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Olympic Wilderness

General Location Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Trip Planning Images
Sunset on the snow-covered Mt. Olympus summit.
Library image #395: Sunset on Mt. Olympus (highest peak in Olympic National Park at 7,980 ft.) Mt. Olympus has the third largest glacial system in the conterminous U.S.

Introduction

The United States Congress designated the Olympic Wilderness (map) in 1988 and it now has a total of 876,447 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Washington and is managed by the National Park Service. The Olympic Wilderness is bordered by the Buckhorn Wilderness to the northeast, The Brothers Wilderness to the east, the Mount Skokomish Wilderness to the southeast, the Wonder Mountain Wilderness to the south, and the Colonel Bob Wilderness to the south and east.

Description

Olympic National Park was established in 1938 to protect diminishing herds of Roosevelt Elk, disappearing old-growth forests and the grandeur of the Olympic Mountains. The rugged coastal area was added in 1953. To further protect this remnant of wild America, Congress designated 95% of the park as the Olympic Wilderness in 1988. Today, you play an important role in protecting this wilderness heritage. When you enter the Olympic Wilderness, take time to clamber along the roaring beaches of the wilderness coast, to immerse yourself in the freshness and healing of the old-growth forests or to push yourself up onto the peaks and ridges of the glorious high country.

The Olympic Wilderness is Washington's largest Wilderness area. Olympic is also one of the most diverse wilderness areas in the U.S. The heart of the Olympic Wilderness is made up of the rugged Olympic Mountains and some of the most pristine forests left south of the 49th Parallel. The Temperate Rainforest valleys of the west and south flanks of the mountains receive 140 to 180 inches of precipitation annually with Mt. Olympus (7,980 feet), the highest peak in the Olympic Mountains receiving over 100 feet of snow. Mt. Olympus has the third largest glacial system in the conterminous U.S. next to Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker also in Washington State.

The Olympic Wilderness also contains 48 miles of wilderness coast with its beaches, rugged headlands, tide pools, seastacks and coastal rainforests.

Just over 600 miles of trails lead into the interior of the park. Overuse threatens the wild character of some areas of the park. Wilderness Camping Permits are required for all overnight hikes and reservations are required for some areas. Contact the park's Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles at (360) 565-3100 for more information or for permits and reservations.

Olympic is one of the most popular wilderness destinations in North America, with nearly 40,000 overnight wilderness visitors each year. Think about the reasons why you have come to Olympic. Spectacular views, temperate rainforest, wildlife, solitude, challenge, quiet, and escape are all reasons people visit Olympic. Think about how you can protect the wild character of the Olympic Wilderness before and during your trip.

Planning to Visit the Olympic Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Olympic Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.



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