Western Parklands and Rainforests
Bogachiel River--Length varies. Easy to moderate in the lowlands, more strenuous further inland. Access: 5 mi. south of Forks, turn left across from Bogachiel State Park onto Undie Rd., and continue 5 mi. to the trailhead.
This hike is as long or short as you want to make it, but it is an equally beautiful cousin to the often-crowded Hoh River Trail. The beginning is loaded with rain-forest extravaganza--huge Douglas firs, spruce, cedar, and big-leaf maples, including the world's largest silver fir, some 8 miles from the trailhead. Approximately 6 miles into the trail is the Bogachiel Shelter, and 8 miles in is Flapjack Camp, both good backcountry campsites. This is pretty much the end of the flatland; further up, the trail begins to get steep.
Hoh River Valley--Up to 17 mi. one-way. Easy to moderate in the lowlands, more strenuous further inland. Access: Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center.
This is one of the most heavily traveled trails in the park, at least in the lower elevations, and it won't take you long to figure out why. Huge Sitka spruces hung with moss shelter the Roosevelt elk that wander among its lowlands. The first 13 miles, through the massive rain forests and tall grass meadows along the Hoh River Valley bottomlands, are relatively flat. The number of fellow walkers drops off after the first few miles. Happy Four Camp (6 mi. in) and Olympus Guard Station (9 mi. in) provide excellent camp or turnaround sites. Continue eastward into the hills for the remaining 4 or 5 miles. If you connect with the Hoh Lake Trail, you can eventually find yourself at the edge of the famous Blue Glacier on Mount Olympus, elevation 7,965 feet. Be careful. After July, hiking near the park's glaciers can be dangerous because of snowmelt.
Lake Quinault Loop--4 mi. RT. Easy. Access: Trailheads located at various spots along the loop, including South Shore Rd., Quinault Lodge, Willaby Campground, Quinault Ranger Station, and Falls Creek Campground. All access originates from the south shore of Lake Quinault.
This trail is easily accessible, is well maintained, and offers beautiful views. Consequently, it's quite crowded in the summer. Elevation changes are gentle, making this an excellent walk for kids.
The trail wanders about the shore of Lake Quinault, past historic Lake Quinault Lodge as well as the adjacent campgrounds and other lakeside attractions, before heading into its most popular section, the Big Tree Grove. Here you can wander among the huge trunks of 500-year-old Douglas firs. Watch for the interpretive signs. In addition, the Big Tree Grove can be accessed via a short, 1-mile loop trail, originating from the Rain Forest Nature Trail parking lot.
Maple Glade Rain Forest Trail--0.5 mi. RT. Easy. Access: Across the bridge from the Quinault Ranger Station.
This is another beautiful, peaceful little trail with lots of exhibits. Take the kids, or just enjoy it yourself. As you meander, you'll pass through dense trees, open meadows, and an abandoned beaver pond. As usual, keep your eyes peeled for the ever-possible elk sighting.
North Fork of the Quinault--Up to 15 mi. one-way. Moderate. Access: End of the North Shore Rd. Alternatively, if a washout has occurred at the trailhead, the trail is accessible from the South Shore Rd. as well.
This is either the end of the Skyline Ridge Trail or the beginning of the North Fork Trail, both of which could conceivably take you 47 miles all the way through the park to Altaire and Elwha on the north side--if you make the right connections and are maniacal enough. The trail is relatively benign for the first dozen miles as it winds its way inward along the river toward its source near Mount Seattle. Campsites are available at Wolf Bar (2.5 mi. in), Halfway House (5.3 mi. in), and in a gorge in Elip Creek (6.5 mi. in). For the last several miles, the trail climbs steeply toward Low Divide, Lake Mary, and Lake Margaret, where you can get beautiful views of Mount Seattle, at an elevation of 6,246 feet. Snow can remain at this elevation until midsummer, so be ready. There's a summer ranger station at Low Divide, and many high-elevation campsites here as well.
Queets River Trail--Up to 16 mi. one-way. Moderate to strenuous. Access: Queets River Campground.
This is the trail for the serious rain forest/wilderness lover. Part of its appeal is that it requires a bit of an effort from the average hiker to reach the trail's solitude and quietly majestic scenery. Within 50 yards of your car, you'll be traversing the Queets River. Even on this first of several fords you will have to make across the river, the water can be treacherous if it's up. It's best to visit during the dry season in late summer. An option is to cross the Sams River to the right of the Queets, connecting and crossing the Queets River farther up. At 2.5 miles, gape in awe at the largest Douglas fir on the planet. After 5 miles of hiking through elk and giant fern territory, you'll arrive at Spruce Bottom, which is a common haunt for steelhead anglers and has several good campsites. The trail ends at Pelton Creek, where campsites are also available.
Sams River Loop Trail--3 mi. RT. Easy to moderate. Access: Queets River Ranger Station.
This short loop parallels both the Sams River and the Queets River, providing a view of some old homestead meadows, beautiful spruce trees, and perhaps an elk or two in the meadows in the evening.