In August 2018, Jeff and I went to Olympic National Park for a 5 night, 6 day backpacking trip. We hiked 60 miles through the high-alpine mountains, the temperate rainforest, and the Pacific coast, with approximately 10,000 feet of elevation gain. Our trip was split into two parts. We started at the Sol Duc trailhead, propelled our way through the High Divide trail, plunged down into the Hoh rainforest, and then climbed our way back up to complete the High Divide. We then drove to the Third Beach trailhead to test our backpacking skills on the Pacific coast.
Part 1: The High Divide and the Hoh
Our route (shown below) started in the Seven Lakes Basin, near the tallest mountain in the park: Mt. Olympus. Halfway through the loop, we veered off on the Hoh trail to make our way down into the Hoh rainforest. If it wasn’t for the immense smoke that overtook the ridges and the mountain tops, we would’ve made our way to Blue Glacier. Instead, we spent more time in the Hoh, where our views of the trees and the moss were not obstructed. We then hiked up and out of the rainforest to complete the High Divide trail.
We stayed in an array of wonderful campsites, and saw many other marvels during our hike. While Lunch Lake had a marvelous set of lakes to camp near, Heart Lake was more romantic. However, Lewis Creek Stockcamp stole the show – one that doesn’t even require prior reservations, this camp offered many spots to camp right next to a beautiful white river. The sound of the river flowing, the feeling of the water running over your skin, and the sight of the rainforest trees extending high into the sky offered a sort of peace that can only be found in nature.
Seven Lakes Basin
We began at the Sol Duc Trailhead, a popular trailhead due to the closeness of Sol Duc Falls. The first two miles or so were full of families, but once we made our way past the falls, the number of hikers quickly diminished. Our trip began when wildfires were soaring through Washington and Canada. Once we made our way above treeline, our views of nearby mountains and ridgelines were obstructed by smoke. The route up into the mountains was decently steep, but nothing in comparison to the CO mountains. We met couples and rangers that were shocked by the amount of distance we were looking to cover before sunset, but little did they know how well living at elevation trains you.
Part 2: Hoh rainforest
We then made our way to the coast, starting at Third Beach and hiking an in-and-out to Toleak Point. Hiking on the coast was unique. We had to carry tide tables as certain parts required hiking during low tide, and other parts were passable only by hiking on rough terrain on a nearby ridge.
In the end, our trip was about 60 miles, stretched over 6-ish days, with ~10,000 feet of elevation gain. We backed off our mileage/day and elevation gain from the CO trail, but a case of IT band syndrome on my right leg made us a bit worried. To be careful, I brought a knee strap, RockTape (which did WONDERS), and an aluminum water bottle that I could use for foam rolling.
Jeff and I carried our normal packs, with a few extra items for comfort. I brought a few items to make sure my knees could hike the entire trail. We each brought a small book. We dehydrated all our dinners, and brought enough of our favorite treat – cheese and crackers – to eat each day. We brought about 1.2 lbs/food/person/day, which seemed to be about perfect for us.
Day 1: Olympic’s High Alpine Mountains
We quickly reached Sol Duc falls, where we happened upon an oil painter capturing the beauty of the scenery.
We made our way past Deer Lake and to our campsite by 6:30 pm. Our views were mostly obstructed by the smoke, but to our surprise we did see a black bear. Lunch lake was nice with many possible campsites. We were to learn that the park had some of the nicest campsites we’ve seen. Most (including Lunch lake) had multiple nice campsites and a privy somewhere nearby.
Day 2: Hoh trail down to Hoh rainforest
Today was going to be a long day. We packed up our stuff and started hiking later than we wanted – around 10 am. We had about 4000 feet of elevation loss to make it down to the Hoh, which was almost at sea level. As we had learned from hiking a few 13ers earlier in the season, steep elevation loss caused my knee to act up, so we anticipated the hike to be slow-going. We originally wanted to hike 13 miles to Martin Creek Stock Camp, but were so exhausted after making it down to the Hoh that we stopped instead at Lewis Creek campsite after 9 miles of hiking.
It was fascinating to see the scenery change as we made it down to the rainforest. We started to see very large fallen trees on the trail and the color of green filled our periphery. The trail was rough, but not nearly as rough as what we were used to in CO. My knee somehow survived the trek.
When we finally stopped descending and were in the Hoh, we were completely enchanted. The moss and massive trees were like nothing we had ever seen. At the Lewis Creek stock camp, a plethora of campsites were cozied up next to the river, which was a beautiful quartz white. The trees provided a nice shade such that a cool breeze frequented the area. It was pure luxury.
There were others at the campsite that had left their gear at the site and made their way with a day pack up to Blue Glacier, only to return at night. We were jealous of these couples – if we had known, we would’ve planned a similar trip. In retrospect, a great trip would’ve been to hike up the Hoh to Blue Glacier and back. Coming from CO, hiking above treeline wasn’t all that novel, but the rainforest was completely unique to us. Coming in and out of the forest through the Hoh trail was also not particularly pleasant – it was a trail that was very steep and not as well-maintained as other trails in the park.
By dusk, the smoke was still prevalent, and we were so entranced by the rainforest that we decided to stay an extra day instead of making it up to Blue Glacier.
Day 3: Hoh rainforest
We woke up with incredibly sore legs, and were thrilled we had decided to take an easy day in the rainforest. We only hiked around 5 miles this day, all on flat ground. We ended our day a mile or so away at the Olympus Guard Station. Many nice campsites were here too, some near the river, but it wasn’t as quaint as the Lewis Creek Stock camp. After only a few miles of hiking, my legs were already sore. Foam rolling my legs and glutes at the end of the day made me feel significantly better. Towards dusk, hiker hunger started to kick in. The smoke was starting to clear out, and we hoped that the next day we’d be able to see the mountains.
The scenery was incredibly neat in the Hoh. Massive trees were all around us, with green shrubbery everywhere. We saw multiple sea slugs on the trails.
Day 4: Hiking out of the Hoh
We had to hike out of the Hoh today. We had about 9 miles of hiking and 4500 feet of elevation gain. Given how sore we were the previous day, we were worried that today would be slow. Much to our surprise, we were feeling very fit. Our trail legs started to kick in, and our tummies also started to get used to backpacking food. We woke up early (5:30 am) and made it to our campsite at Heart Lake around 2:30 pm.
The hike out of the Hoh was wicked. The trees were filled with mist, and every brush was filled with a spider’s web. It started to rain in the rainforest, and the smoke started to clear.
We crossed our fingers that we’d be able to see Mt. Olympus later that day. And as we made our way out of the forest, and looked through the trees, there she was!!
And what a beauty that mountain was. We made it past Hoh lake, and up on the ridge. It was beautiful. The pictures speak for themselves.
We made it to Heart Lake, very appropriately named, and set up camp on a ridge. A few mountain goats visited us, and we got to swim in the lake.
Day 5: Out of the Seven Lakes Basin and onto the beach
We woke up decently early and hiked our way out of the Seven Lakes Basin. The terrain was easy and we made it to our car within a few hours. We drove to the Third Beach trailhead, and made our way to the beach. It was in total around 9 miles of easy hiking. The beach was beautiful. We were excited to hike on yet another ecosystem.
Day 6: Third beach to Toleak point
Our tide tables told us that low tide was around 6 am. We had three low tide points to pass within a few miles. Thus, we decided to wake up around 3 am and start hiking. We were worried hiking was going to be slow, like it is while hiking on sand dunes. Much to our surprise, it was very easy. We made it past all three low tide points before the sun was out.
There were a few overpasses that we had to hike on because the beach was impassable. The first one we did in the dark. We had to use a rope to pull ourselves up. It was a very rough trail that wasn’t well-maintained. The coast gets an incredible amount of rain, causing the trails to be very muddy. There were many ropes to help hikers over the muddy parts. Many spiders had made their home in the nearby rainforest, and webs were all over the trail. We only had to hike a mile or so over this rough terrain before making it to the beach again.
We made it to our campsite at Toleak point around 10 am. It was so early that we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. It was rainy and not great hiking weather. Both of us finished our books, and were left to twiddle thumbs. We ended up deciding to leave around 6 pm, when it was low tide again.
Left to do:
1. edit pictures, put in other topo map
2. edit text
3. put in videos