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.



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