This route gives you access to the south and west sides of Olympic National Park; rain forest valleys leading to alpine meadows, lakes, and peaks, as well as the Park's fifty-mile stretch of ocean beaches.
From Seattle, catch Seattle Express 592 at Second and Union at 6:08AM, arriving at the SR 512 Park & Ride at 7:01. There you will catch Olympia Express 603X at 7:10, reaching Olympia Transit Center at 7:55.
Grays Harbor Transit (GHT) 40 is scheduled to leave the Greyhound Station up the street at that same time, 7:55, but fret not. GHT 40 loops through downtown Olympia and makes a stop at the Transit Center (Bay K) a few minutes later.
You'll reach Aberdeen at 9:20, and will now have two hours to contemplate just how this town, birthplace of Kurt Cobain, contributed to the nihilistic angst of his music. It won't take that long. The only decent breakfast (as well as the only joint with a non-smoking section) can be had at the nearby Denny's (ask any bus driver: it's just a few blocks west of the transit center).
Return to the transit center to catch the GHT 60 at 11:30, taking you north to the southwest corner of Olympic National Park. The bus will drop you off at the Quinault Mercantile at 12:40PM, if you plan to head up the South Shore Quinault Road. Or you can stay on until it reaches its terminus, Brannons Grocery, at the base of the North Shore Quinault Road, if you plan to continue north.
Catch the West Jefferson Transit bus at the grocery store
at 12:50 (don't worry this bus waits for the other one, and there's always time to run into the store for something to drink). West Jefferson Transit will carry you north along Highway 101 all the way to Forks. The drivers know the area intimately, and can be great sources of information.
You don't have to start at the crack of dawn to make this trip: you can leave Seattle as late as l:OOPM and reach Quinault by 6:30 (you would not, however, be able to connect with West Jefferson Transit on this run). Nor would you have as much time to walk to an actual trailhead before dark. You could, however, camp at one of the three campgrounds located within a mile of the Quinault Mercantile, and head for the trails the next morning.
To return, leave the Quinault Mercantile at 6:40AM, or 9:15 (or from nearby Amanda Park at l:OOPM), and retrace the same bus sequence back to Seattle.
These buses even connect on Saturday (for one run), but connections are much faster Monday through Friday.
Board Seattle Express, pay $2.50, ask for a transfer.
Olympia Express will accept this transfer, charging another .60.
Grays Harbor Transit to Aberdeen, fare is $1.50 Grays Harbor Transit to Quinault, fare is $.50 West Jefferson Transit to Forks, fare is $.50
From Quinault, many camping and backpacking options are possible, including the following
Colonel Bob Wilderness
bus stop to trailhead 4 miles
round trip, trailhead to peak 14.5 miles
It's only four easy paved and well-traveled miles up the South Shore Road from the Quinault Mercantile to the sign marking Colonel Bob Trail No. 851, which begins just a few yards from the road.
Rain forest. Lots of big trees, some of which you may get to scramble over (or under) in your trek up the long switchbacks. This area is outside of Olympic National Park (designated wilderness areas are administered by the U.S. Forest Service), and no fee is collected for your visit. So, expect much less trail maintenance, and much more solitude.
First campsites near Mulkey Shelter, about 3.5 miles in. Moonshine Flats, about 6.5 miles in, has yearround water and great campsites. At the peak of Colonel Bob Mountain (4492 feet), spectacular views in all directions to Pacific Ocean, Lake Quinault, Olympic peaks, and southern Cascades.
Heading up the South Shore Road from the Quinault Mercantile, you've got 10 paved miles, followed by 6 miles of dirt road, to reach the trailhead. It's very welltraveled, the Enchanted Valley being one of the premier attractions of the Olympic National Park. Exceptional rain forest. Lots of huge bigleaf maple, spruce and cedar. You're likely to see elk. Plenty of great campsites. Once you reach the E.V. itself, sheer cliffs shoot up 5000 feet on both sides. Waterfalls abound. Connections can be made from this trail to all drainages on the east side of the Park.
North Fork Quinault
From Quinault Mercantile, head up the South Shore Road to the bridge across the Quinault to the North Fork Road, at about 7 miles. Just across the river, there are meadows to your left where elk can often be seen. About 3 miles up the North Fork Road, there are two trailheads: one leads in an easy mile to quiet Irely Lake, then gains elevation quickly to reach the Skyline Trail; the second heads up the North Fork Quinault River, eventually reaching the Elwha River. The Skyline Trail connects with the North Fork twice, making loop trips possible. The Skyline Trail is best traveled in late summer, as snow on the trail in early summer can make the trail very hard to follow.
bus stop to trailhead 12 miles
round trip, trailhead to end 30 miles
Stay on GHT 60 after it reaches the Quinault Mercantile; the bus will head back out to the highway and end up at the North Shore Quinault Road, where you will catch West Jefferson Transit west toward the ocean. Tell the driver you want off at the Queets River Road. The road is unpaved all the way, with plenty of signs stating that no camping is allowed along the road (but I've found that if you venture offroad toward the river, small sites can be found. Be discreet, and clear out at dawn.).
The rain forest along the Queets is every bit as glorious as that of the Hoh or the Quinault, but it remains relatively unknown because of this fact: once you reach the campground and trailhead you must ford the river to continue. The river's usually not crossable until early July, and even past that, sudden showers upstream or snowmelt can send water levels back up quickly. By late August, you can often find places to ford only midcalf deep. Then the fall rains close off the Queets again.
But the rain forest is lush, luxuriant, and remarkable (and quiet, far from the crowds along the Hoh). It contains the world's largest known Douglasfir and Sitka spruce (the latter is at the campground). once across the river, the trail is the most gentle of grades, gaining only 400 feet in 15 miles.
Lower Hoh (to Ocean)
bus stop to trailhead 12 miles
one way, trailhead to Third Beach trailhead 16 miles
Staying on West Jefferson Transit until it crosses the Hoh River, get off at the Oil City Road and walk west to Oil City (not a city, not even a town, just a name) at the mouth of the Hoh. From here, you can walk north along the Olympic National Park's coastal strip to Third Beach and the trailhead above it, where Clallam Transit passes on its way from LaPush to Forks, where connections can be made heading back to Seattle. Be aware that Mosquito and Goodman creeks may be unfordable after heavy rains, and that excursions along the coast must be done while paying very close attention to current tide charts. The Cottonwood camp, a Department of Natural Resources facility, two miles from Highway 101 along the Lower Hoh Road, allows you to do this trip north to south, walking up from Oil City to the camp in the evening and walking the last two miles to the highway to catch the morning bus.
Upper Hoh (Rain Forest)
bus stop to trailhead 19 miles
round trip, trailhead to Glacier Meadows 37 miles
round trip, trailhead to Happy Four Shelter 11.5 miles
West Jefferson Transit will drop you off at the Upper Hoh Road. Head east. It's a long road, but wellpaved all the way, and very well traveled (I've always managed to get lifts along this road). And there are two free, if primitive, campgrounds about five miles from the highway.
What more can be said about the Hoh Rain Forest? Moss-draped maples, huge spruce and cedar, lush ferns and fungi, elk, the whole shebang! Take extra film.
Connections can be made from this trail to the Bogachiel, Soleduck, and Elwha river trails.
Other options from the Quinault Hub: Kalaloch, South Fork Hoh River, Bogachiel River.