Exploring Washington State’s Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park - Provided by Maitland Manor

Olympic National Park on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is an adventure that deserves a spot on your travel short list. It’s regularly named among the top national parks in the world by travel writers, explorers, and experts. Travel+Leisure magazine readers voted it one of the Top 15 National Parks in the United States. It’s the perfect place for LGBTQ travelers looking for an escape that’s easy to get to, welcoming, and accessible for people of all abilities, but still feels like a world class passport to a million acres of unspoiled wilderness.

Olympic National Park comprises the  bulk the Olympic Peninsula, about 2 hours drive Northwest from SeaTac Airport and the city of Seattle, making it a prime location to visit with easy access. And there’s enough to do here to create an impressive itinerary in and around the park from a single central hub. The Olympic Peninsula includes not only Olympic National Park, but also Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, Olympic National Forest, and the Olympic National Marine Sanctuary.

Getting Around Olympic National Park

You’ll need a car, as this park is huge, and not easily accessible with public transportation (although there are some options for that). From the airport, the easiest route is driving south along I-5 through Tacoma and heading west on WA-16. If you’re exploring all the wonderful LGBTQ hotspots in Seattle first (like world-famous Capitol Hill and the Broadway Market), then the best way is to take the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island.

Experience the famous Washington ferry system in action. No reservations are needed as the ferry holds 300 cars and leaves about once per hour.

Exploring the Park

Now that you’re out on the Olympic Peninsula, you’ll want to stay about a week to explore everything you can see and do, and take full advantage of the unusual diversity of the Park’s multiple and varied ecosystems. First , unlike most National Parks, Olympic does not have a main gate, and you cannot drive through the Park.

Instead, there are gates dotted around the perimeter of the Park, with access to multiple trailheads at each entry point. The most popular spots are: Hurricane Ridge (alpine mountains), Lake Crescent and Sol Duc Falls (glacial lakes and waterfalls in the rainforest), Hoh Rainforest (location of the quietest square foot in America), and Rialto Beach (wild Pacific Coast). The park is open year-round, but access to some places is limited in winter.

What’s Nearby?

Outside of the National Park, you’ll definitely want to take in the Dungeness Spit (the longest natural sand spit in the Western Hemisphere), Cape Flattery (the northwestern-most point of the contiguous United States), take a day trip by ferry to Victoria B.C., and explore some of the county and state parks that are less visited but no less spectacular.

There are 4 primary towns on the Olympic Peninsula: Port Townsend (a Victorian arts seaport), Sequim (the lavender capital of North America), Forks (of Twilight fame and gateway to the Hoh Rainforest and Rialto Beach), and Port Angeles (the largest town in the area and closest to the most popular places to visit in the area).

Port Angeles is a great location to use as your “home base” during your visit as it’s centrally located to everything the Peninsula and Park have to offer.

Where to Stay

LGBTQ-friendly Maitland Manor is an exceptional boutique B&B in downtown Port Angeles within easy  walking distance of the waterfront, and LGBTQ-owned Domaine Madeleine is an intimate luxury inn located on a waterfront bluff just outside the city.

Maitland Manor:

Domaine Madeleine

Both offer comfortable accommodations, easily accessible locations, all the amenities you need to explore the area, and a welcoming environment for LGBTQ travelers, including couples and solo travelers. Domaine Madeleine also welcomes pets.

Visit Maitland Manor | Visit Domaine Madeline

Each inn provides comprehensive, up-to-date day trip itineraries to ensure you see everything the area has to offer. Depending on the season, you’ll encounter extraordinarily lush green rainforests (March-May and October-November), wildflowers (June-August), wildlife (year-round, but especially September-October), leaf-peeping (late September to early October), solitude and winter sports (November-February), a variety of renowned festivals that vary by season, and romance and adventure year round. Also of note, Port Angeles is home to the longest running and one of the leading annual transgender conferences, Esprit, held in May every year.

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