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Weekend Backpacker: Seattle

Olympic Peninsula (Interior)
By Heidi Schuessler
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Olympic Peninsula (Interior)
Olympic National Park Headquarters/Wilderness Information Center
600 E. Park Ave.
Port Angeles, WA 98362
(360) 565-3000

Recommended trip: Skyline Trail, with optional cutoff along the Elip Creek Trail.

The 47-mile Skyline loop is not for inexperienced hikers. You gain a thigh-burning 9,000 feet overall, and route-finding skills come in handy between Kimta Peak and Lake Beauty. The initial trail to Three Lakes is easy to follow, but after that it's a primitive roller-coaster ride. To cut about 26 miles off this trip, turn east on the Elip Creek Trail halfway between Three Lakes and Three Prune campsites. Follow it about three miles then hook up with the North Fork Quinault River trail for the last four miles or so to the ranger station. (One mile west on the road takes you back to the starting point.) Both trails start in fern-rich rainforest amid red cedar and Sitka spruce, then quickly become dominated by aggressive ascents and descents. The upper Elip basin is dotted with pools, and the ridge to the north gives you views of stately Mount Olympus. If you attempt the longer trail you'll walk along the stunning Queets-Quinault Divide and eventually get views into the heart of the Olympic Mountains. Bear canisters are advised - trees along these routes may not be strong enough to hang your food.

Getting there: Follow Highway 101 north from Aberdeen and at mile 125 turn east on Lake Quinault South Shore Road. After 12 miles you come to the Quinault River. Turn left and cross the bridge, then go right on North Shore Road for 2.6 miles. Irely Lake trailhead is marked.

Permit information: Backcountry permits are $5 plus $2 per person, per night, and are available at the ranger station just beyond Lake Quinault on North Shore Quinault Road. (Kids and teens under 16 are admitted free.) Bear canisters are rentable at the ranger station and at the Seattle REI store. Fires are permitted below 3,500 feet in established fire rings.

Maps: USGS map for Bunch Lake, Kimta Peak, Mount Christie; or Custom Correct map for Quinault-Colonel Bob Wilderness.

Recommended guides: 100 Hikes in Washington's South Cascades and Olympics (Mountaineers) or Hiking Olympic National Park (Falcon Guide) by Erik Molvar. Another comprehensive guide is the Olympic Mountain Trail Guide by Robert Woods.

Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Published: 29 Apr 2002
The details, dates, and prices mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication.

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