Upper Lake Mills


Obtain your Wilderness Camping Permit at the Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles, year round.
Check with USFS for Elwha River and Whiskey Bend status


Ecosystem type: Old growth Forest, river valley
Trail tread types: Maintained
General elevation trend: Down Hill
Unique features: Views of Wolf Creek Falls
Level of difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.4 miles
Elevation change: 400 ft.
Best Season: All year
Connecting Trails: Stand alone trail


This path is a remnant of the lower section of the old Elwha Trail, which was obliterated by construction of the Elwha River Road, the Whiskey Bend Road, and the Glines Canyon Dam. The section that climbed from Wolf Creek to Whiskey Bend (of which this fragment is a part) was known as the Old Smoky Hill Trail.

The trail begins on the Whiskey Bend Road, 4.0-mi/6.4 km beyond the Elwha Ranger Station, at 1000 ft/305 m elevation, and descends Smoky Hill to the head of Lake Mills. Half the distance it is a downhill traverse, followed by four switchbacks. The route goes through stands of second-growth fir, the virgin forest having been destroyed by fire. The undergrowth is mostly salal.

At the head of Lake Mills, the trail ends at a campsite (0.4 mi/0.6 km; 600 ft/ 183 m), and Wolf Creek enters the lake just beyond. The Press Expedition's 1890 camp, where Wolf Creek flowed into the Elwha opposite Cat Creek, now lies beneath the lake. The explorers named the streams in honor of a wolf and a wildcat they had killed.

Slightly upstream from the lakeshore, Wolf Creek plunges over a cliff, with still another falls above it. The lower one cascades into a bowl having vertical walls about 40 feet high, lined with ferns. When the water is high, after heavy rains, the falls thunder loudly. The view of Wolf Creek Falls alone makes the hike down from the road worthwhile.


Permits/Reservations: Obtain permits at the Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles. No reservations necessary.
Food Storage Method: Bear canisters are required in the subalpine high country where food cannot be hung at least 12 feet high and 10 ft. out from the nearest tree trunk.
Campsites: Elwha
Toilet Facilities: Toliet in campground, bury waste 6-8" 200 ft from water sources and campsites. Please pack out toilet paper.
Water Source: 6 miles from trail head along Olympic Hot Springs Road
Stock: Allowed, check stock regulations. See Stock Use .

Special Concerns

Leave No Trace: Leave No Trace of your stay to protect vegetation and prevent further camping regulations. Camp in established sites or on bare ground.
Campfires: To protect sensitive vegetation, campfires are not allowed above 3,500 feet. Leave no trace of your fire ring. Burn dead and down wood only.
Respect Wildlife: To protect bears and other wildlife, all food, garbage and scented items must be secured from all wildlife 24 hours a day. Bear canisters are recommended in this area.


Always carry the 10 Essentials: map, compass, flashlight, knife, matches, nylon cord, extra food and water, and raingear with warm clothes.
Map & compass navigation skills may be necessary in places along this trail. Snow may cover higher reaches of this trail in any season, so know how to navigate without a trail for guidance.
Let someone know where and when you are taking your hike. Make emergency plans for them to follow if you do not return.
Watch the weather before and during your hike. Storms move quickly. Whiteouts are sudden. Read the weather forecasts, but remember to read the weather in front of your face.

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