20+ kid-friendly activities in Olympic National Park {and 20+ tips to make the most of your stay}

Exploring and enjoying Olympic National Park with kids Sponsored postCan you believe that I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest almost my entire life, yet I had never been to Olympic National Park? We travel a lot as a family, but somehow the National Park just hadn’t made it on our radar until earlier this year when our oldest got excited about rain forests and we realized how overdue we were for a trip to ONP.

For this past Father’s Day weekend, we decided to do a somewhat last-minute trip to the peninsula so we could explore the Olympic National Park as a family and finally see what we’ve been missing. It turns out we’ve been missing a lot.

For one, there are actually 4 parks in one in Olympic National Park. From glacier-covered peaks, gorgeous lakes, miles and miles of Pacific Ocean beaches, old growth forests, waterfalls, hot springs, and ancient rain forests, there truly is something for everyone.

21+ things to do with kids in Olympic National Park

  1. Embrace the learning experiences at every turn. They call it Olympic’s Living Classroom, and I couldn’t agree more. With so many different climates and zones in one park, you can find thousands of opportunities to learn about nature and its creatures.
  2. Enjoy being "off the grid". I think I had cell phone reception for approximately 15 minutes during our weekend away, which was strangely liberating for someone who makes money by being connected. If my kids were older and connected to cellphones at all times, this lack of reception would have been a parents’ best friend. So go on, enjoy them not checking Twitter, Facebook, Emails and Snapchat and instead make some amazing memories. Lake Crescent boating with the family
  3. Practice orienteering. Pick up a compass and a map and start learning basic navigation. We found this awesome Olympic National Park compass and an adorable compass necklace both onsite during our park trip, and they are not only great for learning in the parks, they are also awesome souvenirs of their trip. FDSC06729
  4. Wildlife watching. Pick up a field guide at any gift shop and learn how to identify wildlife, best places and times to see them, and safety tips for keeping kids out of harm’s way. Tip: Most wildlife activity occurs around dawn and dusk, when animals feed. Plan your wildlife watching excursions during these parts of the day to increase your chances of seeing wildlife. My kids fell in love with the Olympic Fisher and wanted to see one so badly. Unfortunately, we weren't that lucky, but they did get a stuffed fisher they love. Log Cabin Resort sightseeing
  5. Hikes for all ages and abilities. If you walk with my children any length of time, one of them will undoubtedly complain about being tired or their legs hurting. However, you set them on a trail and they can walk forever. My oldest literally sobbed when she realized that our hike had ended and we were back at the car. Sol Duc Falls with baby
  6. Get on the water. There’s something really special about rowing, paddling, or water biking with your kids, and it is even more special in Olympic National Park. Even though the weather wasn’t awesome during our Lake Crescent stay, we still put on some rain gear and bonded while exploring the clearest turquoise water I have ever seen besides the Caribbean. It did start to rain during the last part of our two hour boat rental from Log Cabin Resort, but some of us thought that made it even more fun. Lake Crescent boating
  7. Get in the water. Visit the ocean beaches and explore the tidepools, finding sea creatures and geological gems. Build yourself a sand castle or simply write in the sand and play with seashells, rocks, and stones. The most popular tidepool areas are at Kalaloch's Beach 4 and Mora's Hole in the Wall and during summer low tides, rangers offer programs at both locations. Second Beach, Third Beach, Ruby Beach and many other coastal wilderness locations are also excellent places to view intertidal life in the park.
  8. Become a Junior Ranger. The Junior Ranger Program is really cool for younger kids and is free to participate. Pick up an Olympic National Park Junior Ranger Booklet at any visitor center in the park and complete the steps to become an Olympic National Park Junior Ranger.
  9. Plan a picnic. Pick up some sandwiches, a bottle of wine {obviously not for the kids}, and some snack foods at one of the Aramark stores in the parks and head out to eat in the most beautiful dining room in the world. Be sure and pack a sack to bring your trash home with you or back to a trash can so you leave the park looking just as pristine as you found it. Log Cabin Resort restaurant
  10. Eat like a king. If eating in is more your style, you should definitely check out the restaurants at Log Cabin Resort, Sol Duc Hot Springs, and Lake Crescent Lodge to relax and enjoy a wonderful meal. These don’t serve your basic diner fare, these are amazing eateries with chefs on staff that cater to both foodies, families, and those looking for hearty fuel for their adventures. You can even order hiker's lunches at these restaurants to pick up in the morning before you head out. FDSC06177 Log Cabin Resort breakfast buffet
  11. Participate in the Olympic National Park Ocean Steward Junior Ranger Ocean-Steward-Cover-small-cropped_3program. If your trip will include the coast, you will definitely want to look into this fun and hands-on program for children age 4 and up. Explore the coastal ecosystem of Olympic National and learn how you can help protect Olympic National Parks wilderness coast and ocean. Pick-up your Junior Ranger Booklet at any visitor center and complete the book according to instructions to receive your Ocean Steward patch.
  12. Play a {non-electronic} game. Don’t bother bringing your board or lawn games if you are visiting Log Cabin Resort. They have a cabinet stocked with classic family games you can enjoy during your down time and a yard filled with outdoor games to challenge your family to. FDSC06201
  13. Visit the hot springs. At Sol Duc Hot Springs they cool down the natural mineral hot springs with river water and pipe it into their pool-like hot springs. With a cooler, large pool for swimming, a bath-like wading pool, a medium temperature fountain pool, and a hotter pool for older kids and adults, there is something for all ages. Kids in the Hot Springs
  14. Make art. Bring a small water color kit and some paper, or just some good old fashioned colored pencils and spend a lazy afternoon making art inspired by your day’s adventures.
  15. Do a photoshoot. We all know kids clam up as soon as you get them into a photo studio, so use nature’s backdrop and take a family picture with a self-timer or by having one of your fellow travelers snap a picture of you at a favorite spot in the park. Be sure and keep your camera ready during your adventures because you are sure to get some amazing pictures of your family as they have the time of their lives exploring the parks. I took so many pictures I love during our stay that I had to create a slide show movie of our escapades {embedded at the bottom of the post}. That’s how you know it was a great time. Log Cabin Resorts
  16. Go stargazing. Away from the lights of the city, the stars light up the sky. There are even some night sky programs where you can go out with a ranger and see the night sky up close.
  17. Geocache with your kiddos. If you’ve never geocached, you should definitely check it out. While there are caches hidden just about everywhere, in and out of parks, there are tons in the park waiting to be found. You can visit geocaching.com for lists of caches near you.
  18. Find some snow. Even in the summer, there are areas of Olympic National Park that are always snow-peaked. Take the trek to find some snow, or just admire it from a distance. Hurricane Ridge
  19. Take a guided tour. Olympic National Park offers numerous tours for visitors of all abilities. From boat tours, hiking tours, and sightseeing tours, there’s something for everyone.
  20. Visit the Hoh Rain Forest. The rain forest receives up to 170 inches of rain annually, which is approximately how much rain everyone thinks Seattle gets. Walk through the Hall of Mosses Trail and enjoy the beauty of the moss- and fern-covered trees that look like something out of a story book. My little one is into fairies and anything enchanted, so this was especially exciting for her.
  21. Stop by the Olympic National Park Visitor Center near Port Angeles. Stop into the Visitor Center to get maps and check out exhibits in the Discovery Room. There is a mini-ranger station, touch tables for kids, information on rocks and wildflowers in the park, and a wealth of information about the parks. While you are there, take a forest stroll on Living Forest Trail.

20+ tips for traveling with kids in Olympic National Park

  1. Plan, and plan again. Without a proper plan, the beauty of the parks could be overshadowed by grouchy kids and long car rides trying to find lodging, kid-friendly food, and a quick car route to your destination. Since the roads run on the outside of the park and there is no way to travel through the middle, it can take as long as 5 hours to reach other areas of the park, and may involve a hike or two. Just make sure you plot your course ahead of time or stick to basic routes and allow for ample travel time. If you have small kids like we do, plan to travel to other areas of the park during rest times so they can wake refreshed and ready to explore. FDSC06442
  2. Your child will get wet, I guarantee it. Pack extra changes of clothing and extra shoes, because you will need it. Between the ocean beaches and tidepools to the muddy trails, waterfalls, hot springs and lakes as well as a very possible chance of rain, you should always plan for water, as well as a plan for packing home wet clothes. If you visit in the spring, you might want to consider rain boots as well – for trails as well as beaches. FDSC06412
  3. Speaking of wet, you probably want at least one towel, especially if you are visiting the beach, river, or lake. If you are staying at Sol Duc Hot Springs you can use their towels without paying, but if you’re camping and just visiting the hot springs for the day, you can either rent or buy towels in their gift shop. Baby and I in Hot Springs
  4. Prepare to explore much of the park on foot. Much of the park isn’t driveable, so if you really want to see the beauty of the parks, it will involve exploring by foot. Pack trekking poles for kids who tire quickly, give your kids guides and binoculars to make the walks fun, and let them tackle the trails at their own pace and you will have a much better experience, and so will your kids. FDSC06865
  5. Washington weather is unpredictable plan for rain, sun, and cold. Layers are ideal, and quick drying fabrics are a must. Pack along a rain coat, a hoodie or a sweatshirt, and then have an under layer in case it gets hot or you are exerting yourself and need to cool off.
  6. Pack, or buy, a hat. Even if you are mostly on tree-covered trails, you will still be out in the open more often than you think. Bring a hat, a bandana, or a hood to keep the sun off you, and be sure to bring sunglasses. FDSC06813
  7. Bring sensible shoes. We brought flip flops for the hot springs, tennis shoes for the trails {we weren’t going to be doing any treacherous hikes that have snow and ice so we opted to not bring hiking boots}, and we all had shoes that could get wet, just in case. It may be over packing, but I find it’s better to be prepared than to be without shoes.
  8. Don’t let your kids wander. The parks are well maintained, but they are still wild areas that are home to wild animals, natural wonders, and dangerous terrain. Stay on the designated trails and watch your little ones closely. FDSC06773
  9. While you’re at it, teach your child to respect the National Parks. Too many park stories these days include visitors who disrespect our National Parks. Teach your kids while they are young how to care for and respect nature and they will grow into responsible park visitors themselves.
  10. Don’t feed the animals – either directly or indirectly. To avoid feeding them indirectly, make sure to cart your garbage out of the park with you, and if at all possible keep items in smell-proof containers to avoid having your feast eaten during the night or when your back is turned. FDSC06144
  11. Rent a fun-filled backpack. Olympic National Park offers discovery backpacks to enhance your exploration of the park. Rent one for a suggested donation of $5 and you will have all you need to explore and appreciate the beauty of the park. DiscoveryBackPack
  12. Bring refillable water bottles and fill up at your resort or campground. There aren’t convenience stores on every corner {or actually many corners at all}, so be sure you are bringing enough water on your daily journey for everyone in your party.
  13. Don’t drink from the streams. It may be tempting because they look pristine and naturally filtered, but unless you’re hauling along a filter, you should stick to tap water from designated facilities. FDSC06753
  14. Bring a baby carrier or hiking backpack for babies and toddlers. While much of the resort grounds are paved, strollers aren’t very practical while visiting the park. Instead, bring a baby carrier and really explore the trails, fields, and beaches. Hiking Sol Duc Falls
  15. No need for a crib. Borrow a crib for your stay at any of the Aramark resorts and save yourself some space in your vehicle. Pictured: Waterfront A-frame cabin at Log Cabin Resort. Log Cabin Resort
  16. Share your camera. If your kids are older, be sure to let them take some pictures, too. It’s fun to see their perspective of the world, and you will definitely get some hilarious and awesome shots waiting for you to find when you get home.
  17. Ditch the jacket. Life jacket, that is. You won’t need them unless you are bringing your own boat or swimming in the lake or ocean away from a resort. The Hot Springs and all the resorts near water offer complimentary life jackets so you can utilize those and not have the extra stuff to pack. Log Cabin Resort boating
  18. No need to “rough it”. Olympic National Park has some gorgeous lodging that ranges from quaint and quiet to majestic. We visited Lake Crescent Lodge, Log Cabin Resort, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort during our stay. We didn’t get to see it this visit, but I hear Lake Quinault Lodge is definitely worth a stay. Wherever you decide, be sure to book fast during their busy season so you can guarantee a comfortable place to refuel after your days of exploring. WP_20160618_14_15_43_Rich Sol Duc Hot Springs
  19. Pack necessities in. Most basic items can be bought at stores in the parks and are fairly reasonably priced, but if you need a specific brand or have allergies you might find yourself trekking to Port Angeles or another small town around the park and hoping they have what you need. I’m happy to say that even with our last-minute planning, we still had everything we needed and more, but even if we hadn’t we would have been okay based on what I saw in the park stores.
  20. Plan some spending money. The Aramark gift shops were full of fun stuff – from patches and pins to books and stuffed animals. Each kid got a special Olympic National Park exclusive stuffed animal as well as a find trinket of their choice, and they would have gladly shopped even more if we hadn’t cut them off. Be prepared to plunk down some change and set limits beforehand. FDSC07140
  21. Hours and closing times are not clearly marked for most locations, especially during off-seasons. Make sure you inquire at a visitor’s center if there is something you really want to make it to so you don’t get there and find it isn’t open during the season or their hours are sporadic.
  22. Don’t try and do too much in a small period of time. Plan an extended stay or multiple visits if you can. Going slower will make for a much more enjoyable experience with kids and you don’t want to rush through your visit. I wouldn’t do more than two resorts or camping areas, but you judge what your kids are up for. I like the idea of doing a northern trip and a coastal trip, but you may prefer to map your trip based on your kids’ preferences.

As you can see, there is plenty you can do with kids in Olympic National Park. Plan your trip today and check out their youth programs here. Want to find out more about Olympic National Park? Check out their brochures and handouts that provide information on a variety of park topics. You can also take a Virtual Tour of the park and its resources by completing jigsaw puzzles online.

Love this post? Pin it for later! 20+ fun things to do with kids in Olympic National Park and 20+ tips to make the most of your stay
Want even more? Watch a video of our Olympic National Park visit:

A big thank you to Aramark for discounted lodging rates at two of the Olympic National Park locations we visited. All opinions are 100% ours and based on our experiences.

4 thoughts on “20+ kid-friendly activities in Olympic National Park {and 20+ tips to make the most of your stay}”

  1. This is my type of vacation–very active, peaceful with a lot of nature. I would love to take my kids hiking and canoeing like this.


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