Northwest Hiking Trails

50-milers in the Olympics

Contributed by Monte.

There are three 50-mile Olympic hikes I enthusiastically recommend.

1. In 1996, we traced the route of the Press Expedition (at least the trail that approximates it.) We went from the Quinalt River to the Elwah over Low Divide. I think you'd need a day hike to bring this up to 50 miles, but it was a pretty good hike. This is a fairly easy hike, with only a couple of steep elevation gains. Most climbs are quite gradual.

2. In 1995, we followed the West Fork of the Dosewallips over Anderson Pass, through O'Neil Pass, down the Duckabush, and finally out the Skokomish. I think it was 45 miles or so, so you'd need a day hike to get the full 50 miles. This was an extremely scenic hike, although it was quite strenuous.

3. A different possibility is the Olympic Coastal Strip. You can get the 50 miles between the Hoh River and Ozette Lake. This is quite remote, and very challenging. I'd recommend that youngsters in your group be quite accomplished or very well supervised. This hike requires rounding large rock headlands at low tide, lots of rock scrambling, and climbing overland 'trails' to get past points that are otherwise unpassable. This, coupled with the inevitable rain, makes this a challenging trip. (As a through hike, this requires an eight-mile or so trek on paved roads to connect a couple of sections of trail.)

I believe that the route through Dose Meadows and down to the Elwah would be a good one, but I haven't been past Dose Meadows. Once you reach the Elwah, the trail is smooth and wide.

The 1996-1997 snowpack is deep, so I'd plan a trip for late August. You may still have to deal with snow crossings then. They add an element of danger not normally encountered, so check with the Olympic Rangers. It often takes me 4-5 calls, but I usually connect with someone who really knows what conditions are. The trip over Low Divide would be one of the safer ones, from a snow standpoint, since it's at lower elevations.

If you're leading Scouts, please remind your boys that many of the people they meet on the trail are former Scouts and current Scout leaders and expect them to act in a way that brings pride to the image of Scouting.

Note :  This is backcountry wilderness travel. Any trail can become very dangerous in winter conditions. You are responsible for informing yourself of the hazards and taking the necessary precautions.

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