WE JUST SAY "the Olympics" when we talk about our rainy national park, a bumpy line of peaks we can see over the Sound. Named for the home of the gods, Olympic National Park reigns as the fifth most visited national park in the country. Its three million annual visitors rank just behind blockbusters like Yosemite and Yellowstone. For a wild, unmarked space that isn’t on the road to anywhere, our mossy peninsula is far more than a backdrop to Seattle sunsets.
It helps that Olympic National Park is in pieces: one big round blob encompassing the peaks and rain forest, then a sliver that runs a third of the length of Washington’s Pacific shore. Visitors stream into the meadows of Hurricane Ridge, the sands of Kalaloch, and the forest canopies of Hoh—or all three.
It took two Presidents Roosevelt to preserve the nearly one million acres of Olympic National Park. Today it cradles forest creatures you won’t find anywhere else, rare temperate rain forest where winters drown in up to 14 feet of rain, and the largest unmanaged elk herd in the world. But now the park faces dwindling federal funding, and the challenge of removing dams that have gummed up its rivers for a century. Zeus may have lived on Olympus once upon a time, but these days the Olympics, and the expansive lands that make up Olympic National Park, are our treasure and our responsibility.
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- Insider’s Guide to Olympic National Park: