Description - The Olympic Peninsula is the most northwest land body in the United State outside of Alaska. Over two million acres of public lands in this unique area are managed by the Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park. The rugged Olympic Mountains rise from sea level to 7,965 feet in the center of the Peninsula. Temperate rain forests cover the seaward slopes with over 140 inches of rain annually at lower elevations. The Olympic Mountains create a rain shadow in the northeastern part of the peninsula where as little as 15 inches of rain a year is received. These variations in elevation and moisture create a rich landscape which offers many opportunities for camping, hiking, picnicking, swimming, hunting, fishing, and boating. There are also opportunities for special activities like clam digging, oyster picking, beachcombing, scuba diving, wildlife viewing, and mountain climbing.
Copyright: USDA Forest Service
Climbing Mt. Elinor, Olympic National Forest
- The Olympic Peninsula is a World Heritage Site and holds a temperate rain forest, rivers, alpine peaks, and glaciers. Abundant wildlife include salmon and Roosevelt elk. The Olympic National Forest covers 632,000 acres.
The Olympic National Forest has five designated Wilderness Areas. Recreation opportunities vary but most offer good opportunities for hiking, backpacking, mountain climbing, fishing, and camping in primitive settings. The Buckhorn Wilderness is located in the northeast portion of the Olympic National Forest. A patented mining claim involving 216 acres of private land is within the Wilderness. This Wilderness, the largest on the Forest, includes very steep terrain ranging in elevation from 1,000 feet near the Gray Wolf River, to the summit of Mt. Fricaba at 7,134 feet. Barren ridges and steep, rocky cliffs and peaks are common in the higher elevations.
Colonel Bob Wilderness is located east of Lake Quinault in the southwest corner of Olympic National Forest. This 11,961 acre wilderness contains steep, rugged topography. Elevations range from 300 feet in the Quinault Valley to 4,509 feet along the eastern boundary.
The Mt. Skokomish Wilderness is located in the southeast portion of the Olympic National Forest. This Wilderness includes very steep terrain ranging in elevation from 800 feet near Lake Cushman to the 6,612 foot summit of Mt. Stone. Barren ridges and numerous steep faced rock outcrops are present throughout this Wilderness.
The Brothers Wilderness is located on the east side of the Olympic National Forest, north of Lena Lake in Jefferson County. Except for a relatively gentle valley area in the East Fork of Lena Creek, the entire Wilderness is quite precipitous with tree covered slopes extending to about 5,000 feet.
The 2,349 acre Wonder Mountain Wilderness is one of the smallest wildernesses in the Western United States. Wonder Mountain Wilderness borders the Olympic National Park and is located west of Lake Cushman. Terrain is generally rugged and ranges from a low of 1,740 feet in McKay Creek to the summit of Wonder Mountain at 4,758 feet. The lower slopes are heavily timbered. Massive rock outcrops and precipitous pinnacles are common in the higher elevations.
In the Hamma Hamma area, north of Hoodsport, Hwy. 101 to Forest Road 25 provides a scenic drive with views of both Mt. Skokomish and The Brothers Wildernesses. The area also offers hiking on Lena Lake and other trails, camping and picnicking. The Living Legacy Interpretive Trail winds up the hill from Hamma Hamma Campground.
The Seal Rock Recreation Site and Campground is located just north of Brinnon off Hwy. 101, Seal Rock is one of the few Forest campgrounds located next to salt water. It has beach access for seasonal oyster and clam harvesting, nature trails, bicycling, swimming, boating, beach combing, bird watching, picnicking and camping. Interpretive trails show the natural and cultural history of the area.
Mt. Walker View Point is located 4.1 miles off Hwy. 101 between Brinnon and Quilcene. Panoramic views of Puget Sound and Seattle (summit is 2,804 feet above sea level). Hikers can follow a short, rim trail to spectacular views; for the more hardy, try the 2 mile trail from the bottom of the mountain to the top.
Mt. Mueller Trail is a new 13 mile loop trail which offers exhilarating views of the Olympics, Lake Crescent and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Soleduck Ranger Station has maps.
Kloshe Nanitch Lookout Site is perched on a craggy point with spectacular views of the surrounding area, this reconstructed fire lookout is a replica of the structure used to spot forest fires in the 1920's.
Quinault Lake is a beautiful lake nestled in the rain forest. The area has an historic lodge, picturesque cabins, and several campgrounds. Visitors may stroll along the 1/2 mile Quinault Rain forest Interpretive Nature Trail. This connects with the 4 mile Quinault Loop Trail offering a hike through the rain forest and along the lake.
Wynoochee Lake/Dam has picnicking, hiking, camping at popular Coho campground, boating, fishing, and swimming available. Hikers may explore the 12 mile trail that circles the lake or experience the Working Forest Nature Trail, a short, interpretive walk. To get there, from Route 12, turn north on Wynoochee Valley Road, 1 mile west of Montesano. Continue 35 miles to the dam and lake.
Recreation - Some of the recreation opportunities on the Olympic National Forest include camping, hiking, mountain climbing, backpacking, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, boating, scenic driving, and viewing interpretive sites. These activities are available at various locations throughout the Forest.
The Olympic National Forest offers a wide variety of camping experiences and settings from developed campgrounds to dispersed and backcountry camping. Hike-in and boat-in sites are available as well as traditional vehicle campgrounds. Camp next to a peaceful lake, a rushing stream or in a dense conifer forest. Camp in the Olympic rain forest or hike to a beautiful backcountry lake. All campgrounds in the Forest are on a first-come-first-serve basis. The Hamma Hamma and Interrorem cabins can be reserved for public use.
Climate - Various environmental and climatic changes occur in a relatively short distance around the Peninsula. Within 50 miles between Mt. Olympus and the Pacific Ocean, the vegetation changes from a lush, temperate rain forest typical of the Hoh, Queets, and Quinault Valleys to an alpine environment of lichens and mosses above 7,000 feet.
The Olympic Peninsula features a marine-type climate. Precipitation occurs throughout the year, but the heaviest rainfall typically is in the late fall and winter months, decreasing into the Spring. The northeast section of the Quilcene Ranger District experiences the driest conditions on the Forest, receiving as few as 25 inches of rain annually. Quinault Ranger District receives the most abundant rainfall, ranging from 120 to 240 inches annually. Winter snowfall around the Peninsula averages from 10 inches in the lower valleys to 250 inches in the higher mountain elevations. Summer temperatures average from 65 to 75 degrees, occasionally reaching the 80+ degree level with intermittent rains occurring often, except in unusually dry years.
The Olympic National Forest is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The Forest surrounds Olympic National Park. The Peninsula is bounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.