Olympic Peninsula Hiking Safety - Make Sure Your Hike Ends at Home

Olympic Peninsula hiking with safety in mind

Log bridge wash-out creating a log jam in the river

1.  Bring your medication(s), even if you think you don't need them.

2.  Drink plenty of water and snack often, even on cool, wet days.

3.  Take many short rest breaks, not long breaks where your muscles begin to stiffen up.

4.  Moderate your temperature by using appropriate layers of clothing.

5.  Watch out for other hikers getting fatigued and take appropriate action and care.

Olympic National Park tours with ExperienceOlympic, Port Angeles WA 98362

Hiker standing on rocks surveying the water at high tide

Exploring tide pools with safety in mind

We adapted these guidelines for tide pool safety from safety in the tidepools:

The tide comes in the fastest half way between low and high tide so be especially attentive during this time.

Know when the high and low tides are by checking a local tide table.

Close-up of Bald-Faced Hornet nest among Red Alder branches

Test your sturdy footwear on slippery rocks before stepping fully onto them.  Never jump!

Although you can safely walk on mussel and barnacle beds, remember to step gently.

In the Pacific Northwest:  don't touch sea jellies (jellyfish) with color, mind the large crabs, and don't get bit by an octopus. 

If you tide pool in other parts of the world, there will likely be other dangerous animals, so check locally.

Large healthy-looking Mountain Goat in the alpine

Wasps, bees, and hornets

Olympic National Park lacks many poisonous plants and venomous animals that are common in other parts of the Americas.  In general, you will not be bitten by insects or get a terrible rash if you grab onto plants while hiking, walk around in high grass, or sit down on woody debris.

Although insect bites are generally uncommon, stinging insects like wasps can cause some Olympic Peninsula hiking safety considerations for those with severe allergies such as anaphylaxis.  Depending on weather conditions, foraging wasps can become especially aggressive during late summer and fall.  Read over the section on wasps in how to pack for Olympic National Park hiking for directions on how to dress to avoid attention from wasps, bees, and hornets.

A large healthy-looking 10 point bull Roosevelt Elk grazes next to the side of an Olympic Peninsula roadway

Large mammals

While quite a few potentially dangerous North American mammals will not be found during your Olympic Peninsula hike (no Grizzly Bear, for example), the park does have Mountain Lions (alternatively called "cougars"), Mountain Goats, Black Bears, and Roosevelt Elk - all large mammals that warrant our attention.  The park posts signs describing any current wildlife hazards at trailheads and campgrounds.  In addition, please read and consider the following information concerning large mammals as you plan for your Olympic Peninsula hiking safety.

Since hunting is not permitted in Olympic National Park, wildlife viewing can be prolonged and exciting.  Many animals are habituated to human presence and are therefore much easier to view and photograph.  However, wildlife should not be approached, especially during mating season or when young are being protected by their mothers.

What we can assume to be the mother Mountain Goat and her young are completely blocking this Olympic Peninsula hiking trail as the mother feeds and the young sits next to her

Aggressive behavior or overly bold behavior by wildlife often results from prior contact with human food or human salt.  Food should not be left unattended and any clothing (including backpacks, shoes, and hiking poles) that might have your sweat on it should also be monitored, especially in the high country.  Urine also contains salt and the park is encouraging hikers to urinate off-trail to avoid attracting wildlife to the trail.

When possible, it is always best to hike with someone else.  If this is not possible, consider planning your Olympic Peninsula hikes on well-used trails during summer weekends for Olympic Peninsula hiking safety considerations.  Hiking in small groups is one of the ways to avoid encounters with black bears while hiking or camping according to the Washington Department of Fish and Widlife.

Read about other tips for planning the best Olympic National Park vacations