In 2018, outdoor recreation is more popular than ever, which has led to innumerable subjective rankings of locations, and of the fifty-nine National Park units. While various social media users and webpages debate whether Yellowstone or Yosemite are the best parks, under the surface, many park units escape the public consciousness. Quietly, however, some of the online and in person discussion has turned to 2017’s eighth most visited National Park, Olympic, and its surrounding wild areas. This is a change in that for many years, Washington’s most popular park was Mount Rainier, and many outdoor purists both in and out of Washington sought to keep the trails of the Olympic peninsula secret. But, with greater information available on the internet, popular media, and word of mouth, many visitors are now seeking out Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest to enjoy some of the jewels of the Pacific Northwest and national public land system as a whole.
In case you’ve never heard of Olympic National Park, it was established in 1909 as a National Monument, only to be converted into a National Park in 1938. The park covers a substantial portion of the Olympic Peninsula with over one million acres, and is one of the most biodiverse regions within the continental United States. In this regard, Olympic National Park is an area that literally has something for everyone. For those that like sweeping coastal views, one of the park’s most renown areas is the areas around Shi Shi Beach to Second Beach, which have been featured in innumerable photos and popular media pieces.
While the beaches of the Olympic peninsula are perhaps second to none, the peninsula also features not one, but two temperate rainforests. While the Hoh Rainforest in the National Park receives the most attention, and the Hall of Mosses in that area is spectacular, the Quinault Rainforest which straddles the boundary of the National Park and the National Forest has a number of wild, and remote trails for the experienced hiker and backpacker, but also a number of attractions for the first time visitor, ranging from accessible trails around Quinault Lake to accessible natural features like Merriman Falls that allow everyone to experience the wonder of an old growth rain forest.
Similarly, the Staircase Region of Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest features a mixed public land area with spectacular outdoor recreation opportunities with limited crowds. For those that are seeking a remote area to camp in with big trees, Staircase Campground along Lincoln Creek provides a refreshing and wild area that allows visitors to experience what the region was like over 125 years ago. In this regard, the Shady Lane Trail allows a visitor to experience the time traveling solitude through both the National Park and Forest and visualize the wonder and difficulties the men that the Lieutenant O’Neil expedition of 1890 experienced during their exploration of the region. Nearby, Mount Ellinor provides a leg-burning ascent through Olympic National Forest but provides perhaps the best views of the peninsula and National Park from the summit that allow for a bird’s eye perspective on the enormous biodiversity of the region.
All of these locations and more on the peninsula, both inside and outside the National Park are by and large public lands - an intergenerational gift from our American ancestors for the present. These are also lands that the original inhabitants had powerful legends about thousands of years ago - of rival dragons and other mystical creatures. These lands, like many within the United States need, in my mind, to be seen by most people to understand why they should be preserved. While I, and other writers, travelers, bloggers, social media influencers can write - and have written for almost a hundred years about their majesty, such words pale in comparison to the wonder these locations bring to the eye, or to the eye of a child who will inherit these intergenerational public spaces long after I am gone, and my words are gone. All of the reasons above I have provided are great reasons to visit the wild Olympics - from Olympic National Park to Olympic National Forest, and beyond. But the best thing about these recommendations of mine is that they can be supplemented, because they are subjective.
I guarantee that if you go to the Olympics, you will find things beyond my recommendations, or anyone’s recommendations that amaze, astonish, and in the end, need preservation not just for today, but for tomorrow, and for the future of our changing planet. And that, among other places, is why you need to visit the Olympics now, because without knowing what you are missing, you can’t fully appreciate why it is in danger, why it needs help, and why you should help it. Finally, in addition to needing your help, like many wild places, going to the Olympics is good for you - life is short, and the planet is large. I also guarantee that by going to the Olympic Peninsula, you will find some of the magic that you have lost in your life, and some of the magic that is left in the world, and by preserving that in yourself that is the best, you will be in a better position to preserve what is good in the world.
The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Act would permanently protect over 126,000 acres of new Wilderness areas in the Olympic National Forest, and 19 Olympic Peninsula rivers and their tributaries as Wild & Scenic Rivers – the first ever Wild & Scenic Rivers on the Peninsula. Designed through extensive community input to protect ancient forests, clean water, and enhance outdoor recreation, the Wild Olympics legislation has been endorsed by over 550 local businesses, sportsmen organizations, outdoor recreation groups, faith leaders, conservation groups and local elected officials; and more than 12,000 local residents have signed petitions in support. Sign the petition and help preserve these amazing lands.