Olympic National Park

Sightseeing at Olympic National Park

Exploring the lush forest outdoors.
©2006 National Park ServicesOnly the muted sound of almost-perpetual rainfall disruptsthe peaceful quiet of the Hoh Rain Forest.

The Olympic mountains -- the heart of Olympic National Park -- are a wilderness range that is nearly circular. The mountains are penetrated by 13 rivers that radiate out from their center like the spokes of a wheel. The highlands are up-and-down country, where the peaks and ridges are separated by deep valleys and canyons cut by the rivers.

Olympic National Park Photo Opportunities

Olympic National Park is full of mountain vistas and scenic landscapes that are perfect for photographers. If you're hoping to snap a few shots while visiting the park, here are some vantage points to consider:


  • Mount Olympus: The centerpiece of this park is the towering Mount Olympus, named for the home of the Greek gods.
  • Hoh Rain Forest: The rain forests in Olympic National Park host plant and animal life that can't be found anywhere else in the world.
  • Hurricane Ridge: Visitors to Olympic National Park can drive to Hurricane Ridge to experience the park's high country and mountain vistas.

The Rain Forests of Olympic National ParkOlympic's three rain forests, with trees and vegetation as lush as an Amazon jungle, may be the strangest and most fascinating sections of this unusual park. 

The richness of these forests exists only because certain conditions are met: Moisture must be incredibly plentiful, and even when it is not raining, the air needs to be humid and misty. And the temperature must be mild, neither too hot nor too cold.

The proximity of the Pacific Ocean helps fulfill these requirements for the Olympic forests. The steep rise of the inland mountains forces Pacific storm clouds to ascend and release their moisture as heavy rainfall. This moisture is then concentrated in long river valleys, which also extend moderate, sea-level temperatures deep inland. 

This unique combination of weather and topographical conditions perpetuates the life cycle of these forests. After a tree falls, it can become a nurse log for new seedlings. Bacteria and fungi slowly break down the fibers of the fallen log, which becomes covered by mosses and lichens. This surface is rich in nutrients and allows seeds to germinate and sprout. After a seedling takes root, a young sapling grows. Over time the nurse log rots completely away, leaving a tree standing tall on its stiltlike roots.

Modern-day visitors marvel at Olympic's rain forests and mountains. In the next section, we'll tell you how this landscape was formed.