Olympic National Park offers a dazzling array of landscapes: ethereal rainforests, dramatic coasts, and ponderous peaks. Few places on earth can capture all of the diversity in one location, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to find it. If you’ve visited Olympic National Park—or dream of visiting it—other locations may capture some of the park’s character and ambiance.
For all of its natural beauty, Olympic National Park does offer some challenges. For some, getting to the park is a challenge, thanks to its remote location at the far northwestern tip of the U.S. Also, since it often ranks among the top 15 most-visited national parks, crowds can congest the most popular areas of the park. So, even if you love the idea of Olympic, you might be looking to find similar landscapes elsewhere.
Here are a few ideas for camping alternatives to Olympic National Park:
Camping Alternative Olympic National Park with Similar Landscapes
While not as condensed as Olympic National Park, a journey along Oregon’s coast offers similar landscapes on a bucket-list-worthy road trip full of rainforests, redwoods, and rocky shores. With no stops, the drive takes around seven hours; however, you could take days or weeks to do the journey if you make overnight stays.
Highway 101 provides the pathway for adventure. On the northern end, take in views of the iconic Haystack Rock and natural Pacific beauty at Cannon Beach. On the southern end, venture off the highway to Alfred Loeb State Park to find a forest of redwoods in the Siskiyou National Forest.
At many points in between, state parks showcase scenic sites, and welcoming towns offer up slices of seaside culture. To explore the temperate coastal rainforest, stop at Oswald West State Park or continue south to find Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. Take your pick of hundreds of beaches, watch for whales, or tour a lighthouse. This is a choose-your-own-adventure style of road trip, with hundreds of sublime options.
Deciding where to camp likely will be a huge challenge, as there are many phenomenal choices. Oregon has a respectable state park system, and several options line the coast. National forests and RV resorts are also plentiful.
Camping options along the Oregon Coast include:
Camping Alternatives to Olympic National Park in the Nearby Region
While Olympic National Park covers much of the Olympic Peninsula, the beauty doesn’t end at the park boundaries. The surrounding area is equally lush—and some of these landscapes come with fewer crowds.
More than 600,000 acres of Olympic National Forest encircle Olympic National Park. The U.S. Forest Service lands offer 250 miles of trails, as well as locations for mountain biking, fishing, swimming, and more. Several lakes dot the landscape, and the Sol du Sac River crosses through. Free dispersed camping is allowed on national forest lands, and the U.S. Forest Service offers nearly 20 developed campgrounds, with more than 10 accommodating RVs.
The Olympic Peninsula is also home to six Washington state parks, as well as numerous county parks. Watch for the elk herd in Dosewallips State Park, wander in the river and old-growth forests at Bogachiel State Park, or hang out in the “rain shadow” uber-dry microclimate of Sequim Bay State Park.
Camping options on the Olympic Peninsula:
Camping Alternative to Olympic National Park on the East Coast
If you love the northwestern most tip of the U.S., you may also love the northeastern most tip, especially if the coastal sections of Olympic are your favorite. Encompassing nearly 50,000 acres along the Schoodic Peninsula, on Mount Desert Island, and on several smaller islands, Acadia National Park is a rugged landscape set amid Maine’s Atlantic shores.
But, this remote coastal scenery is not the only attraction in Acadia; the highest mountain on the eastern seaboard is also found here. Cadillac Mountain reaches a peak of more than 1,500 feet. While not as high as Olympic’s Mount Olympus, Cadillac Mountain still creates a dramatic focal point, with the peak reachable by hiking or driving—whichever meets your level of adventure.
Throughout Acadia, hiking trails take you through the coastal headlands, along rocky shores, and up mountain peaks. The waterways provide spots for tidepooling, paddling, swimming, and more. Carriage roads and other trails provide opportunities to explore the landscape on bike. And, after night, the skies offer some of the best stargazing on eastern shores.
Camping options in and near Acadia National Park include:
Camping Alternative to Olympic National Park with a Rare Rainforest
While Olympic’s Hoh Rainforest is the largest in among the contiguous U.S., if rainforests fascinate you, a visit to North Carolina’s Gorges State Park is a must. Its 8,000-acre temperate rainforest is, indeed, a rare find, especially away from the West Coast. And, yes, you’ll be tempted to make plenty of gorges/gorgeous puns at this gorgeous park full of gorges.
Located along the Blue Ridge Escarpment, Gorges State Park is a land of plummeting waterfalls, with 26 falls, to be exact. More than 50 miles of hiking trails take you through rocky bluffs, canyons, and forests full of rare plant and animal species. In addition to hiking, the park has trails for biking and horseback riding. The waters of Bearwallow Creek and Toxaway River abound with trout and bass for fishing.
After you’ve gotten your fill of Gorges State Park, you aren’t far from Asheville and the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains, giving you even more to explore. Outside of the contiguous U.S. states, if it’s rainforests you seek, head to Hawaii or Alaska to find a plethora of scenic options.
Camping options in and near Gorges State Park include:
Olympic National Park truly is a wondrous place, from its rocky shores to its towering peaks to its lush rainforests. It’s like taking three separate trips—all in one location. While few places fully encapsulate this sweeping array of landscapes and experiences, the Oregon Coast, Olympic Peninsula, and Acadia National Park may get close to meeting the mark.