Archived from: Bellingham Herald, The (WA)

Trail into the past; Elwha River hike connects with history

Doug Huddle Freelance OK

Published: December 19, 2002

Trek: Explore a richly storied north peninsula valley on the Elwha River Trail. Description: The rugged rain forest environs, an ancient peoples' culture, later European settler struggles, a conservation milestone and a modern environmental controversy all await during a visit to the Olympic Peninsula's Elwha River Valley. It's a place to give rein to your curiosity, imagination and sense of kinship with the past. Picture yourself peering down on Goblin's Gate Rapids 200 years ago watching 80-pound Chinook salmon fighting to clear the last hurdle before their spawning grounds or enduring the dreary endless winter dampness in a homestead cabin of hand-hewn logs at Humes Ranch, weighing the pros or cons of removing today's hydroelectric dams while standing next to the Glines Canyon structure or just enjoying the beauty and solitude of this valley's off-season.

Route facts:

Jurisdiction (ownership): Olympic National Park.

Trailhead access: Whiskey Bend Road.

Distance: As far as you want to go.

U.S.G.S. 7.5-minute quadrangle map: Elwha and Hurricane Hill.

Elevation gain: Gentle.

Parking pass needed: No.

Our rating: Easy.


A venerable river valley.

Trail stops, destinations and loops galore.

Winter elk viewing.

The Elwha Klallams' salmon.

A feeling for a settler's life.

The unmaking of dam history.

Directions: Take Interstate 5 south to Burlington, then proceed west on state route (SR) 20 to the Keystone Landing on Whidbey Island and board the Keystone/Port Townsend ferry.

In Port Townsend, drive west on state route 20 to its junction with U.S. Highway 101. Take U.S. 101 west through Port Angeles. Continue about 10 miles to the Elwha River Bridge. Just before crossing the river, turn left on Olympic Hotsprings Road, drive up the Elwha Valley and after passing the Elwha Ranger Station, and turn left on Whiskey Bend Road and drive to trailhead.

Be prepared for: A $10 park entry (day use) fee payable at Elwha Ranger Station. Stormy weather at anytime. Overnight accommodations: Lodging available in Port Angeles, campout at Elwha Campground ($10 per night for car/tents or RVs to 21-feet) on Olympic Hotsprings Road or rough it at a trailside camp (permit required, available by self-issue from Wilderness Office in Port Angeles).

Gear: Warm, waterproof footwear and clothing, 10 essentials pack and appropriate overnight gear.

A local history book.

Current Conditions: The Whiskey Bend Road is partially blocked by a large wind thrown tree (tight fit for large vehicles). The main river trail is reported clear to the current snow level at 2,500-feet. The 4.3-mile Humes Ranch Loop Trail is open. Bear-proof food storage measures apply in this area.

Info: Olympic National Park Headquarters at Port Angeles, (360) 565-3000 Port Angeles Visitor Center, 3002 Mount Angeles Road, (360) 565-3130 and Elwha Ranger Station, (360) 452-9191.

Park Website: index.htm.

State ferry schedule: www.wsdot.

Elwha history: or invelwha.htm and www.olympus. net/arts/ccmuseum/.

Contact: If you have firsthand reports about routes you would like to see featured, e-mail them to Doug Huddle at doug.huddle@


Chinook salmon weighing 80 pounds or more used to return to the Elwha River to spawn until the construction of the Elwha Dam (lower right hand corner).


Copyright (c) The Bellingham Herald. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.

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