Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park Coastline Nearly 600 miles of trails traverse the park, ranging from short, easy loop trails to rigorous and primitive trails along high passes or rugged ocean beaches.

We have divided the park up into six sections, spiraling clockwise from the coast. The Olympic Coast, the longest wilderness coast in the lower 48, offers hikes both on the beach itself and on boardwalks. The northern edge of the Olympic Mountains offers high peaks and Lake Constance. Elwha River-Hurricane Ridge has opportunities for day hikers up into the alpine meadows or longer trips following the Elwha River into the heart of the national park.

The drier eastern half of the mountains - the Rainshadow - abuts the Buckhorn Wilderness in Olympic National Forest . The Rainshadow is perhaps the most isolated part of the park, and frequently overlooked in favor of the rainforest and the coastline. Those that do are missing out on some superb plant and wildlife, not to mention views and isolation. Moving south, Hood Canal country offers similar terrain with a little more accessibility, especially through the short river passes (attention anglers!). And if you really want to do the rain forest, head for the Western Approaches, land of the majestic Hoh and Queets Rivers. Many of these trails are open in the winter .

A couple notes on the list below: The Easier Trails are generally short and less strenuous - good for exploratory day hikes and family jaunts. A couple are even wheelchair accessible. The numbered trails are shown on the map below.

Easier Hikes
Cape Alava-Sand Point Loop . . . 9.3 miles. Most heavily used trail in the park. Mostly on boardwalks.
1. North Coast Hike . . . 15. 5 miles. Coastal route. Interesting marine wildlife, including eagles.
2. South Coast Hike . . . 15 miles. Similar to North Coast hike -- less traffic, little harder.

Northern Olympics
Easier Hikes
4. Seven Lakes Basin - High Divide Loop. . . 18.2 miles. Easy access to subalpine meadows, good views.

Elwha River-Hurricane Ridge
Easier Hikes
16. Lake Angeles Trail . . . 6.5 miles. Heavily used (and abused) high country trail. Good views if you can look past the bare ground.
5. Appleton Pass Trail . . . 10.2 miles. Cascading falls, subalpine meadows, avalanche chutes, and finally switchbacks above treeline.
15. Elwha River Trail . . . 28.4 miles. Old cabins, fishing, and views from the Low Divide.
Long Ridge/Dodger Point . . . 16.7 miles. Difficult, but commanding views are the reward
Rica Canyon/ Humes Ranch Trail . . . 4 miles. Elk-watching opportunity. Fun trail.

Easier Hikes
14. Grand Valley Trail . . . 7.8 miles of extended alpine views. Wildflowers & marmots.
Cameron Creek Trail . . . 13.3 miles. Follow the creek to the Dosewallips River
Royal Creek Trail . . . 7.2 miles. Passes by avalanche area with spectacular display of wildflowers.
13. Upper Graywolf River Trail . . . 13 miles. Old-growth forest to sub-alpine area.

Hood Canal Country Easier Hikes
Lake Constance Way Trail . . . Longest 2 miles of your life - what a climb!
11. Skokomish River Trail . . . 15.1 miles. Fish and hike along this famous trout river.
12. Main Fork Dosewallips River Trail . . . 15. 4 miles. Good views, banks of rhododendrons.
West Fork Dosewallips River Trail. . . 10 miles. Great wilderness experience.
Duckabush River Trail . . . 23 miles. Starts in the Brothers Wilderness, then climbs to subalpine lake and then on to O'Neil Pass.
Upper Lena Lake . . . 7 miles. Good fishing, good views.
Flapjack Lakes Trail . . . 5.6 miles. Heavily used, lots of flowers.
LaCrosse Pass Trail . . . 6.4 miles. Low use. Pretty.
O'Neil Pass Trail . . . 7.4 miles up a wooded ridge.

Western Approaches Easier Hikes
6. Hoh River Trail. . . 18 miles through rainforest on up to alpine zone.
7. Queets Trail . . . 16 miles. Little used trail with good fishing and wildlife viewing, but first you gotta wade the wide Queets River. A challenge.
3. Bogachiel River Trail. . . 28.4 miles. The anglers' trail! Seventeen miles of wilderness fishing, then into the mountains.
8. Skyline Trail. . . 45.2 miles. Difficult, long, majestic.
East Fork Quinault River Trail . . . 17.5 miles. Takes in Enchanted Valley, with its 4,000 foot rock and waterfalls.
9. North Fork Quinault River Trail . . . 16.5 miles. Fishing, wildlife viewing, and swimming in high lakes. Fun trail.
10. Graves Creek Trail. . . Low use, steep climb, great views and wildlife. Now that's wilderness!

Topographic maps are a must for most hikes and are sold at visitor centers, ranger stations or online through the WWW.GORP.COM or Olympic National Park Trail Map is particularly recommended.

Wilderness use permits are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry. During the period from Memorial Day weekend through labor Day weekend, some wilderness areas require reservations. Reservations may be made up to 30 days in advance by calling the park's Wilderness Information Center at (360) 452-0300. At other times of year and for areas which do not require reservations, wilderness use permits are available at all ranger stations and the WIC. The WIC is located just behind the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles.

The friendly familiar summer Olympics change from November to May. They become neither friendly nor familiar to the unsuspecting backcountry user.

In the Valleys: The notoriously high precipitation swells rivers and creeks tomany times their normal size until even the smallest creek crossing can become difficult or dangerous to cross. Footbridges often wash out. Standing water can be knee deep for long stretches. Temperatures commonly range between thirty to forty degrees F. They can drop lower but are even more cumbersome in the given range because rain is still cold rain and not snow. The safest time to cross mountian streams is from sunrise to noon. After noon, melting snow water will increase flows until nightfall.

In the High Country: Naturally snow prevails. Therefore, avalanche hazard is a concern. Map skills, general route finding and common sense are essential. Clothing and equipment should be investigated and tested before the trip. Snowshoes or skies may be necessary for mountain travel until June when snow firms up enough to be walked on. Whiteouts are frequent and cold wet snow is typical. Snow travel in spring and early summer is best done before noon. Afternoon temperatures create "postholing" conditions for the hiker.

These trails are usually snow-free, but check with the visitors center before you go. . .

  • Skokomish River Trail
  • Elwha River Trail
  • Humes Ranch - Rica Loop
  • Sol Duc River Trail
  • Ozette Loop
  • Hoh River Trail
  • North Fork Quinault Trail
  • Duckabush River Trail

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