Quinault Rainforest Loop — Easily accessible trail system through an Olympic Rainforest

Quick Facts:

Location: Lake Quinault

Land Agency: Olympic National Forest

Roundtrip: 3.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 500 feet

Contact: Olympic National Forest, Pacific Ranger District, Quinault

Detailed Information: Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula 2nd Edition (Mountaineers Books)

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required; dogs should on leash


Access: From Hoquiam travel north on US 101 for 35 miles. Turn right onto the South Shore Lake Quinault Road and proceed for 1.3 miles to a large parking area signed “Rainforest Nature Trail Loop.”

Good to Know: exceptional old-growth, dog-friendly, kid-friendly, historic, snow-free winter hike, practice Leave No Trace Principles


The Quinault National Recreation Trail system offers over 10 miles of family friendly wandering through primeval forest that were mere saplings when Europeans began colonizing the Americas.  Trails lead from several trailheads, campgrounds, and the historic Quinault Lodge to waterfalls, crystal clear creeks, scenic lakeshore, and through groves of towering Sitka spruce, western red cedar, and western hemlock. You can spend days here exploring. This loop makes for a great introduction.

From the trailhead pass a colossal Douglas-fir before reaching a junction on a high bank above Willaby Creek. Look down for salmon and up for eagles. Turn right to begin your loop. Bear left at the Nature Trail (lest you want a much shorter trip) and soon cross Willaby Creek. Continue on the loop avoiding a 1.7 mile side trail to the Willaby Creek giant cedar (a worthy side trip involving a difficult ford).

Via a boardwalk cross a cedar bog that in spring bursts with pungent patches of skunk cabbage. Soon afterwards come to another junction. The trail left heads .6 mile to the Quinault Lodge; proceed right. After crossing Falls Creek, gently climb and cross Cascade Creek at lovely Cascade Falls. Then slowly descend bearing left to cross Falls Creek and climb again before reaching the South Shore Road.

Cross the road and admire Falls Creek Falls; then skirt a campground before coming to Lake Quinault, one of the largest bodies of water on the Olympic Peninsula. Close the loop by following the lakeshore for one mile, passing quiet coves, humble cabins, and the majestic 1926 Lake Quinault Lodge.  This section of trail is prone to winter flooding. If that’s the case, return via the South Shore Road, or head up the Lodge Trail and retrace some of your route. The forest may be ancient, but this hike never gets old.


The Lake Quinault Rainforest Loop 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

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