Hiking in Olympic National Park can be a fun and rewarding experience as in other national parks. It is a great way to both see and experience the park.
Before Hiking You Should Know
1. Pets are prohibited on all Park trails and beaches except at Rialto Beach to Hole-in-the Wall and on the Kalaloch beaches where they are allowed on leash. These regulations insure the safety of your pet, the wildlife, and other backcountry users. Pets are allowed on a leash (up to 6 feet in length) in campgrounds and parking areas.
2. Pack Out All Garbage
3. Use privies (pit toilets) where available. Otherwise, make your toilet in a shallow slit trench, away from campfires and trails, and at least 100 feet from water. Cover the trench with earth when you are finished.
Some of the last wilderness beaches in the conterminous United States are found between Shi Shi Beach and the Hoh River. Their remote wilderness atmosphere, changing views of ocean, cliffs, headlands, islands, and seastacks, coupled with the lure of beach-combing have increasingly attracted hikers in recent years. The rising number of visitors requires greater vigilance to ensure the protection of the environment and safety of the visitors.
Pets, Vehicles, and Weapons are Prohibited on Trails
This coastal strip of wilderness is a refuge for elk, black bear, and deer to name a few. The presence of pets or mechanized equipment disturbs wildlife in a natural setting. Rights of visitors who come to observe and enjoy the wildlife must also be respected.
Maximum Group Size
The presence of people also disturbs wildlife and has an impact on the trails. The larger the groups, the greater the long term effect. Group size is restricted to a maximum of twelve hikers. Break down into manageable units of less than twelve and depart from different trailheads. If logistics prevent this, enter trailhead at intervals of at least one hour and establish independent objectives and campsites at least one half mile apart.
Do Not Build Fires in Driftwood Pile
Build your fire on the beach where the tide will erase the fire scar or in an existing fire ring. Fire built in driftwood piles may cause beach fires which are time consuming and hazardous to extinguish. Dismantle driftwood structures before you leave.
Pack Out All Trash
Do not attempt to burn garbage except for paper. Do not dispose of garbage by throwing it down outhouse holes. Shelters are for emergency use only. Concentrated visitor use in and around established shelters has compacted the soil and threatened watersheds. Also personal safety dictates that you carry a shelter in the event you are cut off from existing shelters by tide or storm.
Prevent Pollution of Streams
Where outhouses are unavailable, find a private area in the woods above the beach and at least one hundred feet from running water. Dig a shallow trench with the heel of your boot. Dispose of used toilet paper by burying it in the trench. Do not wash dishes in streams. Keep soap away from water sources.
Animal proof your food by storing out of reach. Black bears, raccoons, and other wildlife frequently raid unprotected food. Once an animal finds the way into a food cache it will return again and again.
Protect Your Valuables
Do not leave valuables unattended in your vehicle. Likewise, unattended camps are susceptible to theft. Bring only what you will use on your trip to a trailhead. The coastal wilderness hosts its share of environmental hazards. Fill out a backcountry permit for overnight camping but also leave word with a responsible party of your intended route and estimated time of return. If you experience an emergency, notify either Lake Ozette Ranger Station: 206-963-2725, Mora Ranger Station: 206-374-5460 or the 24 hour parkwide emergency number: 206-452-7836.
Hike by the Tide
Current tide tables are posted at trailheads. Copies are available at coastal ranger stations. Do not round significant headlands on incoming tides. An average high tide will cover most of the beach, making hiking in some areas impossible. Do not camp below the point of high tide on any given day.
Weather Conditions Can Change Your Hike
Weather is unpredictable along the coast. Storm fronts are usually identified a few days in advance. Forecasts are available at ranger stations or by monitoring the NOAA Weather Advisory on 62.55 mhz. Beware of drift logs in a storm. Streams will generally crest within 24 hours of a heavy rain. Goodman, Falls, Mosquito Creeks, and the Ozette River are best crossed at low tide and may become impassable after heavy rains. Beware of exposure. Hypothermia is the #1 killer in the outdoors. Know weather forecasts before you depart on a hike, use wool garments, protect the head from heat loss, and make camp early in foul weather. At first sign treat for exposure by drinking warm liquids and change into dry clothes or get into a sleeping bag.
Watch Your Footing
Rocks and logs in tidal areas are slippery and unstable. Vibram soles do not give traction on algae-covered rocks. Stay low and keep your hands ready to stop a fall. The rock on headlands is very loose and can crumble beneath your weight. Watch for falling rock from the seastacks. Trails going over major headlands are marked with orange and black targets and are often steep and muddy.
Respect the Ocean
Long sandy beaches can develop treacherous riptides. Steep gravel beaches have significant undertow. Be vigilant for large swells or you may take an unexpected swim. The water is too cold for all but the extremely hardy.
Beware of Red Tide
Seasons are set for the legal taking of hardshell clams and mussels. Coastal ranger stations can provide further information on bag limits, closures, and where to dig. Closed seasons are for the purpose of protecting the public from red tide contamination and/or reestablishing populations. (Razor clams will require a Washington State license when reopened in the future).
Purify Your Water
There is an intestinal disease caused by a protozoan called giardia. Giardia are carried by humans and animals and can contaminate water supplies. A reliable treatment for giardia is to boil water for one minute. Additional information relative to beach hiking is available from coastal ranger stations and the visitor centers in the park.
|Terrace Loop||1.5||100 yards from the Dosewallips Ranger Station||The Dosewallips River is accessible along this trail.|
|Elwha||0 .5 south||Krause Bottom||Humes Ranch, an old homesteading cabin, where you can loop up to main Elwha Trail (moderate difficulty).|
|Griff Creek||2.8 one way||Behind the Elwha ranger station||Sections of steep switchbacks. Overlook at mile 1.8 (strenuous).|
|Krause Bottom||2.0||End of the Whiskey Bend Road, a narrow road 0.1 ml so of Elwha ranger station||The Elwha trail traverses a wooded ridge above the Elwha River. At 1.5 miles turn off to Krause Bottom, dropping .5 mile to the river. Trout fishing.|
|Madison Falls||0.1 mile one way||Elwha area||Wanders through meadow and forest grove, then follows Madison Creek through a cleft in the mountainside to splendid falls that cascade a hundred feet down basalt cliffs. The trail wanders through a century of pioneer history, commencing near Smith's timber claim and Sweet's Cedarvale Resort, ending at Matteson's mining claim by the falls. Accessible for wheelchair travel (easy).|
|West Lake Mills||2.0 (one way)||Lake Mills boat launch parking area||Moderate difficulty|
|Heart of the Forest Trail||2.0 (one way)||Loop E of the Heart of the Hills campground||Typical lowland forest with dense vegetation.|
|Hurricane Hill||1.5||End of the Hurricane Ridge Road||At the top of the hill are mountain peak vistas, a view of Port Angeles, and the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Wildflowers are numerous in early summer. (Wheelchair accessible first 0.5 mile only. This portion is paved but with steep drop offs and no guard rail).|
|Meadow Loop||Varies||Near Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center||Stroll through a typical subalpine environment, thick with wildflowers in summer. Watch for blacktailed deer (DO NOT FEED!) and listen for the whistle of the Olympic marmot. The trail continues to Klahhane Ridge. Paved meadow trails accessible with assistance.|
|Hall of Mosses||0.75 round trip||Begin at the Visitor Center at the end of the Hoh road, short uneven grades; examples of rain forests with dense lush vegetation||Elk and deer are sometimes seen in the area. There is also a paved .25 mile mini trail.|
|Spruce Nature||1.25 round trip||Begin at the Visitor Center at the end of the Hoh road||Short uneven grades; examples of rain forests with dense lush vegetation. Elk and deer are sometimes seen in the area. There is also a paved .25 mile mini trail.|
Short beach trails lead from U.S. 101 to sections of beach. Ruby Beach is the northern most trail with six other trails to the south. Each beach is distinct. Some offer tidepools and others clamming (in season and with license).
|Marymere Falls||1.0||Lake Crescent||A spectacular 90 foot waterfall. The trail leads through old growth forest with flowering plants and mushrooms in season. (Wheelchair: first .75 mile to Barnes Creek overlook only. Flat, loose graveled surface).|
|Moments in Time Nature Trail||0.5 loop trail||Between Olympic Park Institute and Lake Crescent Lodge||Offers nice views of the lake and winds through old-growth forest and former homestead sites. A 0.33 mile trail extends from Storm King Ranger Station parking lot.|
|Mount Storm King||1.7||Marymere Falls trail||Climbs steeply to a point on the ridge. Travel beyond that point to the top is over difficult terrain and the trail is not maintained. Good views of Lake Crescent.|
|Pyramid Peak||3.5||Begins on the north shore of the lake and climbs 2600 ft||At the summit is a World War II aircraft spotter station. Good views of Lake Crescent and the Strait of Juan de Fuca enroute.|
|Spruce Railroad||4.0 (each way)||Connects the North Shore and Lyre River trailheads||Much of this relatively flat trail runs on or adjacent to the World War I Spruce Railway bed and offers excellent Lake Crescent views. It is a designated bike trail. Watch for ticks and poison oak.|
|Cape Alava||3.3 North||End of the Lake Ozette road||Goes to the beach. Nearly continuous wooded boardwalk and are tide and weather dependent. Current tide chart and weather is posted at the trailhead. Along the coast you will see marine life, Ozette Island, and Cape Alava, the western most point in the contiguous United States.|
|Sand Point||3.0 South||End of the Lake Ozette road||Goes to the beach. Nearly continuous wooded boardwalk and are tide and weather dependent. Current tide chart and weather is posted at the trailhead. Along the coast you will see marine life, Ozette Island, and Cape Alava, the western most point in the contiguous United States.|
|Rialto Beach||0.1||From the parking lot||View of the beach, James Island, and Cake Rock. Beach walk 1.5 miles to Hole-in-the-wall.|
|Second Beach||0.8||La Push road, fourteen miles west of U.S. 101||The trail goes to a sandy beach with tidepools and views of sea stacks.|
|Third Beach||1.4||La Push road, twelve miles west of U.S. 101||A sandy beach is 1.4 miles from the trailhead.|
|Ancient Groves Nature||0.5 loop||Sol Duc area||Through an old-growth forest and connects two roadside turnouts. For your safety, return along the loop trail rather than the road.|
|Mink Lake||2.5||Begins at the Sol Duc Resort||Climbs 1400 feet through dense forest to the lake. Trout fishing.|
|Sol Duc Falls||0.8||End of the Sol Duc River Road||Goes through dense forest. Sol Duc Falls/Lover's Lane loop (via campground) is six miles. The Lover's Lane section is rough and rocky.|
|The Sams River Loop||3.0||Queets Ranger Station or the trailhead one mile east of the station||The trail passes both the Queets and Sams Rivers as well as through former homestead meadows. Elk are often seen early morning or late evening in the meadows.|
|Graves Creek Nature||1.0 loop trail||Graves Creek campground through the temperate rain forest||
|Maple Glade Rain Forest||1.0 loop||Across the bridge from the Quinault Ranger Station||A nature trail that takes about thirty minutes to stroll.|
|Shady Lane Nature||3.0 round trip||Begins across the bridge from the Staircase Ranger Station||
|Staircase Rapids Loop||1.0||Begins across the bridge from the Ranger Station||It passes through heavy virgin forest along the Skokomish River, crosses Staircase Rapids at 1.0 mile and returns to Ranger Station on the east side of the river.|
The friendly familiar summer Olympics change from November to May. They become neither friendly nor familiar to the unsuspecting backcountry user.
In the Valleys
The notoriously high precipitation swells rivers and creeks to many times their normal size until even the smallest creek crossing can become difficult or dangerous to cross. Footbridges often wash out. Standing water can be knee deep for long stretches. Temperatures commonly range between 30 to 40 degrees F. They can drop lower but are even more cumbersome in the given range because rain is still cold rain and not snow. The safest time to cross mountain streams is from sunrise to noon. After noon, melting snow water will increase flows until nightfall.
In the High Country
Naturally snow prevails. Therefore, avalanche hazard is a concern. Map skills, general route finding and common sense are essential. Clothing and equipment should be investigated and tested before the trip. Snowshoes or skies may be necessary for mountain travel until June when snow firms up enough to be walked on. Whiteouts are frequent and cold wet snow is typical. Snow travel in spring and early summer is best done before noon. Afternoon temperatures create "post-holing" conditions for the hiker.
Hurricane Ridge is the maintained winter use area in the park. There are two cross country ski trails; a downhill area; a snow play area (inner tubing); and snowshoeing opportunities. For more information on Hurricane Ridge activities please obtain a Season of Silence brochure.
There are also four backcountry trails that are marked with permanent orange snow tags such that the trail routes can be followed in early spring snow conditions:
Happy Lake Ridge from Observation Point trailhead to Happy Lake Seven Lakes Basin Loop, between Sol Duc Falls and Deer Lake and from the Upper Sol Duc to Sol Duc park.
Other Off Season Trails
The following lowland trails are usually suitable for winter use. Check with visitor center or ranger stations for special off season conditions. Snow free hiking distances depend entirely on changing annual conditions.
Duckabush River Trail
Elwha River Trail
Hoh River Trail
Humes Ranch - Rica Loop
North Fork Quinault Trail
Skokomish River Trail
Sol Duc River Trail
Climbers are asked to register and to show that they have standard climbing gear at the ranger station nearest their route. Never climb alone or attempt technical climbs unless you are with experienced climbers and have the proper equipment.
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