22 TOP Olympic National Park Animals: A Family Guide

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Welcome to the untamed beauty of Olympic National Park! Nestled in the heart of Washington state in the Pacific Northwest, this sprawling wilderness is a haven for nature enthusiasts and families seeking an unforgettable escape.

As you plan your family trip, let’s check out the animals that call this park home. From majestic black bears to charming sea otters, each creature has a unique story to tell.

three kids next to the Olympic National Park sign in WashingtonPin

Olympic National Park Animals: Large Mammals

1. Black Bears

When to Spot Them: Early mornings and evenings are prime times. Summer is the best season for bear sightings, especially near rivers and meadows.

Where to Find Them: Hoh Rainforest and Hurricane Ridge are hotspots. Remember to maintain a safe distance and enjoy the view!

With their glossy black fur and distinct shoulder hump, American black bears are a common yet awe-inspiring sight in Olympic National Park.

These powerful creatures play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Keep an eye out for them foraging for berries or fishing in streams.

Olympic National Park animals: black bear photo captured on Hurricane RidgePin
Black Bear on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

2. Grizzly Bears

Similar to black bears, grizzly bears are larger and often have a distinctive hump on their shoulders.

Through sightings are extremely rare, keep an eye out for the in the most remote parts of the park.

Olympic National Park animals: grizzly bearPin
Grizzly Bear

3. Sea Otters

When to Spot Them: Look for these marine acrobats year-round, but they’re more active during low tide.

Where to Find Them: Along the coastal areas, particularly in the tide pools near Kalaloch and Ruby Beach.

Playful and adorable, sea otters are often spotted floating on their backs, using tools like rocks to crack open shellfish.

Classified as a threatened species, sea otters play a vital role in maintaining the health of kelp forests by controlling sea urchin populations.

two sea otters drifting on back in waterPin
Sea Otters

4. River Otters

When to Spot Them: Year-round, especially around lakes, rivers, and estuaries.

Where to Find Them: Explore the shorelines of Lake Quinault or the Hoh River for playful otter antics.

Slender and playful, river otters have sleek, brown fur and are often seen frolicking in the water.

Highly social and intelligent, river otters are a joy to observe as they swim and play.

two river otters perched on a log in the waterPin
River Otters

5. Mountain Goats

When to Spot Them: Summer is ideal, and they’re often seen on high alpine ridges.

Where to Find Them: Hurricane Ridge is a fantastic location, offering panoramic views along with potential goat sightings.

With their shaggy coats and impressive horns, mountain goats are perfectly adapted to the rugged terrain of the Olympic Mountains.

Olympic National Park is one of the few places in the United States where you can see these sure-footed mammals in their natural habitat.

kid and nanny mountain goat on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, WashingtonPin
Nanny goat and her kid on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Washington

6. Mountain Lions

When to Spot Them: Dawn and dusk are their most active times.

Where to Find Them: Though sightings are rare, explore remote areas like the Elwha Valley.

Also known as cougars or pumas, mountain lions are sleek, powerful cats with tawny fur.

Elusive and solitary, these big cats are a rare but important part of the park’s ecosystem.

mountain lion in the meadow during the dayPin
Mountain Lion

7. Gray Whales

When to Spot Them: Spring and early summer during their migration north, and late fall during their journey south.

Where to Find Them: Rialto Beach and Kalaloch offer excellent vantage points for whale watching.

Massive, with mottled gray skin, gray whales are known for their annual migration along the Pacific Coast.

Witnessing the breathtaking sight of these giants breaching is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Olympic National Park animals: gray whale tailPin
Gray Whale tail

7. Sea Lions

When to Spot Them: Year-round, but more common in winter and early spring.

Where to Find Them: Coastal locations like Shi Shi Beach and Cape Flattery.

Much larger than their river otter counterparts, sea lions have a distinct bark and are often seen lounging on rocks.

Look for these marine mammals, distinguishable by their external ear flaps, near coastal areas.

group of sea lions on rocksPin
Sea Lions

8. Blacktail Deer

When to Spot Them: Year-round, with more activity during dawn and dusk.

Where to Find Them: Lower elevations and forested areas, such as the Quinault Rainforest.

Smaller than mule deer, blacktail deer, also called Sitka deer, have a distinctive tail that is dark brown on top and white underneath.

Adaptable and agile, these deer navigate the diverse landscapes of the park.

sitka blacktail deer buck sitting in grassPin
Blacktail Deer (Sitka Deer)

9. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer

When to Spot Them: Year-round, with increased activity during dawn and dusk.

Where to Find Them: Lower elevations, including the park’s forests.

These deer have a grayish-brown coat and a tail with a black tip, characteristic of their name.

Adaptable to various environments, Columbian black-tailed deer are a common sight in the park.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer buck and doe | Frank Schulenburg, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

9. Harbor Seals

When to Spot Them: Year-round, with more activity during low tide.

Where to Find Them: Coastal areas, such as those around the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Harbor seals have a sleek, torpedo-shaped body and are often seen lounging on rocks or floating in the water.

As marine mammals, harbor seals are well-adapted to both saltwater and freshwater environments.

Olympic National Park animals: harbor seal looking at cameraPin
Harbor Seal

10. Roosevelt Elk

When to Spot Them: Fall is the best time during the rutting season, but they can be seen year-round.

Where to Find Them: Hoh Rainforest and Queets Valley are prime locations for elk sightings.

Impressive and regal, Roosevelt elk are the largest of the four North American elk species.

Olympic National Park hosts the largest wild herd of Roosevelt Elk in North America!

Roosevelt Elk, this one seen in Redwood National ParkPin
Roosevelt Elk

Bird Species to Spot in Olympic National Park

11. Bald Eagles

A symbol of American strength and freedom, these raptors are a conservation success story, having rebounded from near extinction.

Look for them year-round, especially near lakes and coastal areas like Lake Crescent and the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

bald eagle swooping toward the water about to catch a fishPin
Balde Eagle

12. Golden Eagles

Majestic and powerful, golden eagles have dark brown plumage and a golden nape on their neck.

Look to the skies around Hurricane Ridge for breathtaking eagle displays year-round.

golden eagle staring into camera close-upPin
Golden Eagle

13. Northern Pygmy Owls

Despite their size, they are fierce hunters, preying on insects, small mammals, and even other birds.

Find them year-round in the dense coniferous forests of the park, such as those around Lake Quinault.

Northern Pygmy Owl on a stumpPin
Northern Pygmy Owl

14. Northern Spotted Owl

Medium-sized and nocturnal, northern spotted owls have dark brown plumage with distinct spots.

Look and listen for them at night in old-growth forests, especially in the Queets and Quinault valleys.

Northern Spotted Owl on a branchPin
Northern Spotted Owl

15. Sooty Grouse

Also known as blue grouse, sooty grouse have mottled gray-brown plumage, providing excellent camouflage.

Look for them in their breeding season in the spring and summer when the male grouses perform their elaborate courtship displays.

sooty grouse walking on a gravel roadPin
Sooty Grouse

16. Peregrine Falcons

Peregrine falcons have distinctive black markings on their face and a powerful, hooked beak. These falcons are the fastest animals on the planet!

Look for them year-round, soaring through the skies.

peregrine falcon sitting on a stumpPin
Peregrine Falcon

Small Animals of Olympic National Park

While the whales, sea lions, and bears may be the more exciting sights to see, keep an eye on the ground for these small but unique creatures throughout the park.

17. Olympic Marmot

These pudgy, golden-furred rodents are endemic to the Olympic Peninsula, making them a unique and delightful find.

Look for them in the summertime in the Subalpine meadows like those in Hurricane Ridge.

Olympic marmot standing on hind legs in Olympic National ParkPin
Olympic Marmot

18. Snowshoe Hare

Adapting to its snowy surroundings, the snowshoe hare has a winter coat that turns white, blending in seamlessly with the snow.

Look for them in the winter when their white fur is the most prominent, particularly around Hurricane Ridge.

snowshoe hare sittingPin
Snowshoe Hare

19. Pacific Banana Slugs

Bright yellow and quite large, banana slugs are a slow-moving and harmless sight on the forest floor.

Look for them year-round, especially after a good rain.

pacific banana slugPin
Pacific Banana Slug

20. Olympic Yellow-Pine Chipmunk

Sporting distinctive stripes along their back, Olympic yellow-pine chipmunks are small, energetic rodents.

Look for them scurrying around meadows and rocky areas in low to mid-elevation zones in spring through fall, when they are most active.

Olympic National Park animals: yellow-pine chipmunk in a treePin
Yellow-Pine Chipmunk

21. Pacific Chorus Frog

Small and often green, these frogs have a distinctive dark mask across their eyes.

Look for them in the spring and early summer in wetlands areas and along the edges of ponds and streams.

Pacific tree frog, green and blending into surroundings in Washington statePin
Pacific Chorus Frog

22. Olympic Short-Tailed Weasel

Small and slender, short-tailed weasels have a brown coat in the summer, turning white in the winter.

Look for them year-round near rocky outcrops and meadows in higher elevations.

Olympic National Park animals: short-tailed weaselPin
Short-Tailed Weasel

As you plan your family trip to Olympic National Park, get ready for an amazing journey into nature’s wonders. Olympic National Park wildlife doesn’t disappoint. Form black bears to playful river otters, each interesting to behold, and each playing their own important part in keeping the environment healthy.

From lush rainforests to rugged mountains and peaceful coasts, keep an eye out for these incredible creatures.

family next to the Olympic National Park sign in WashingtonPin

Remember to be responsible visitors by respecting nature and leaving no trace. This way, future families can also enjoy the diverse animals in Olympic National Park.

So, pack your bags, grab your binoculars, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure. And download and print some of our free family wildlife Bingo cards for these Olympic National Park animals!

Happy travels!

Pin this Olympic National Park animals information for later! And if you found this article helpful, leave a comment on the pin. That helps others decide whether to use this information, too!

Olympic National Park Animals: Use this Wildlife Guide as Your Family Looks for Wildlife in Olympic NP, Washington! #usnationalparks #familytravel #wildlife #olympicnationalparkPin
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About Heather Thibodeau

Heather Thibodeau is the founder and mom behind nationalparksmom.com.

She and her husband Dave (AKA Tib) are on a mission to travel to as many US national parks with their three kids in tow as they possibly can, doing their best to keep the little ones out in nature and off of screens in an increasingly digital world.

Heather has earned degrees in biology & chemistry from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies), and holds master's and doctorate degrees in physical therapy from Duke University (Go Blue Devils).

Heather is also the creative force behind The Heathered Nest where she shares her love of all things DIY and home decor.

Her work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, This Old House, Today.com, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, and more.

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