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Kid-Friendly Olympic

National parks on their face are often kid friendly, but there are some special spots that seem to be designed with kids in mind. Here are some in Olympic.

Hands down, the Hoh Rain Forest delights 99.9 percent of kids who enter it. Soaking up some 12 feet of rain a year, this temperate rain forest is an emerald kingdom filled with surprises lining the trails that wind through it.

Banana slugs up to 10 inches long slime their way across the forest floor and vegetation, trees downed decades ago serve as "nurse logs" for new trees, crystal-clear streams flow through the forest. For those lucky enough, some of the resident Roosevelt elk might show themselves (just keep your distance if you see one, as they've been known to charge visitors on occasion). For aspiring botanists, survey the forest canopy for epiphytes -- spike mosses, ferns, and lichens that grow on trees and take their sustenance out of the air.

From the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center there are two relatively short trails to explore: the eight-tenths-of-a-mile-long Hall of Mosses Trail, and the 1.2-mile-long Spruce Nature Trail.

The park's beaches also are kid magnets, though not for swimming. The Pacific Ocean is simply too cold and the surf too rough for safe swimming. Rather, beachcombing for intriguing shells, shiny agates pounded smooth by the wave action, and other curious items the waves have tossed up can engage youngsters, and oldsters, for hours. 

Rialto Beach at the end of the Mora Road is particularly popular, in part because of the towering sea stacks that rise just off the shore, the tidal pools that can be found at low tide with their marine residents (sea urchins, sea stars, anemones), and Hole-in-the-Wall, a finger of the mainland that sticks out into the surf. Pounding waves have carved a hole through this land mass, and you can hike through it during low tide. Just keep an eye on the tides so you don't get stuck on the north side.

The trail to Marymere Falls is a great morning, or afternoon, leg stretcher for kids with energy to burn. It meanders a mile-and-a-quarter from near the Storm King Ranger Station near Lake Crescent, through the rain forest to the 90-foot waterfall. Another great kid-friendly trail leads 1.6 miles from the Sol Duc Ranger Station to Sol Duc Falls. Of particular interest along the way is the rectangular chasm the river has cut through the rock here. After viewing Sol Duc Falls, head back to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort for a dip in the warm waters.

For youngsters who like to notch significant achievements, head outside the park via Route 112 towards Clallam Bay and keep going until you reach Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point in the coterminous United States. Once there, be sure to check out the Makah Cultural and Research Museum that will enhance your knowledge on this tribe that has lived in the Northwest for nearly 4,000 years.

Olympic National Park

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide