Trail Running in Olympic National Park: An Insider’s Guide

Trail running in Olympic is unlike anywhere else in the world. Only in Olympic can you start a run at a beach, work your way through an elk-filled rainforest, climb a ridge, and then reach some of the most magnificent panoramas in America.

In Olympic, you can run windswept ridges full of mountain goats and marmots while looking down on ancient forests untouched by civilization. With incredibly diverse terrain ranging from soft pack rainforest floors, to rocky and highly technical mountain paths, the 611 miles of trails in Olympic National Park make running in other areas seem mundane and generic.

Trail running Dosewallips - Douglas Scott Trail running Dosewallips - Douglas Scott

Trail running Dosewallips - Douglas Scott

Olympic is known for having some steep trails, but there are three trail running destinations that offer the most bang for the buck without shredding your quads. The first is the Dosewallips Trail, on the eastern side of the park. The trail up the Dosewallips is simple to follow and grows ever more beautiful with each passing mile. Much of the trail largely consists of a now washed-out road that is slowly returning to the wilderness. Running next to the Dosewallips River, you pass by Dosewallips Falls before reaching the now remote campground and ranger station. From there, you will want to keep heading upriver to reach the always-gorgeous Dose Forks Bridge. Stopping here and returning gets you a round-trip run of 14 miles with just 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

Trail running Lake Crescent - Douglas Scott Trail running Lake Crescent - Douglas Scott

Trail running Lake Crescent - Douglas Scott

On the northern side of the park, Lake Crescent packs a stunning eight mile out and back trail run right along the edge of Washington State’s second deepest lake. Set along a historic route that was created for timber extraction during WWI, the Spruce Railroad Trail gives majestic mountain views along the shores of a pristine lake. Besides the ever-increasing views of the lower Olympic Mountains and forested foothills, the trail is capped off with the Devil Punchbowl Bridge, which is also a popular swimming hole in the summer months. The route is mostly flat and can be extended as a full loop of Lake Crescent for those looking for a stunning 22-mile loop unlike anywhere else in America. If you still need more and don’t mind elevation gain, head up to the summit of Mount Storm King or Pyramid Peak to take in the glorious panorama of the lake you just explored.

There is nothing quite like running in the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park. Under the intensely green canopy of firs, cedar, and maples, the Hoh River Trail darts through the ferns and elk herds, leading to epic views of the milky-blue glaciated waters of the Hoh River. To say this area is pristine wilderness is an understatement; the Hoh River is timeless, immense, and one of the quietest places on earth. Once you leave the parking area, the mostly-flat trail evades the crowds quickly, leaving you alone with your thoughts in the endless ruggedness of America’s most-famous rainforest. The suggested route is to head to at least the Olympus Ranger Station in the middle of the Hoh wilderness. Gaining just 348 feet of elevation in 9.7 miles, this run will leave you in awe around every corner.

Trail running the Hoh-Rainforest - Douglas Scott Trail running the Hoh-Rainforest - Douglas Scott

Trail running the Hoh-Rainforest - Douglas Scott

If you are searching for a less-crowded run into one of the lesser-known forested regions of Olympic, head southeast of the city of Sequim and explore the remote beauty of the Gray Wolf Region of Olympic. Remote, picturesque, and full of wilderness wonder, trail running the Slap Camp, Deer Park, and Gray Wolf loop is considered to be one of the classic Olympic National Park trail runs. Just be ready for some serious elevation gain on this trek. The 16.8 mile loop will leave you with 5,000 feet of elevation gain and the best views imaginable.

While Olympic is best known for their stunning coastline and huge rainforests, one area that is often overlooked by trail runners is the windswept ridges of the Olympic Mountains. If you love rolling mountains and sweeping views, the trails from the remote and windswept Deer Park region of Olympic offer incredibly panoramic vistas over the 14.8 mile out and back trail to Obstruction Point. From the seasonally-opened Blue Mountain, trails lead all the way to Hurricane Ridge, as well as numerous rocky mountains to summit and high alpine lakes to explore. Trail running in this region of the park will inspire further adventures into the Olympic Mountains and give you an amazing perspective on the vast wilderness that makes up this enchanting National Park.