Contact Olympic National Park, 600 E. Park Ave., Port Angeles, WA 98362-6798 (tel. 360/565-3130, TTY 800/833-6388, or 360/565-3131 for a recording; www.nps.gov/olym). The park's newspaper, The Bugler, offers a good look at the area.
There are three visitor centers in the park, offering exhibits, maps, guides, and information. Smaller ranger and information stations at popular trail heads are open only in summer.
The Olympic National Park Visitor Center (tel. 360/565-3130), on the northern end of the park near Port Angeles, is a good jumping-off station before heading into the northwest part of the park. It's a 45-minute drive from there to one of the most popular spots in the park, the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, where you'll find beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains and alpine meadows blooming with wildflowers each summer. It also has a snack bar, interpretive exhibits, and trails. If you want to avoid the crowds, drive up in the late afternoon, as everyone else is leaving. Wait for sunset, and you might get a view of the mists coming in, and perhaps a visit from deer -- but do not approach or feed any animals. Those who arrive before 10am will also find more elbow room.
The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, on the west side of the main part of the park, is some 15 miles off a turnoff from U.S. 101. This is an excellent spot for those who want to experience a temperate rainforest without spending a couple of days hiking in the elements. The information center is, like Hurricane Ridge, a favorite spot for tourists in the summer season. There are several interpretive trails and the beautiful Hall of Mosses nearby, as well as longer trails into the heart of the rainforest.
Smaller centers include the Storm King Information Station, on Lake Crescent in the northern section of the park, and the Kalaloch Information Station, on the south end of the beach section of the park. You can get food and some supplies near the Sol Duc Ranger Station at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort.
Fees & Permits
Entrance to the park for up to a week costs $15 per vehicle, or $5 per individual hiking, biking, or on a motorcycle. Camping in the wilderness (for groups up to 12 people) costs $5 for a backcountry permit, plus $2 per person per night. Camping in the park campgrounds costs $10 to $18 a night. Dump station use costs $5.
Special Regulations & Warnings
Wilderness use permits, available at the Wilderness Information Center (just behind the main visitor center in Port Angeles) and at all ranger stations, are required for overnight stays in the backcountry. During the summer, you may also need reservations for certain areas. Call the Wilderness Information Center (tel. 360/565-3100) for details.
When hiking, be prepared for sudden and extreme weather. Also, in October 2010, a hiker was killed by a mountain goat near Klahane Ridge -- be sure to maintain a safe distance if you encounter any wildlife.