Olympic National Park vs Mount Rainier National Park

Washington State Vacation

You have made it to the greater Seattle of Washtington State for your vacation and its time to plan that one road trip to a local park. The map shows you some great options but the two that catch your eye are Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park. Which one do you choose? Read on and we promise we will either solve the problem for you or make it even more difficult.

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is dedicated to preserving a mountainous region of rain forest. These forests are home to some of the true giants of Earth. Massive cedars, hemlocks, spruces, and firs soak up as much 200 inches of rainfall a year on the Olympic Peninsula. All that precipitation and healthy soil lends to amazing growth. If you are looking for a place to see some of the giant trees of the American West Coast -or on Earth, really- this is the perfect place. Standing in or even at the edge of one of these forests gives you the sensation of having been transported away to some other land. Thick, bright green moss clings to the lower branches and smaller trees while awe inspiringly trunks rise into the sky overhead. The trunks are amazing and the scenery is unique since few similar forests exists.

Mountains and Beaches of the Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic National Park also includes a strip of coastal land. The trees mentioned above do indeed reach down from the mountains, growing right up to where the roaring Pacific Coast where waves thunder into the shore. These are rocky beaches, with palm size stones that the surf has worn smooth. The clatter of stones accompanies the breaking of surf which creates a unique beach experience. And while we mention the beach, don’t worry about sunscreen, since this isn’t the kind of place you lie out on a towel. Aside from the rocks, you will find fallen trees scattered down the shore. These centuries old tees fell long ago and were picked up by the surf to be pushed around, pulled out to see, and then deposited on the shore again. The reality is that they are just too big to go away. The experience here is to roam amid the fallen trunks on the shore. In fact, it’s a bit of a playground of sorts. Local lore tells that the fallen trunks will roll around in the surf for centuries before they are finally worn away.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park has some similarities to Olympic but not many. It is possible to find some large trees in the area, but that is not the main attraction. The star of the show in this park is the mountain. Mount Rainier is a volcanic peak that supports a host of glaciers that help it to achieve the accolade of most scenic mountain in the area. The mountain’s true glory, however, is its size. At 14,410 feet, it literally rears miles into the sky. The grandeur of the peak cannot be appreciated until it is viewed at a closer range. While distant views are stunning, it is when you get closer to it that you realize the breathtaking magnitude. It is one of those rare sites on Earth that is capable of taking your breath away.

Mount Rainier Scenic Drives and Hikes

Mount Rainier is not just another pretty face, however. It’s a park that delivers. If you like to get out in the great our doors, go for scenic drives, stand at dramatic lookout points, take soul inspiring hikes, view wild animals, and dine at some rustic and very cool venues, then go to this park. Experienced hikers rate this park highly. That does not refer to a difficulty rating but rather one of scenery. The mountains are steep and dramatic in Mount Rainier National Park and you are guaranteed stunning vistas on any hike you take. For the less active, roadside viewpoints are more than worthy stopping points on a scenic drive. You also stand a fair chance of seeing some kind of wildlife such as marmots, mountain goats, foxes, elk, bears, deer, porcupines, bobcats, or coyotes. And that’s just a handful of the diverse animals living in the park. If you don’t like the idea of being close to some of the above animals, have a pair of binoculars handy at the scenic pullover spots. You will be amazed what you discover in the distance.

Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park

The above is an oversimplification of Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park because they offer a whole lot more in addition to what we have shared. We encourage you to go to either one to discover the wonders that await you there. The choice between the two is difficult but whichever you choose, you will enjoy it. If you get to visit both, even better.

Good luck with your travels!

Let us hear from you...