Cornforth Images

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is located on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. The park can be divided into three basic regions: the Pacific coastline, the Olympic Mountains, and the temperate rainforest. In 1976, Olympic National Park became an International Biosphere Reserve, and in 1981 it was designated a World Heritage Site. In 1988, almost all of the Olympic Peninsula was designated as the Olympic Wilderness, further enhancing the protection of the region.

Within the center of Olympic National Park rise the Olympic Mountains whose sides and ridgelines are topped with massive, ancient glaciers. The western half of the range is dominated by the peak of Mount Olympus, which rises to 7,965 ft (2,413 m). Mount Olympus receives a large amount of snow, and consequently has the greatest glaciation of any non-volcanic peak in the contiguous United States, outside of the North Cascades. It has several glaciers, the largest of which is the Hoh Glacier, nearly 3.1 miles (5 km) in length. Looking to the east above Puget Sound, the range becomes much drier due to the rain shadow of the western mountains. Here, there are numerous high peaks and craggy ridges. The western side of the park sports a temperate rain forest, including the Hoh Rain Forest and Quinault Rain Forest. This temperate rainforest contains dense timber, including spruce and fir, and mosses that coat the bark of these trees and even drip down from their branches.

The park features a network of hiking trails, although the size and remoteness means that it will usually take more than a weekend to get to the high country in the interior. A nearly unique feature of the Park is the opportunity for backpacking along the beach. The coastal portion of the park is a rugged, sandy beach along with a strip of adjacent forest. It is 73 miles (118 km) long but just a few miles wide, with native communities at the mouths two of rivers.

There are a number of beautiful beaches to photograph and explore in Olympic National Park including, First Beach, Hobuck Beach, Ruby Beach, Second Beach, Rialto Beach, and Shi Shi Beach. First Beach is a mile-wide sandy crescent known for its surfing-sized waves, gorgeous and curious sea stacks and dazzling sunsets. Between February and April, pods of gray whales often linger just off shore on their migration to Alaskan waters. Hurricane Ridge has accessible wildflower displays during the summer and beautiful snow scenes during the winter. Mossy green rainforest images are best photographed in the spring on overcast days when the leaves are wet using a polarizer to eliminate glare.