over 25 years. Today, more than 35 totems grace their tribal campus.

Port Townsend, WA

Port Townsend WA Credit DownshiftingPRO
Port Townsend, WA Credit: DownshiftingPRO

Perched on the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, Port Townsend is charming with a relaxed vibe and beautiful stately homes. This Victorian seaport is known for its maritime heritage and eclectic art and music scene. Fort Worden Historical State Park, located just outside town, hosts many events yearly.

Hike the Hoh River Trail

Hoh Rainforest Trail Credit Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau
Hoh Rainforest Trail Credit Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau

The Hoh River Trail, located in the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park, is a popular hiking route renowned for its towering trees, moss-draped scenery, and opportunities to spot wildlife such as elk and black bears.

Hall of Mosses

Hall of Moss Credit sepavone via Depositphotos 1
Hall of Mosses Credit sepavone via Depositphotos

The Hall of Mosses trail is conveniently located near the visitor center. This leisurely stroll spans less than a mile, guiding you through the captivating Hoh Rainforest. Enjoy a tranquil walk through ancient trees covered in moss and lush green flora, crossing Taft Creek along the way. With its easy terrain, this trail offers a delightful hiking experience suitable for all skill levels.

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus Credit suwanneeredhead via Depositphotos 1
Mount Olympus Credit suwanneeredhead via Depositphotos

Climb the heights of Mount Olympus, the tallest peak in Olympic National Park, standing at 7,980 feet. Experienced climbers will find it a challenging but rewarding mountaineering experience, with routes of different difficulty levels that demand technical skills and appropriate equipment.

Hurricane Hill Trail

Hiker Hurrican Hill Credit Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau
Hiker Hurrican Hill Credit Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau

Discover the beauty of the Hurricane Hill Trail, located in the breathtaking Hurricane Ridge area of Olympic National Park. This scenic hike, offering a moderate challenge, unveils sweeping vistas of the Olympic Mountains, the picturesque Strait of Juan de Fuca, and glimpses of Vancouver Island. Follow the well-maintained path as it winds through pristine subalpine meadows, fully allowing you to appreciate the natural splendor along the way.

The Whale Trail

Orca Whales Credit Ivkovich via Depositphotos
Orca Whales Credit Ivkovich via Depositphotos

Along the Highway 112 Scenic Byway, visitors can find locations designated as viewpoints for the Whale Trail, which opened in 2010. The Whale Trail aims to educate travelers with 20 marked sites optimal for viewing both resident and transient whale pods and other marine mammals. The trail traverses from Puget Sound to Kalaloch. A sign designates each official site and displays additional information.

A big shout out to the Olympic Peninsula Visitors Bureau for providing the images for this MSN (US) slideshow.

More on The Olympic Peninsula and Washington State

The Olympic Peninsula is beautiful, but Washington State has other tourism gems. Before heading there, maybe drop by Vancouver, Washington, The Tri-city area, or Seattle.

Historic Fort Vancouver Vancouver Washington TBEX Tricities DownshiftingPRO 1
Fort Vancouver, Washington Credit DownshiftingPRO
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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.