One of the best activities you can do while visiting the USA is to hike in its multiple national parks. Americans take great pride in these wildlife paradises, which they visit multiple times a year: they are the preferred destination for Boy Scouts, and they are awarded with millions of dollars a year by the American Government to ensure their conservation. If you are visiting any of the 50 States it would be a sin not to go visit at least a couple of national parks, and if you happen to stay in the State of Washington, the Olympic National Park is a must-go.
A historic park of enormous dimensions and stunning landscapes
The Olympic National Park was declared a national park by president Franklin Roosevelt shortly after visiting the peninsula, way back in 1938. In 1981, the UNESCO recognised its natural significance and named it one of its World Heritage Sites. It occupies the vast majority of the Olympic Peninsula, located west of Seattle, has a total surface of 373,380 ha (922,650 acres) - it is America’s 13th largest national park - and is home to countless natural species, some of which are endemic. The Olympic National Park also offers a wide variety of landscapes, ranging from rainforests that look like the landscape of Tolkien’s Shire to snowy mountain tops like the aptly-named Mount Olympus and Mount Deception, which are great for skiing or snowboarding during winter and hiking in summertime.
From swimming in the seaside to hiking and climbing, countless options for everyone!
The first option you can go for is backpacking along the 97 km (60 mi) of paths that follow the coastline. If you’re more of a climber, you’ll be delighted to hear that the Park’s highest peak, Mt. Olympus, which rises up to 2,428 m (7,965 ft), is easily accessible, and although it receives a large amount of snow during wintertime - which, in time, creates stunning glaciers - it is climbable. If you’re more interested in discovering the flora and the fauna of the Peninsula, the park won’t let you down. Located in the inland of a peninsula, some of the species that live there have become endemic and can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Actually, one can find some of the world’s tallest trees here, majestically rising among black bears, black-tailed deer, pumas, roosevelt elks and mountain goats. As you see, there’s an option for everyone!
Discover the rainforest and its flora and its fauna in first person
A typical day at the Olympic National Park starts by having breakfast at the Lake Quinault Lodge, located directly next to the lake shore and enjoying a little hike near the lake. There is a myriad of trails you can take, depending on the area you’re planning on visiting, the amount of time you want to spend in the Park, and how demanding you want your hiking to be. You can take from a short walk around the lodge’s area to a complete trail around the lake, which is around 25 km (15.5 mi). Here, you’ll find yourself surrounded by huge trees with a dense foliage that filters the sunlight and gives the rainforest an almost magical atmosphere, the sound of your footsteps covered only by the singing of the birds and the sound of the wind against the branches.
Afterwards it’s a good idea to get a fulfilling meal: if you want to change your location a bit, you can try the Salmon House Restaurant. Located next to the lake, the Salmon House offers, as its name implies, a wide variety of perfectly cooked salmon-based dishes.
After the meal you might want to take a break and chill near the lake. Make sure you get to the eastern shore to make the most of the sunset, a stunning show that becomes the perfect ending to a perfect day in the wild.
A place not to be missed in the State of Washington
Few places in the USA (and few places in the whole world) provide such a wide range of nature activities. You can walk by the seaside or climb a 2,500 m (8,200 ft) peak. You can also suntan in the grass or ski and snowboard in the glaciers. You can gently stroll around the Lake Quinault and hike across the endless rainforest surrounding it. Trust me, visit it, and I assure you that the Olympic National Park will remain in your memory for years and years to come.
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