Royal Basin Hike
Location: Olympic National Forest and National Park
Date: Jul. 15, 1998 (Fri.)
Total Distance (est.): 15 miles
Total Trip Time (est.): 8 hours
# of Other Parties Seen: 30-40
See Also: 100 Hikes in the South Cascades and Olympics
A very popular overnight hike to a Yosemite Valley-like basin that I did as a long day hike. The parking area can hold maybe 30 cars but even though it was a Friday it was still packed.
The hike started southward on the Dungeness River trail for 1 mile through nearly level ground before the Basin trail forked off to the right, following Royal Creek. The going was still pretty level and entirely forested for the next two miles, then turns south and alternates between open hillside and creekside forest, with campsites interspersed among the latter. At maybe 4 miles the trail opened up further and started picking up more elevation with increasing views to the ridge across the valley. I passed one small meadow, then at 6 miles the trail leveled off for a while in the meadow of lower Royal Basin and the view opened up completely on both sides; here I finally crossed Royal Creek on a log bridge. Climbing resumed at the far end of the meadow another mile to Royal Lake and the start of the middle basin; the rocky plateau above the lake on the right made for a fine viewpoint and lunch spot. (It took me three hours to get to the lake.) Past the lake the trail broke up somewhat because this is the prime camping area, especially near "Shelter Rock", a formation along the main trail (the one going more or less the straightest south) near the ranger tent. (A sign just before the lake identifies the official camping spots; on summer weekends, good luck getting one; even on Friday campers had already started to set up in the less-popular and more marshy lower basin.) The trail continued on and up one more time to the entrance of the upper basin, where it and the valley ended -- although not for one couple who proceeded to cross the valley and up over timberline to the snow-covered mountains beyond. This basin was too marshy for camping but had views in three directions.
Besides the crowds, I also encountered two parties with stock, but not horses -- llamas.
Directions to trailhead
From the Seattle area, take state route 104 across the Hood Canal bridge to U.S. 101 south (really west). At the sign for Sequim Bay State Park, turn left at Louella Road followed by another left when it ends at Palo Alto road (from the west, Palo Alto road meets 101 on the other side of the state park). Follow this road until it becomes F.S. road #28, then just beyond turn right on F.S. road #2860, signed "East Crossing Campground/Dungeness River Trail"; signs will guide you the rest of the way.