Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is located in state of Washington, in the
Olympic Peninsula. This park can be divided into three basic
regions: the Pacific coastline, the Olympic Mountains, and the
temperate rainforest. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt
originally created Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909 and
after Congress voted to authorize a re-designation to National
Park status, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the legislation
in 1938. In 1976, Olympic National Park became an International
Biosphere Reserve, and in 1981 it was designated a World
Heritage Site. In 1988, Congress designated 95 percent of the
park as the Olympic Wilderness.
Olympic National Park Coastline
The coastal portion of the park is a rugged, sandy beach along
with a strip of adjacent forest. It is 73 miles long but just a
few miles wide, with native communities at the mouths of two
rivers. The Hoh River has the Hoh people and at the town of La
Push at the mouth of the Quileute River live the Quileute.
The beach has unbroken stretches of wilderness ranging from 10
to 20 miles. 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. The coastal strip is more
readily accessible than the interior of the Olympics; due to the
difficult terrain, very few backpackers venture beyond casual
The most popular piece of the coastal strip is the 9-mile 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 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.
Olympic National Park Glaciated Mountains
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
accretionary wedge uplifting related to the Juan De Fuca Plate
subduction zone. The geologic composition is a curious mélange
of basaltic and oceanic sedimentary rock. The western half of
the range is dominated by the peak of Mount Olympus, which rises
to 7,965 feet. 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. Looking to the
east, the range becomes much drier due to the rain shadow of the
western mountains. Here, there are numerous high peaks and
craggy ridges. The tallest summit of this area is Mount
Deception, at 7,788 feet.
Olympic National Park Temperate Rainforest
The western side of the park is mantled by a temperate rain
forest, including the Hoh Rain Forest and Quinault Rain Forest,
which receive annual precipitation of about 150 inches, making
this perhaps the wettest area in the continental United States.
Because this is a temperate rainforest, as opposed to a tropical
one like the Amazon Rainforest in South America, it is dominated
by dense coniferous timber, including Sitka Spruce, Western
Hemlock, Coast Douglas-fir and Western redcedar and mosses that
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.