With nearly 1 million acres of wilderness to roam, the Olympic National Park is home to a variety of animal, bird and plant species. Some of the more common animal residents include elk, black tail deer, black bears, coyotes, marmots and mountain goats. It’s not uncommon to run into these animals in their natural habitat while you’re hiking. Remember, these are wild animals and you should always keep your distance. Approved bear canisters are required in specific wilderness areas of the park for all food storage and certain scented items. Even the chipmunks can be curious around unattended backpacks.
The Olympic Game Park allows you to get up close to mountain lions, tigers, bears and buffalo. There’s an extensive list of animals you’ll see riding in your car through the drive-through park. You can feed some of the animals by hand, or hop on a camel or pony for a ride.
Watch Roosevelt Elk Calves Crossing the Hoh River along the Hoh River Trail
Birding enthusiasts flock to the Olympic Loop to see over 225 of the 346 bird species found in Washington. The Olympic Loop is part of the Great Washington State Birding Trail and is recognized by the Audubon Society. Make a plan to come for the Olympic Peninsula BirdFest every April, which coincides with the timing of wintering birds and the beginning of spring migration on the Olympic Peninsula. Serious birders can partake in presentations and workshops. Then take field trips to many area hot spots for birdwatching – Port Angeles Harbor, Ediz Hook, Dungeness Spit, Sequim Bay, the Elwha River, Salt Creek and Neah Bay, and Hurricane Ridge.
Start your day in Port Angeles with a hands-on sea-life experience at the Feiro Marine Life Center where you can get an up close encounter with sea creatures collected within 20 miles of Port Angeles from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Then head over to Freshwater Bay for the best kid-friendly tidepooling near town. Low tide reveals a walkable sandy beach dotted with anemone-covered rocks and pools teeming with crabs and tiny fish. Move into the big leagues of tidepooling with visits to these top tide pool spots around the Peninsula: Salt Creek Recreation Area, Ruby Beach, La Push Beaches, and Kalaloch Beach 4.
Whale Trail & Marine Mammals
The rich ocean waters and currents of the Olympic Peninsula coast create an ideal ecosystem and habitat for a vast number of marine mammals, seabirds, sea life and fish. The Olympic Peninsula is surrounded by over 400 miles of coastline, which includes the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary that is over two times the size of the Olympic National Park.
Watch the whales go by on foot or by boat. The Whale Trail is a dedicated aquatic trail that starts in California and runs along the coast of Oregon, Washington and then continues through the Strait of Juan de Fuca into British Columbia. In order to be listed as an official site along the whale trail, there needs to be a good chance of seeing orcas or other cetaceans at some time during the year in public areas. Depending on the time of year and your location, you can spot orcas, minke, gray and humpback whales from the shore. Look for signs at lookout points throughout the Olympic Peninsula. For guaranteed whale sightings, you’ll definitely want to book a whale watching tour — there’s nothing more magical then seeing a breaching whale by boat.