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We had the pleasure of visiting several new National Parks over the last several years that I never got around to sharing in the ol’ blogosphere. Shame on me! And one in particular stood out to me as one of the most photogenic and interesting; Olympic National Park in Washington.

Here’s a quick peek at what I found, and why I’ll be planning our return as soon as possible.

Only a few hours from the Seattle area, the first thing you’ll notice when you visit or research Olympic is how large it really is. It has no road that intersects, so in order to see its several distinct ecosystems, you’ll do a decent bit of driving around the entire Olympic Peninsula.

It encompasses nearly a million acres. Within that, you have mountains, rainforests, and dramatic coastlines.

We happened to be there just in time for the Rhododendron bloom, which is pretty spectacular.

One of my favorite things, dirt roads, are abundant around the park. Lots of places “off-the-beaten-path” to explore. And much of the Park runs adjacent to Olympic National Forest, so there are tons of recreation opportunities, including camping.

And every so often, if the conditions are favorable, you’ll get smacked in the face with a view of Mount Rainier, over 100 miles away.

The old-growth forests are spectacular and transport the visitor to another time. One can imagine the terrible and beautiful creatures that must have roamed this lush area.

The flora is the most impressive visual at this park, even though it does contain a surprising amount of animal inhabitants. Surprising only because of the dense populations of people surrounding this vast wilderness. But truly, the plant life reigns supreme here.

And then, there are the Olympics. Majestic and rugged mountains. Not particularly high, the tallest in the range is Mount Olympus, clocking in at just shy of 8,000 feet. However, the eastern slope of the range rises up from sea level at Puget Sound, so the mountains are still quite steep and impressive looking.

On the western slope, the Hoh Rainforest dominates. It is the wettest place in the lower 48, in fact. And because of this, it is the United State’s best glimpse into the temperate rainforest ecosystem.

Unfortunately, I only had a moment during the middle of the last day on the coastline for this trip, so more to come on our next visit. I didn’t get to explore that section as much as I’d like, nor did I come away with any jaw-dropping images, however, it was clear that this section would be just as fruitful and inspiring photographically and from a sight seeing perspective, as the other areas of the park.

The big takeaway for me was that this park demands time. A lot of it, if you really want to get a feel for the incredibly varied looks it will give you. It was my favorite of Washington State, and that’s saying a lot if you’ve ever been to Mount Rainier or North Cascades, both spectacular parks in their own right. Olympic National Park is a truly special place.

— Andrew

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