Staircase Rapids TrailWritten: Aug 06 '01
|valuemom's Full Review: Olympic National Park|
Staircase Rapids Trail is located just inside the Olympic National Park near Lake Cushman on the Olympic
Peninsula. To get there, head to Hoodsport via Highway 101 on the Hood Canal. Stop at the ranger station
there for current information and maps.
Travel toward Lake Cushman on Lake Cushman Road for nine miles. There are several campgrounds along this road. Some are private, some are Washington State campgrounds, and some are National Forest campgrounds. Check at the ranger station for availability information. Washington State Campgrounds take reservations by phone up to nine months in advance. Lake Cushman is very popular and spots can be hard to get. Turn left on Jorsted Creek Road (Forest Service Road 2451). After a short and scenic drive on a gravel road, you will enter the National Park. There is a fee to enter the park of $10 per vehicle which is good for one week. There is a ranger station, restroom, and campground here.
The Staircase Rapids trail begins at the bridge over the North Fork of the Skokomish River. It follows the river for 3.2 miles at which point it turns into unofficial trails which you probably do not want to venture onto.
The trail winds through beautiful forests with moss covered trees. Near the start of the trail, you will find a short side trail leading to the "Big Cedar Tree". This was once one of the largest cedar trees in existence, but it recently fell. Even so, it is an impressive sight with a diameter of 14 feet.
Continuing along the trail you will enjoy wonderful views of the beautiful river with many stretches of small rapids and boulders. At about one mile, there was a bridge which crossed the river and provided the opportunity to return via the other side of the river. Unfortunately, the bridge collapsed due to heavy snowfall and is currently out of service. The river is fairly shallow, but ice cold, so it is better to return via the Rapids Trail at this time.
Near the bridge, however, are a large number of unbelievably huge, moss covered boulders. Children will be fascinated exploring these rocks. Be sure to supervise since there are many deep holes and steep surfaces. With care, however, this area will be one of the highlights of the hike. Small gravel areas below the bridge area are inviting for picnics and for testing the freezing water temperatures on hot feet!
Passing the bridge, the trail follows the river and several more locations provide easy access to its banks. Near the end of the trail, it passes through the site of an old forest fire with burned snags. Once you pass the bridge you will encounter far fewer people, so if you want to escape the crowds, be sure to walk the full trail.
This trail is very easy to hike even with small children. Watch children carefully due to the danger of swift rivers and the fact that mountain lions and bears do frequent the area. The trail is beautiful if you hike all or merely a portion of it giving families great flexibility.
Best time to go: June-August
Recommended for: Familes
Review Topic: Hiking & Trails