Olympic Hot Springs
This remote hot springs, high above the Elhwa River Valley in Olympic Nation Park, Just may be the most beautiful springs in the Northwest. It has everything: breathtaking mountain and forest scenery, waterfalls, a river canyon and a choice of about a half-a-dozen different springs tucked here and there along the river.
It may have been a wonderful accident of nature to have put springs here, but it's no coincidence that Northwest Indians, pioneers, and modern-day folks have all enjoyed the springs. According to local Indian legends, tow lightning fish fought a terrible battle in the Olympics and, because neither could win, shed bitter hot tears. These tears provided the hot waters of the Olympic and Sol Duc hot springs.
Although Considerably less romantic, the fact is that surface water seeps downward and is then warmed up by the geothermal forces and sent back to the surface. The temperature in most pools is about 105 degrees, just right for soaking.
Early in this century, Olympic Hot Springs became a popular resort, complete with a swimming pool and little cabins. The place caved in to weather and neglect more than twenty five years ago and seemed, for a time , to be almost forgotten. Washouts over the years closed part of the road, so the springs became even more inaccessible. Gradually, it disappeared from maps, and park rangers avoided promoting it.
Today virtually nothing exists of the old resort. Gone is the swimming pool and ring of cabins that surrounded it. But the hot springs continued to bubble out of the rocks. Through the years, users have dug them out and rimmed them with logs and rocks. What is there today feels like a lost Shangri-la in the Olympics, pristine and virtually untouched by man. There are about seven different pools to choose from, including one that overlooks a waterfall.
Winter is definitely the best time for Olympic Hot Springs. You often have the whole place to yourself and can gaze out at the frosty world from a cocoon of hot mineral water. Otherwise, go on weekdays, as the hot springs are popular with the Port Angeles crowd. Swim suits are optional.
Directions: From Port Angeles, follow Highway 101 north about ten miles to the Elwha River Road which is well marked. Turn left and follow that road about nine miles until you can't drive any further. Then begin hiking along that old road. In the winder, the barricades are moved back about four miles from the springs because of heavy snow. But it is an easy, level walk along the road. During spring, summer, and autumn, you only have to hike about 2 ½ miles, a pretty walk into the national forest. Once you've reached a picturesque log bridge over the river, you're at the springs.
Services: A well-maintained campground is available just before the bridge, complete with outhouses. During the summer months the old charming Lake Crescent Lodge (along Highway 101 right on the lake) is open. Rooms, cabins and motel accommodation are available. The restaurant is quite good and moderately priced. Other accommodations are available in Port Angeles and other towns along Highway 101. Port Townsend, south of Port Angeles, is famous for its ornate and Victorian bed-and-breakfast inns.