Olympic National Park
By Jessica Gallegos
Olympic National Park Introduction
The park can be divided into four basic regions: the pacific coastline, alpine areas, the west side temperate rainforests and the forests of the drier east side.
The coastal portion of the park is a rugged, sandy beach along with a strip of adjacent forest. It is 60 miles (97 km) long but just a few miles wide, with native communities at the mouths of two rivers. ( The Hoh river and the Quileute river)
The beach has unbroken stretches of wilderness ranging from 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 km). While some beaches are primarily sand, others are covered with heavy rock and very large boulders. Bushy overgrowth, slippery footing, tides and misty rain forest weather all hinder foot travel. (Times to hike should typically be doubled.) The coastal strip is more readily accessible than the interior of the Olympics; due to the difficult terrain, very few backpackers venture beyond casual day-hiking distances.
The most popular piece of the coastal strip is the 9-mile (14 km) Ozette Loop. The Park Service runs a registration and reservation program to control usage levels of this area. From the trailhead at Ozette Lake, a 3-mile (4.8 km) leg of the trail is a boardwalk-enhanced path through near primal coastal cedar swamp. Arriving at the ocean, it is a 3-mile walk supplemented by headland trails for high tides. This area has traditionally been favored by the Makah from Neah Bay. The third 3-mile leg is enabled by a boardwalk which has enhanced the loop's popularity.
Within the center of Olympic National Park rise the Olympic Mountains whose sides and ridgelines are topped with massive, ancient glaciers. The mountains themselves are products of acrettionary wedge uplifting related to the Juan De Fuca Plate subduction zone.
The geologic composition is a curious mix of basaltic and oceanic sedimentary rock.
The western half of the range is dominated by the peak of Mount Olympus.
Mount Olympus receives a large amount of snow, and consequently has the greatest glaciation of any non-volcanic peak in the contiguous United States outside of the North Cascades. It has several glaciers, the largest of which is the Hoh Glacier, nearly five kilometers in length.
Towards the east, the range becomes much drier due to the rain shadow of the western mountains. The tallest summit being Mount Deception at 7,788 feet.
The western side of the park is mantled by a temperate rain forest, including the Hoh Rain Forest and Quinalt Rain Forest, which receive annual precipitation of about 150 inches (380 cm), making this perhaps the wettest area in the continental United States (the island of Kuaui in the state of Hawaii gets more rain)
As opposed to tropical rainforests and most other temperate rainforest regions, the rainforests of the Pacific Northweat are dominated by coniferous trees such as the Sitka Spruce or the Western Hemlock.
Mosses coat the bark of these trees and even drip down from their branches in green, moist tendrils.
Valleys on the eastern side of the park also have notable old-growth forest, but the climate is notably drier. Sitka Spruce is absent, trees on average are somewhat smaller, and undergrowth is generally less dense and different in character. Immediately northeast of the park is a rather small rainshadow area where annual precipitation averages about 16 inches.
Because the park sits on an isolated peninsula, with a high mountain range dividing it from the land to the south, it developed many endemic plant and animal species (like the Olympic Marmot and Piper's Bellflower).
Besides that it also provides habitat for many species (like the Roosevelt Elk) that are native only to the Pacific Northwest coast. Because of this importance, scientists have declared it to be a biological reserve, and study its unique species to better understand how plants and animals evolve.
Two Day Visit
I would first visit the temperate rainforest of the western side at early morning and make my way to the valleys of the eastern side by mid afternoon and set up camp there. During that time checking out the Hoh River.
The second day I would spend hiking my way towards the glaciated mountains. I want to see Mount deception before ending the trip. :)
A Week Visit
Coastal Area Closed Between Goodman Creek and Jefferson Cove
The southern coastal area between Goodman Creek and Jefferson Cove is closed to public entry for debris removal operations.
All Vehicles Required to Carry Tire Chains Above Heart O' the Hills Entrance Station
All vehicles, regardless of tire type or weather conditions, must carry chains when traveling above Heart O' the Hills entrance station on Hurricane Ridge Road during the winter season (November 15 through April 1).
Olympic Hot Springs Road Closed
The Elwha Valley's Olympic Hot Springs Road is closed to public entry beyond the Altair Campground during removal of the Glines Canyon Dam. Olympic Hot Springs is not accessible from the Elwha.
Elwha River Closures
Boating is prohibited on the Elwha River from Upper Lake Mills Trail downstream to the Highway 112 bridge, except for the stretch between Altair Campground and the Highway 101 bridge.
Open meadows burst with these delightful flowers in the summertime.
Sand Point Trail
Over a large trail the has been a walkway to provide easier hiking.
Olympic National Park preserves more than 60 miles of Washington State coastal wilderness. Rock outcroppings called sea stacks, like these on Shi Shi Beach, are homes for trees, birds, and other animals.
Average monthly rainfall (inches), west to east across the Olympic Peninsula.
------------Kalaloch----------- Hoh----------- Port Angeles---- Sequim
---------------(coast) ---(rain forest valley) -(northeast rainshadow)
Winter-------17.12----------- 18.33----------------- 3.04-------------- 1.61
Spring-------- 8.94----------- 10.33----------------- 1.05--------------- .94
Summer----- 3.13 -------------3.33------------------- .81--------------- .79
Autumn---- 11.17----------- 13.00------------------ 3.72------------- 1.91
Yearly----- 103.00---------- 135.00---------------- 25.90------------ 15.80
Average- (262 cm) --------(343 cm)-------------- (66 cm)--------- (40 cm)