Royal Basin–Crown jewel of the Olympic Rain shadow

Location: Northeast Olympic Peninsula

Land Agency: National Park Service

Roundtrip: 16.0 miles

Elevation gain: 2700 feet

Contact: Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center

Green Trails Map: Olympic Mountains East No. 168SX

Notes: NW Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required; Dogs-prohibited at national park boundary (at 1.3 miles)

 Good to Know: Exceptional Wildflowers, Backpacking options

Access: Take US 101 to Louella Road located directly across from the entrance to Sequim Bay State Park. In one mile turn left onto Palo Alto road and continue for 6 miles bearing right onto FR 2880. Cross the Dungeness River and come to a junction in 1.7 miles. Turn left on FR 2870 and continue 9.0 miles to trailhead.

 

A beautiful subalpine lake flanked by some of the highest and craggiest peaks in the Olympic Mountains, Royal Basin is a fine objective for strong day hikers.  A favorite haunt for backpackers, the trip is long, but mostly gentle weaving through primeval forests and along a crashing glacier fed creek.

The trip begins on the popular Dungeness River Trail. In a little more than one mile, after gently traversing an ancient grove of towering fir, reach a junction. Head right. Soon after bearing left at another trail junction enter Olympic National Park.

Through thick forest carpeted in moss and landscaped with rhododendrons, the trail heads gracefully up the Royal Creek Valley. The creek crashes and churns through the deep narrow valley. You’ll need to hop over several tributaries; feet-wetters early in the season but none too difficult to negotiate.

Just shy of three miles cross the first of several brushy avalanche chutes. As nettles zap you, look up at a fortress of towering peaks. After five miles, the way steepens, the trail now ascending rocky and open slopes. Crest a headwall and pause for impressive views up and down the U-shaped valley.

Royal Creek plummets over the headwall, but upstream it flows gently and quietly. The trail too resumes a gentle march, entering the hanging valley housing Royal Lake. With 7,000 foot giants, Mounts Clark and Walkinshaw casting shadows upon you, traverse willow flats and a lovely meadow bursting with wildflowers.

After crossing Royal Creek on a sturdy log bridge make one last albeit short climb to Royal Lake. Here at an elevation just over 5,100 feet, majestic peaks loom above the quiet body of water. In early summer the shoreline is adorned in purple regalia, thanks to thousands of blossoming shooting stars. The trail continues along the lake’s western shoreline. Wander along it sharing splendid lunch spots with deer, ground squirrels and marmots.

Energetic day hikers can continue another mile climbing 600 feet higher into the magnificent Upper Royal Basin where deep blue tarns reflect a ring of rugged rocky peaks clad in snow and ice, including Mount Deception (el 7,788), second highest mountain in the Olympics.

For more detailed information on this hike and 135 others on the Olympic Peninsula consult my trusted Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula book. The best selling guidebook to hiking the Peninsula, it is now in its second edition. 

Pick up your copy today!

 For nearby car camping options, consider Sequim Bay State Park.

For lodging options nearby consider the Holiday Inn Express or Quality Inn in nearby Sequim.

For other lodging suggestions and other things to do in the area, check out Northwest TripFinder.

 

 

Lower Big Quilcene River─Lowland hike teems with primeval beauty

Quick Facts:

Location: Olympic National Forest, Hood Canal District

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Roundtrip: To Camp Jolly 10.2 miles

Green Trails Map: Olympic Mountains East 168SX

Elevation Gain: 800 feet

Contact: Hood Canal District, Quilcene

Good to Know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly, open to mountain bikes, backpacking opportunities, old-growth, exceptional rhodies, Practice Leave No Trace Principles

Access: From Quilcene drive US 101 south for 1.5 miles turning right onto Penny Creek Road. After 1.5 miles bear left onto FR 27. Continue for 3 miles to a junction. Bear right and after .4 mile turn left onto FR 27-080. Follow this narrow road .4 mile to trailhead.

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required.

 

The Big Quilcene Trail to Marmot Pass is one of the most popular trails in the Olympics. Many hikers don’t realize though, it was once twice as long. The road to the trailhead severed it in two. The eastern six miles still exist as the Lower Big Quilcene Trail. And although not in the adjacent Buckhorn Wilderness, this trail is still quite wild in places. A good part of it runs through a rugged canyon cloaked in primeval forest. And while past logging has eaten away at the periphery, there are still plenty of ancient groves along the way.

The trail climbs a mere 800 feet in its 5.0 mile journey to Camp Jolly. Besides making for an easy trek, its low elevation is ideal for a spring hike. In May and June, you’ll be rewarded with blooming rhododendrons, Washington’s showy state flower. The trail passes by old camps and shelters—testaments to when there was no shorter route to Marmot Pass. A good day hike objective is Camp Jolly, just more than five miles out. But hikers not intent on putting in that many miles can cut their hike in half opting for Bark Shanty Camp.

The trail starts high above the river on an old road bed. After a slight descent in the first mile it enters a steep-walled canyon. After another mile the trail finally meets up with the roaring river, crossing it on a good bridge. Now along the rushing waterway and through beautiful groves of old-growth forest reach Bark Shanty Camp in 2.6 miles. Snack, rest, turn around or carry on!

The trail continues farther up valley. Just beyond a sturdy bridge is the western terminus of the Notch Pass Trail. Continue through a series of old clearcuts before reentering primeval forest once more. At 5.1 miles arrive at Camp Jolly. Take a break by bubbly Jolly Creek before happily making your way back to the trailhead. Note that the trail continues for 1.4 more miles terminating at FR 2750. If you can arrange a shuttle, it makes a good one way hike.

For more detailed information on this trail and 135 others throughout the Olympic Peninsula, pick up a copy of my Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula 2nd edition. This detailed up-to-date book is the most trusted trail source and best selling hiking guidebook to the Olympic Peninsula. Get your copy today! 

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Ozette Triangle–Classic Olympic Coast Hike packed with surprises

The Wedding Rocks add mystique to the Ozette Triangle.

The Wedding Rocks add mystique to the Ozette Triangle.

Quick Facts:

Location: Olympic Coast

Land Agency: Olympic National Park

Roundtrip: 9.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 400 feet

Notes: National Park entry fee; dogs prohibited; coastal section can be difficult during high tides.

Green Trails Map: Olympic Coast 99S

Contact: Olympic National Park

Access: From Port Angeles, follow US 101 west for 5 miles to SR 112. Continue on SR 112 for 46 miles to Seiku. Travel west on SR 112 for 2.5 miles beyond Seiku and turn left onto the Hoko-Ozette Road. Follow this paved road for 21 miles to trailhead at Ozette Ranger Station.

Good to Know: Kid-friendly, snow-free winter hike, backpacking opportunities (permit required), exceptional wildlife viewing, historic, Practice Leave No Trace Principles, One of  the 100 Classic Hikes of Washington

Sea stacks, sea otters, sea lions, and ocean scenery for as far as you can see, the 9.4 mile Ozette Triangle is one of the finest hikes on the Olympic Coast. An easily accessible loop hike, it’s the perfect introduction to America’s wildest coastline south of Alaska.

From Lake Ozette, one of the largest natural bodies of water in Washington, the loop begins its 3.3 mile journey to the sea. Cross the lazy and brackish Ozette River on an arched bridge soon coming to a junction. Veer right and via good trail and cedar-planked boardwalks, traverse lush maritime forests drenched in sea mist. Towering ferns line the elevated path. Pass through Ahlstrom’s Prairie, an early homestead site, since reclaimed by the dense greenery that thrives in this water-logged climate.

Raucous gulls and the sound of crashing surf announce that the ocean is near. Now gently descend to the wild beaches of Cape Alava. Turn south and follow the shoreline for 3.1 adventurous miles. Look out to off-shore islands. Gaze the ocean waters for seals, whales, and scores of pelagic birds. Look in tidal pools for semi-submerged starfish tenaciously clinging to barnacle-encrusted walls. Look for oystercatchers cruising down the aisles of this open fish market. Look up in the towering trees hugging the shoreline for perched eagles.

Search for Makah petroglyphs etched into the Wedding Rocks, a cluster of shore hugging boulders about half way down the coast. Respect these historic and sacred artifacts; they predate European settlement in the Northwest. If the tide is low continue along the surf. If it is high use the steep but short trails (signed) that bound over the rough headlands. A little more than 3.0 miles from Cape Alava, you’ll arrive at Sand Point. Over two glorious miles of some of the finest sandy beaches in all of Washington extend from this point. Explore at will or return to Lake Ozette via another 3.0 mile long boardwalk trail. It’s all through expansive cedar bogs and under a dense canopy of majestic Sitka spruce. As the sound of the crashing surf slowly fades in the distance, the Ozette Triangle will long continue to chime in your mind.

The Ozette Triangle is one of 136 featured hikes in my Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula 2nd Edition guidebook. Find more details on this hike and detailed and accurate descriptions to many others in this best-selling, most-trusted and comprehensive guide to hiking the Olympic Peninsula. Get your copy today!

Discovery Trail – Follow Lieutenant Clark along the Long Beach Peninsula

Quick Facts:

Location: Long Beach Peninsula

Land Agency: Washington State Parks and others

Roundtrip: 8.2 miles on way

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Contact: Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau

Access: For the southern trailhead, follow US 101 to Ilwaco. Turn left onto Elizabeth Ave and after two blocks turn right onto Howerton Ave. Park on Howerton Ave. Trail begins on Waterfront Walkway between Advent Ave and Pearl Ave.

 

Good to Know: ADA accessible, dog-friendly, snow-free winter hike, kid-friendly, bike-friendly, Discover Pass required if parking in Cape Disappointment State Park

 

Brave the winter rains by hiking this mostly paved trail which replicates the route of Lieutenant William Clark’s famous hike November 19th 1805 hike.  The trail connects communities, travels over a coastal bluff, and traverses dunes along the Pacific. The scenery is breathtaking. But what really makes this trail so much fun for photographers is its numerous historic sculptures commemorating the Corps of Discovery’s epic journey.

You can access this trail from ten locations making for lots of hiking options. But try to arrange for a shuttle to do the whole 8.2 mile trail in one sweep. The trail starts at a California condor monument on the Ilwaco waterfront. Walk along the Waterfront Way through town before reaching bona fide trail. Then skirt the extensive wetlands of Fords Dry Lake.

Next crest a mist-shrouded bluff and enter Cape Disappointment State Park. Then descend to Beards Hollow, a former cove now a wildlife rich marsh. Then head through a gap reaching dunes and sweeping beach views. The path now heads north through waves of dunes passing numerous trailheads.

Stop at interpretive panels, a dolphin sculpture, and a gray whale skeleton and sculpture. The trail then parallels Long Beach’s boardwalk reaching the Bolstad Arch Trailhead. It continues north to more intriguing sculptures—one of Clark and a big sturgeon; a basalt monolith commemorating the historic hike; and finally “Clark’s Tree.” The Discovery Trail turns east here soon reaching its northern terminus at the Breaker s Trailhead.

 

The Discovery Trail is one of 136 featured hikes in my fully updated and expanded Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula 2nd Edition (Mountaineers Book). For more details on this hike and others (including many on the Long Beach Peninsula), pick up a copy of this book—the number one selling and most trusted guidebook on hiking in the Olympics—today!

 

For information on where to stay and on other things to do on the Olympic Peninsula, check out Northwest TripFinder

 

 

Fletcher Canyon– Explore a rugged rift in the Quinault Ridge

 

Fletcher Creek at the log crossing

Quick Facts:

Location: Colonel Bob Wilderness

Land Agency: Olympic National Forest

Roundtrip: 3.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 1100 feet

Contact: Olympic National Forest, Pacific Ranger District, Quinault

Green Trails Map: Mt Christie No. 166,

Access: From Hoquiam, travel north on US 101 for 38 miles turning right onto South Shore Road. Then proceed for 11.4 miles to trailhead.

Good to Know: exceptional old-growth, dog-friendly, snow-free winter hike, wilderness rules apply, practice Leave No Trace Principals

 

Venture up a deep canyon into a lonely (but easily accessible) corner of the 11,961-acre Colonel Bob Wilderness. This hike is short, but not easy. It is steep and rough in places. But the canyon is ruggedly beautiful and the trees are impressive. During the winter months chances are pretty good of observing elk in this rugged rift in the Quinault Ridge.

The trail starts by a huge ledge housing an array of ferns and lichens. Ignore the kiosk sign that says “Col Bob Trail 4 miles.” The trail beyond the 2-mile mark has long been abandoned. Overgrown to jungle proportions, even Sasquatch now avoids it. Immediately start climbing on a sometimes steep, sometimes rocky route. Numerous creeks cross the trail, making it a challenge if you’re intent on keeping your boots dry.

After gaining a couple of hundred feet, the trail rounds a bend and enters the deep canyon. Soon enter the Colonel Bob Wilderness. Under an emerald canopy of stately old hemlocks and firs with frothing Fletcher Creek crashing in the distance, continue climbing. Waves of sword ferns appear to roll down the vertical canyon walls.

The way gets rougher, growing rockier and rootier as it approaches the creek. Now enter a magical spot where big mossy boulders corral the feisty waters. Stare across to the sheer vertical wall at the far side of the canyon, where you can also see the scars of avalanches and rockslides.

Now on rough tread, the trail dashes under fallen giants, darts over slick rocks, skirts damp ledges, and wiggles through boulders on a steep course. At 1.9 miles, break out into a small clearing alongside Fletcher Creek. A huge cedar log acts as a bridge over the gurgling waters, and another pretty waterfall can be seen just upstream. The trail ends here at a campsite. Sit by the creek and enjoy a corner of the Quinault rainforest where few bootprints have been left behind.

 

Fletcher Canyon is one of 136 featured hikes in my fully updated and expanded Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula 2nd Edition (Mountaineers Book). For more details on this hike and others (including many not found in other guides), pick up a copy of this book—the number one selling and most trusted guidebook on hiking in the Olympics—today!

 

For information on where to stay and on other things to do on the Olympic Peninsula, check out

Northwest TripFinder