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The Olympic Traverse

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

With its dense rainforest and rugged mountains, the Olympic Peninsula contains some of the last explored lands in the lower 48. The Peninsula also happens to be a dream come true for adventurers and outdoor recreationists. At nearly 700 miles in length, the Olympic Traverse could easily keep the curious traveler busy for two weeks.

Route Overview

Adventure Rating: Epic

Trip Length: 680 miles / 6-12 days

Season: Late May - October

Avg Technical Rating: 2

Peak Technical Rating: 3

Typical Terrain: Mixed dirt and pavement. Most dirt roads tend to be graded and in good condition. There are some secondary dirt roads that are a bit tighter (encroaching foliage and low hanging branches) and steeper.

Recommended Vehicle: Stock 4x4

Adventure Vans: Sprinter 4x4s should be able to manage the majority of the route. There are some secondary roads with low branches and encroaching foliage that may make for a difficult passage.

Alternative Routes: n/a Permits: You will need to purchase a National Park pass when passing through Olympic National Park.

 

Route Details


With its rugged mountain slopes and dense temperate rainforests, the Olympic Peninsula contains some of the last lands to be explored in the contiguous United States. Olympic National Park has been designated a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. The peninsula is famous for its many temperate rain forests that fill its lush river valley. The Hoh, Queets, Quinault, Sol Duc, and Hamma Hamma are some of the better known rain forests in the peninsula. Ancient giant trees like Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, Coast Douglas-fir, and Western red cedar can still be found in the rainforest river valleys, while fauna such as Roosevelt Elk, mountain goats, black bears, mountain lions, and marmot also make their home in the Olympics. The average rainfall in many of the rainforests is well over 100 inches, and can exceed 200 inches during wet years. All of this rain leads to an abundance rivers and salmon fisheries, like the Bogachiel, Hamma Hamma, Sol Duc, Queets, Dungeness, Calawah, Sitkum river and more.


The western slope of the Olympics contain some of the wettest rainforests in the lower 48, and the mountains create a rain shadow, at least relative to the massive amounts of rain the western rainforest valleys see. The Juan de Fuca subduction zone created the jagged mountains and deep glaciated valleys of the Olympics. The thick foliage and undergrowth of the lower elevation river valleys and rainforests often obscure the vistas of the high alpine. Those searching for views should head into the mountains. Hurricane Ridge, Deer Park Campground/Blue Mountain, and Obstruction Point offer some of the best views of the Olympic Range within the park. If you're up for a bit of adventure by foot, then definitely check out the Obstruction Point-Deer Park Trail. Other fantastic views within the park can be found at Lake Cushman Lookout, Lake Crescent, and Kalaloch Beach. Those looking for adventure on foot will be amazed at the number of hiking trails throughout Olympic National Park and National Forest. Some of our favorite trails include hiking through the Hoh, Queets, Quenault, Sol Duc and Hamma Hamma rainforests, exploring Kalaloch Beach (be sure to check out the Tree of Life), and Hurricane Ridge.


One thing to note about the Olympic Peninsula, is that it sees a lot of vehicle and foot traffic during the warmer months, and especially on weekends. If you have the luxury, we'd recommend trying to explore those lands managed by Olympic National Park (mostly the western side of the orute) during the week if possible. The route is comprised of a mixture of pavement and dirt, and amenities are never that far away. For the most part, the Olympic Traverse is comprised of well graded dirt roads, but there are some secondary roads that are a bit narrower and steeper (mostly in Olympic National Forest). The dirt sections are typically never longer than a few hours, and the same goes for the paved sections. Given the decent amount of pavement along the route, it is possible to make rather good time despite the total length of the route (680 miles). If you're looking to escape the the crowds, we recommend pulling up the MVUM map for Olympic National Forest, and exploring one of the many forest roads that go deep into the river canyons and/or mountains. Chances are, you'll find some excellent camping along the way as well!


Camping Recommendations

It can be difficult to find a campsite, whether at a campground or a dispersed site during weekends along the western side of the Olympic Traverse (primarily land managed by Olympic NP). We recommend planning ahead, and reserving 1-2 nights in an established campground in the National Park. Dispersed camping is permitted in Olympic National Park, just keep in mind that you'll need to be at least 1 mile from any established trailhead.

Relatively speaking, finding a dispersed campsite on lands managed by Olympic National Forest should be much easier. However, there are still popular locations within the National Forest, which may make it difficult to locate a dispersed site in the backcountry on a busy weekend. We recommend starting your search for a camp site at least a couple of hours before sun down, just to ensure you can find something. And don't be afraid to venture of the track in search of campsites deep into the Olympics! Recommended Camp Locations:

  • Kalaloch Beach

  • Deer Park Campground

  • North Fork Campground

  • Staircase Campground

  • Campbell Tree Grove Campground

Discovery Points

  • DP1 - Bon Jon Pass

  • DP2 - Louella Cabin

  • DP3 - Dungneness River

  • DP4 - Blue Mountain

  • DP5 - Morse Creek Overlook

  • DP6 - Hurricane Ridge

  • DP7 - Obstruction Point

  • DP8 - Elwha River

  • DP9 - Lake Crescent

  • DP10 - Kloshe Nanitch Lookout

  • DP11 - Sol Duc River

  • DP12 - Sitkum River

  • DP13 - Calawah River

  • DP14 - Bogachiel River

  • DP15 - Hoh Rainforest

  • DP16 - Hoh River

  • DP17 - Clearwater River

  • DP18 - Queets River

  • DP19 - Queets Rainforest

  • DP20 - Queets River Trail

  • DP21 - Kalaloch Beach

  • DP22 - Tree of Life

  • DP23 - Lake Quinault

  • DP24 - Quinault Rainforest

  • DP25 - Merriman Falls

  • DP26 - Quinault Giant Sitka Spruce

  • DP27 - Quinault Rainforest Trail

  • DP28 - Humtulips River

  • DP29 - Wynoochee River

  • DP30 - Wynoochee Falls

  • DP31 - Satsop River

  • DP32 - High Steel Bridge

  • DP33 - Skokamish River

  • DP34 - Hood Canal

  • DP35 - Lake Cushman Look

  • DP36 - Hamma Hamma River

  • DP37 - Hamma Hamma Falls

  • DP38 - Rocky Brook Falls

 

Maps + Navigation


Digital Mapping Files


 

Resources


Land Managers

 

Gallery



Terms of Use: Should you decide to travel a route that is published on Overlandtrailguides.com, you do so at your own risk. Always take the appropriate precautions when planning and traveling, including checking the current local weather, permit requirements, trail/road conditions, and land/road closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, and carry the appropriate safety, recovery, and navigational equipment. The information found on this site is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by Overland Trail Guides, the route accuracy and current conditions of roads and trails cannot be guaranteed.



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2 Comments


Jeff Thiel
Jeff Thiel
May 25, 2022

For what it's worth, I did about 70% of this route last summer and can say that OTG did an awesome job putting this together. While it's definitely not a "challenging" route in terms of the terrain, it more than makes up for it with the sheer amount of stunning things to see along the way. The Olympic Peninsula is a truly amazing place, begging to be explored.

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Pam&Pax
Pam&Pax
Mar 21, 2022

Listened to your podcast for this Olympic Route, I live in the PNW and would love to check it out! When do you think it will be completed?

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