Located in the picturesque Olympic National Park, the Olympic Hot Springs are a collection of natural thermal pools deep in the protected wilderness. Requiring a long, arduous trek to access, the hot springs have retained much of their primitive charms and provide for an isolated soaking experience in the serene setting of the region’s dense foliage.
Despite the daring 20-mile out-and-back hike to reach, the Olympic Hot Springs remain one of the most famous thermal pools in the state. While the foreboding journey to the spring does keep away the heavy crowds, the hike itself offers a pristine experience in itself. It passes over rustic bridges, crackling creeks, and even majestic waterfalls.
Along with its soothing collection of natural mineral pools, Olympic National Park is home to several natural attractions. With so much to explore, a visit to the hot springs can easily become a multi-day or even week-long expedition through the Olympic National Park, capped off with a soothing soak in the celebrated mineral pools.
From the best soaking practices and how to reach the pools to the top nearby attractions and accommodation options, this is everything you need to know before visiting the Olympic hot Springs, Washington.
History of Olympic Hot Springs
Before European settlers made their way to the American West, the Olympic Hot Springs were already a popular therapeutic destination renowned for their curative properties. The local Klallam Tribe even engaged them as a destination for hosting vision quests.
The Olympic Hot Springs was finally revealed to the western settlers in 1892. At that point, American settler Andrew Jacobson was led through the forest by a Klallam friend and famously became the first person of European descent to lay foot on the springs’ soil.
However, Jacobson kept the location of the hot spring a secret, and the thermal pools again disappeared into obscurity for over a decade. That is until they were rediscovered in 1907 by more commercially minded individuals that burned a trail to the site and established a resort complex on the property.
After flourishing as a famous center of rejuvenation for half a century, the resort was finally removed in 1966 following the expiry of its lease with the National Park Service. All of the development and buildings of the resort have since been removed, and visitors are once again invited to bathe in the natural primitive pools once enjoyed by the local Klallam Tribe.
Olympic Hot Springs Facilities
Visitors to the spring today would never know the primitive pools were once the site of an extensive resort complex. From the extended journey to reach the site to the dense foliage that surrounds the pools, everything about the Olympic Hot Springs seems entirely untouched by human development.
The Olympic Hot Springs boasts 21 thermal pools, although not all are suitable for swimming. Upon approaching the site, visitors are first welcomed by the potable aroma of sulfur. This is due to the high mineral concentrations that give the water its soothing properties. Luckily, it only takes a moment to get used to the smell.
The thermal pools vary in temperature, ranging from lukewarm to a scorching 138 degrees Fahrenheit, with plenty of more comfortable swimming conditions in between. Temperatures typically depend on the depths of the pools, with the first few shallow swimming holes being cooler than the deeper pools located a little further back.
While the isolated location and long hike to reach the site keep crowding to manageable levels, the hot springs can experience increased weekend traffic, particularly during tourist season. In addition, the pools are relatively small, with only one being large enough to swim more than three people.
Attractions Near the Olympic Hot Springs
Olympic National Park is home to some of Washington’s most picturesque natural landmarks. And considering the long exertive journey to access the hot springs, visitors would be remiss not to explore some of these other wonderous attractions before heading back to the city.
Hall of Mosses
The Hall of Mosses Trail offers visitors to the hot spring a short and accessible exploration of the national park free from the physical exhaustion of the more exertive paths. While only a 0.8-mile roundtrip hike with a total elevation gain of 100 feet, the Hall of Mosses packs much of the park’s natural beauty into its limited path.
From the Hoh Rain Forest Visitors Center, the trail guides visitors through the lush rainforest with educational signage and information on the local flora and fauna. Trekkers may witness local species along the way, including the Roosevelt Elk and Banana Slugs.
Offering some of the best views of the national park and a deeper immersion into the Olympic Mountain Range, Obstruction Point is one of the most breathtaking lookouts in Washington. Located 25 miles from Port Angeles, the road to Obstruction Point is not for the faint of heart and features a narrow 8-mile gravel route starting from the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center.
From Obstruction Point, visitors can bask in the marvel of the breathtaking landscapes or engage in one of the many hiking trails that weave throughout the park in all directions.
The route to Deer Park is one of the best hikes starting from the vantage point. The 7.4-mile trail is the highest hiking path in Olympic National Park and passes by the picturesque Badger Valley and Grand Valley.
Accommodations Options at Olympic Hot Springs, Washington
While no camping is permitted in the area immediately surrounding the hot springs, visitors are more than welcome to pitch a tent for the night at the nearby Boulder Creek Campground located about half a mile away.
Alternatively, visitors can day-trip to the hot springs from the nearby Port Angeles, located along the state’s northern shores. The Olympic Inn & Suites offers fantastic budget-friendly rooms with modern amenities.
Meanwhile, the Olympic Lodge features a slightly higher nightly rate and provides more luxurious accommodation for visitors.
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Getting to the Olympic Hot Springs, Washington
The easiest way to access the Olympic Hot Springs Trail Head is via private vehicle. Visitors take Olympic Highway along the northern edges of the park to Elwha, where they will exit the highway onto Olympic Hot Springs Road.
While at one point, visitors could drive this road most of the way to the springs, a recent washout has closed the majority of the route starting from the Madison Falls parking lot. As a result, visitors must hike or bike 8 miles before even arriving at the start of the 4.8-mile Olympic Hot Springs Trail.
The trek is approximately 12.8 miles and features a total elevation gain of 3248 feet. Luckily, the hot springs at the end of the path offer a calming respite to soothe your well-worn hiking muscles.
- Address: Washington, 98363, United States
- Season: Year-round
- Website: https://www.nps.gov/olym/hot-springs.htm/
- GPS Coordinates: 47.97693, -123.68812