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Buckhorn Wilderness Area

Year Established: 1984

Size: 44,474 acres

Bordering the northeast corner of Olympic National Park, just north of The Brothers Wilderness (see above), Buckhorn Wilderness stands divided into two separate portions, northern and southern, by the Dungeness River and the road that follows the river.

The smaller northern portion, drained by the Gray Wolf River and its tributaries, descends from higher mountainous terrain to lowlands heavily forested in fir, hemlock and cedar with an understory of mosses, ferns and berry bushes. Two trails provide access to northern Buckhorn. Gray Wolf Trail (9.1 miles long) follows the river up its steep-sided gorge and into the park. Slab Camp Trail (3.1 miles long) descends a tributary of the river to join the Gray Wolf Trail about half-way across the Wilderness. South of the river, south of the trails, the terrain soars skyward to a ragged ridge with difficult access and few human visitors.

The larger southern portion is even more rugged than the northern, drained by the Dungeness and Quilcene Rivers down glacier-carved valleys, fed by deep canyon tributaries. A dense and stately forest covers the lower elevations while the higher country often opens into large alpine meadows rich with summer grasses and bright wildflowers. You'll find about 60 miles of trails in southern Buckhorn. I have hiked most of them, finding they typically follow drainages where the walking is "easiest" but still rather strenuous. Big Quilcene Trail (5.3 miles long) follows the Quilcene River up to Marmot Pass and then continues down the Dungeness River, or vice versa. At Marmot Pass the Big Quilcene Trail meets the Tubal Cain Trail (8.8 miles long) offering you an opportunity to hike into the park over spectacular Constance Pass.

Location: Northwestern Washington on the Olympic Peninsula.

Easiest Access: From about one mile south of Quilcene, WA, on US 101, take Penny Creek Road west about one mile; take the south fork when the road splits and you'll be on County Road 27 for about 10 miles; turn west on Forest Service Road 2750 that follows the Quilcene River approximately five miles to the Big Quilcene Trailhead.

Season: Late spring through early fall.

Wilderness Fees/Permits: None.

Maps: USGS topographic maps are Brothers (The), Mount Deception, Mount Jupiter, Mount Townsend, Mount Zion and Tyler Peak.

Olympic National Forest
1835 Black Lake Blvd. SW
Olympia, WA 98512
Phone Number: (360) 956-2402

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