Biodiversity and Dayhikes in Olympic National Park, Washington

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14247A, Lodge


  • Explore majestic rainforests, rugged mountain ridges, and windswept beaches
  • Stay in a historic Northwest inn with homemade meals
  • Learn about the natural history of an International Biosphere Reserve


  • All meals, daily transportation, and lodging
  • A NatureBridge naturalist to accompany us each day to a different biosystem
  • Evening talks from local experts on local cultural and environmental topics


DatesAug 3–8, 2014
StaffTom Davis

Trip Overview

The Trip

Join us for an adventure in the incredibly diverse wilderness of Olympic National Park. Your experienced Sierra Club leaders and a NatureBridge educator will plan and lead your daily hiking tours into the park. We'll return each day to the Rosemary Inn on the shore of serene Lake Crescent where we'll relax, walk on nearby nature trails, and gather for evening programs. You'll enjoy time with folks who share your interest and love of nature.

Olympic National Park in northwestern Washington State has been designated both an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site. These designations acknowledge the valuable diversity of the park's natural wonders. This area is home to both freshwater and saltwater beaches, rivers and lakes, mountains and glaciers, valley streams and waterfalls, temperate rainforests and hot springs. Though rugged, the Olympic Mountains are all less than 8,000 feet in elevation. The park encompasses two parts of the Olympic Peninsula -- the interior mountains and the coastal strip -- and is 95% wilderness. Olympic wildlife includes elk, black bears, marmots, bald eagles, and salmon. Mountain wildflowers should be bright and showy during our visit.

Each applicant will be provided forms to fill out and promptly send to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner. Please wait for approval from the leader before making any transportation reservations.


The park has a great trail system, and we'll make good use of it -- hiking on Washington's rugged coastline, picnicking beneath enormous Sitka spruce and bigleaf maple trees draped in mosses and ferns, following along a river through an old-growth forest, walking where the clouds live and breathe, playing in leftover snow, smelling the season's wildflowers, marveling at stunning views, and canoeing on Lake Crescent in a large Montreal or Salish-style canoe.

Guest speakers may join us for dinner and evening talks. These plans aren't set in stone, though. Each morning, the leaders and educator will determine what to do that day, taking trail conditions the weather and tide schedules into account.

Day 1: Plan to arrive at 2:00 p.m. at NatureBridge and get settled in time for introductions at 3:00 p.m. We'll take a short hike to a nearby waterfall before dinner, which will be ready at 6:00 p.m. In the evening we'll learn about our week’s activities as we meet for an orientation with our NatureBridge educator.

Days 2-5: After breakfast each morning, we'll board a mini-bus to explore the different ecosystems of Olympic National Park. We'll have our pick of beautiful areas to hike -- in the Hoh Rain Forest, on Hurricane Ridge, through the Sol Duc Valley, on the Pacific beach, to Marymere Falls, and into the Elwha River Valley to review the restored area from a recent dam removal. Every late-afternoon, we'll return to Rosemary Inn for some well-earned relaxation.

Day 6: We'll spend one last morning exploring the area. Then at 2:00 p.m. we'll say our farewells from the trailhead and depart.



Getting There

The nearest large airport is Seattle-Tacoma (SeaTac), across Puget Sound from the Olympic Peninsula. SeaTac airport is approximately 3.5 hours by car from Lake Crescent. Those arriving by car may use ferries from the Seattle area or from Victoria, British Columbia. Commercial shuttle services may also be taken from SeaTac to Port Angeles.

From Port Angeles, it is about a 30-minute drive to NatureBridge on Lake Crescent. Local taxi service is available from Port Angeles. Carpooling and taxi sharing with other participants is encouraged.

The trip leader will send out more detailed information to registered participants. If you wish to carpool, a roster of other trip members will be provided before the trip. Due to insurance regulations, leaders are unable to arrange carpools for participants. Transportation to the lodge is the responsibility of each trip member. 

Accommodations and Food

We will stay at Rosemary Inn, a part of NatureBridge. The inn is on the National Registry of Historic Sites. The environment around Rosemary Inn is truly magnificent, with a beautiful waterfront, old-growth forest on the grounds, and a spectacular mountain view across the water. We will stay in simple cabins with six rooms. Each room accommodates two people. These cabins have toilets and sinks in their buildings. There is an additional modern bathhouse/shower facility in a separate, nearby building. Sheets, blankets, and pillows will be supplied. You need to bring your own towels. Because Rosemary Inn provides accommodations to a variety of groups, others may be staying there while we are.

We'll eat in the dining room of the main lodge. The meals are served cafeteria-style at predetermined times. Vegetarian and special diets can be accommodated if you let us know in advance. The first meal at Rosemary Inn will be dinner on the first day and the last meal will be a sack lunch on the final day of the trip. Please discuss any dietary restrictions with the leader before signing up for this trip. 

Trip Difficulty

Because the Olympic Mountains are less than 8,000 feet in elevation, we won't have to acclimate to high altitudes. Day hikes are moderate in difficulty and will range from two miles (on Sunday) up to 12 miles round trip in distance on uneven ground, with up to 1,600-foot gains and losses. Longer or shorter hiking options may also be offered each day. The hikes are generally on well-maintained trails or on sandy or rocky beaches.

You should be in good physical condition, able to hike all day, every day, while carrying a day pack. The principal criteria for acceptance on this trip are physical and cardiovascular fitness and a flexible attitude toward moderately challenging group hikes. If you start a conditioning program now, including hiking with some degree of hill climbing, you'll be happy you did.

Be prepared for wind, rain, fog, or sunny weather. Layering your clothing is an effective strategy for the variable climate of the Olympic Peninsula.

Equipment and Clothing

You will need a day pack, good wet-weather gear, two sturdy water bottles, broken-in hiking boots, warm fleece, clothing to layer for different weather needs, sunscreen, bug repellent, sunglasses, and a broad-brimmed hat to bring with you on the hikes. Leaders will send a more detailed equipment list to registered participants.



  • Olympic National Park Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic, #216, 2011. 1-800-962-1643


Sierra Club outings were started by John Muir in 1901. Muir wrote "if people could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish." Our wish is that on this outing you share our belief in the need to protect our wild areas. We will be practicing Leave No Trace wilderness etiquette throughout our trip in order to minimize our impact on the environment.

Olympic Park Institute is a great example of environmental stewardship. They built their campus with sustainability as a priority, focusing on green practices such as: composting, using recycled materials wherever possible, salvaging wood for use in their buildings, and using low-flow toilets and showerheads as well as high-efficiency lighting and heating.

The harvesting of old-growth and surrounding forests has sparked controversy throughout the Pacific Northwest. We'll also discuss whaling by Native Americans, saving the salmon, and removing dams on the rivers. All are complex issues, involving jobs and the clash between traditional ways of life and ecosystem protection for many species, including endangered mammals and birds.

The Elwha is the Olympic Peninsula's largest watershed, and prior to the construction of two dams in the early 1900s, was known for its impressive salmon returns. Today, the Elwha River is the site of one of the largest ecosystem restoration projects in National Park Service history. Removal of two dams on the Elwha River -- our nation's largest dam removal to date -- will restore the river to its natural free-flowing state, allowing all five species of Pacific salmon and other anadromous fish to once again reach habitat and spawning grounds.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Tom Davis has for over 20 years enjoyed helping people learn about the outdoors. He has led hikers and llamas on backcountry trips during the past six summers. He has backpacked with groups in many mountain regions of the West -- the Beartooths, Wind Rivers, San Juans, the "Bob", Yellowstone N.P., the Uintas, and the Cascades. He has also led canoe trips into the Boundary Waters and Quetico. Tom currently teaches human and environmental biology courses at Loras College in Dubuque, IA and has led field ecology, van camping trips with his students to Florida and Wyoming. He recently led a tropical biology course in Costa Rica. He enjoys biking, day hikes, mountaintops, birdwatching, and wild huckleberries. Tom believes that respect for the natural environment comes from living and learning in it. He looks forward to meeting and learning from other outdoor enthusiasts and sharing his passion for keeping our natural environment safe for future generations.

Assistant Leader:

Barb Davis has hiked and camped with her husband Tom for over 20 years in many mountain areas of the west. She has led llamas on several backpacking trips into the Wind River and Wyoming ranges in western Wyoming. She is a Gemini and, thus, enjoys wilderness camping, mountain alpenglow and getting away from it all but equally enjoys coming back into town to enjoy a soft bed, a cold drink and some fine dining. Barb enjoys teaching first graders. She is a leader of an active student environmental club and has been a key player in getting her elementary school recognized as one out of only 5% of national elementary schools as a Green Vision school.

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