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Deer Ridge

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You can easily drive to Deer Park via a snaking gravel road from Port Angeles. So why hike this somewhat steep trail? Here are five good reasons. One: access to Deer Park, since the road is often closed until July. Two: wildflowers that grow along this trail in profusion, both in numbers and varieties. Three: absolute solitude for most of the way. Four: spectacular views of the entire Grey Wolf River valley and its towering peaks. And five: you'll earn it all, something you simply can't do from the seat of your SUV.

This lightly used but well-defined trail starts out gentle enough through a dry forest of Douglas-fir, layered with rhododendrons and carpeted by salal and kinnikinnick. At 1.5 miles reach an unmarked junction with a "short-cut"trail that leads 0.5 mile back to the road (about 1.6 miles from Slab Camp). The easy strolling ends as the way steepens. Pass a spring and consider topping off your water bottle. This is the only water along the trail after the snows melt. At about 2.75 miles reach an open rib and your first breathtaking views of the Gray Wolf Valley. A bench has been placed here in memory of longtime trail volunteer and Sequim resident Phil Hall. It is indeed a great place to be honored.

Now, through open forest and dry rocky slopes, the trail reaches higher. At 3.6 miles enter Olympic National Park. The next 1.6 miles of trail travel through some of the most scenic hiking terrain in this corner of the Olympics. Through parklands, meadows, and basalt outcroppings, the trail weaves its way to Deer Park, delivering breathtaking views at every bend in its course. Gaze out to barren Baldy and Gray Wolf Peak. Admire the jagged summits of Mounts Walkinshaw, Clark, Deception, and Mystery, some of the loftiest summits on the Olympic Peninsula.

Peer down into the emerald valleys of the Gray Wolf River and of Grand and Cameron Creeks to some of the largest concentrations of old-growth forests in western Washington. And at your feet? Flowers! Find arnica, phlox, pearly everlasting, stonecrop, chocolate lily, paintbrush, columbine, yellow violet, wallflower, buttercup, cinquefoil, rockslide larkspur, and many more.

At 5.2 miles you'll come to a junction with the Three Forks Trail at the Deer Park Campground, high on a grassy shoulder of Blue Mountain. If you're there before the road opens it'll just be you and the deer enjoying the scenery.
Driving Directions:

From Sequim head west 2.5 miles on US 101. Turn left onto Taylor Cutoff Road (just after crossing the Dungeness River). In 2.6 miles bear right onto Lost Mountain Road. In another 2.6 miles turn left onto dirt Forest Road 2870. After 1 mile enter the Olympic National Forest, coming to a junction. Bear right on FR 2875 and in 3.5 miles come to primitive Slab Camp and park here. The trail begins south of the camp on the west side of the road.

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Recent Trip Reports

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There are 28 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Deer Ridge — Oct 22, 2013 — alanecharlesworth
Day hike
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Hiked up from Slab Camp to Blue Mtn. Road to the TH is OK shape, trail in fine shape. No snow. The D...
Hiked up from Slab Camp to Blue Mtn. Road to the TH is OK shape, trail in fine shape. No snow. The Deer Park road in ONP is closed for the season, so no cars. Extremely clear: peaks to the north in Vancouver Island, BC, the Cascades, and of course, the nearby Olympics. Could pick out Mt Stuart, 116 miles away. 11.2 miles, 3640' gain, 6.8 hours.
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Deer Ridge — Oct 21, 2013 — Pliny
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Fall foliage
Issues: Blowdowns
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Started at Slab camp and hiked to the junction with Three Forks. We went up on the ridge to a high ...
Started at Slab camp and hiked to the junction with Three Forks. We went up on the ridge to a high point after that and had lunch. The trail was well maintained (one or two blow downs, easily climbed over) and dry. The fall colors were beautiful and we were above the clouds and fog that persisted in the low lands all day. In fact there was an inversion and I hiked mostly with my shirt completely off (not a pretty site, BTW). We ran in to one other hiker and one deer hunter. Found a pair of binoculars on the trail, if they are yours contact me at (360) 638-2705 and identify them and i will see that you get them back. Jim Morrison
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Deer Ridge, Slab Camp Creek and Gray Wolf River — Jul 06, 2013 — whatthebuck
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: No water source
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This trail is great although some hazards not mentioned with enough emphasis are that the majority o...
This trail is great although some hazards not mentioned with enough emphasis are that the majority of the trail is very narrow and the drop-offs are unforgiving. The first 3.5-4 miles up from slab creek is pretty steep but after the initial huffing and puffing the views the remainder of the way are amazing and well worth the initial hard work.
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Three Forks, Gray Wolf Pass, Lower Gray Wolf River, Slab Camp Creek and Gray Wolf River, Deer Ridge, Blue Mountain - Deer Park Snowshoe — Jul 04, 2013 — hlynn117
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Snow on trail | Bugs
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This was a 3 day, 3 night hike with two people (man and woman) in our mid-twenties. We took the ferr...
This was a 3 day, 3 night hike with two people (man and woman) in our mid-twenties. We took the ferry over the night before and stayed in Sequim camp ground so we could be up early and have a short drive to the WIC office in Port Angeles. The first day, we started out at 9:30 and hiked Three Forks trail and the Gray Wolf river trail to Falls Camp.

Three Forks trail is lovely, well-maintained, and offers great views closer to the trail head. There's an abundance of wild flowers this time of year, too. It's not a trail with water sources, but it's short and (comparatively) lacking a lot of insect activity. It leads to Three Forks camp, which is also lovely and well-maintained.

There is 2.7 miles of trail between Three Forks camp and Camp Ellis. This section of trail, to put it bluntly, is a nightmare right now. The section on the left side of the river, before the half-way foot bridge, has so many blow downs we stopped counting, and we lost the trail a few times going over and around the masses of downed trees. Our packs were light enough (17-20 lbs, depending on water) we were able to do the scrambling without losing too much time, but be prepared for scrambles that boarder on bushwhacking. I'd suggest tackling this portion in the morning before it gets too buggy.

The good news is, after Camp Ellis, there are only about a dozen blow downs, and they're manageable with minimal effort. We really enjoyed the elevation gain from Camp Ellis to Falls Camp. There's a few sections with stunning waterfalls and plenty of blooming flowers and interesting plant and animal life. The best part about this trail is we had it all to ourselves (maybe the only thing those early blow downs were good for), so it was enjoyable. The shelter at Falls Camp is burned down, but there are still functional fire pits and established camp sites in good condition.

On day 2, we left at 7 am for Gray Wolf Pass. The hike up to the pass isn't terribly steep, but we did take breathing breaks to admire the views on our way. We crossed the snow line around 9, and the first snow on the trail was at 5500 feet at a stream crossing. We navigated the patchy snow for about another half-mile until we reached a meadow. We stopped for a break in the meadow, where we saw several marmots and beautiful spring blooms. (There were also many flies, misquotes, and spiders.) At this point, we used the compass/topography map to navigate out of the meadow, and since the trail followed a stream bed up, we thought it was buried under snow and continued following the stream bed. The trail was hidden under a snow patch beside the stream bed, but instead of following the stream, it went up over a ridge line -- so we lost the trail for about an hour. When we found the trail again, we'd already tried to navigate several snow fields, and at about .5 miles from the pass, the trail became completely buried in a snow field. We were in the position of being unable to determine where the trail emerged. Not knowing the conditions on the other side, and already having had troubles finding the trail, we decided to turn around and make for Three Forks Camp that night. We made it into Three Forks at 7 pm and had ourselves a nice camp fire.

On day 3, we decided to hike the Lower Gray Wolf River trail, connect to the Slab Creek Trail (838), and finished the loop by taking the Deer Ridge trail (846) back to the Deer Park campground. The lower gray wolf, leading to slide camp and camp Tony, is well-maintained, with about half a dozen manageable blow downs. We started at 9 and finished this section by noon, and we stopped for lunch at Camp tony. Camp Tony is the last good water source before the Deer Ridge and Slab Creek trail head, so stop and get water here. We wished we had decided to filter another 2 liters because slab creek and deer ridge are very dry trails with limited to no available water.

Slab Creek trail and the lower Gray wolf trail are both very forested trails without a lot of views, but the benefit is that you don't have a lot of strenuous climbing. We talked to several hikers (a family and a group doing an over-night at Slide Camp), who chose these two trail sections because they're less demanding, shady, and still provide nice views of the surrounding mountains. We saw several groups of people (some with kids) day-hiking on the Slab Creek trail. Overall, this section of trail was well-maintained, enjoyable, and accessible to hikers of many skill levels.

We reached Slab Creek trail head by 2 pm, and then we started across the Deer Ridge trail head, which leads from the Buckhorn wilderness area back into Olympic NP. We completed this trail by 7 pm.

Of all the trails we hiked, Deer Ridge was by far the most physically taxing. There is no water at the trail head, and there's not a source of water along the entire 4.6 mile trail. It's a very dry trail, and it has a lot of hill climb. By the time you reach the NP border, you've gained 3,000 feet of elevation over 3.6 miles, and it comes in steep hill climbs with gradients reaching 35%. To reach Deer Park trail head, you gain about another 1500 feet of elevation in the last 1.7 miles. The best thing about this trail is, after the first 1.5 miles of hill climb from the trail head, you're hiking with great, open views of the Olympics. The down side is that there were lots of flies, but when we gained more elevation, we saw deer and an abundance of wild flowers.

We camped at a walk in site in Deer Park camp ground, and the next morning, we packed up and drove the short road up to the Blue Mountain trail head. There's an easy, .5 mile loop around the top of Blue Mountain, and we went up at 6:30 am to get spectacular views of the Olympics, and even though it was hazy, we could still see from the Pacific to Puget sound. It was a quick, little side trip, and early in the morning, we had it all to ourselves -- a great way to end the trip.
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Deer Ridge, Slab Camp Creek and Gray Wolf River, Three Forks — Jun 22, 2013 — MikeOnAHike
Overnight
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns
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Nice trail for solitude and training. Great river-side camps. Would have had views, but it was fog...
Nice trail for solitude and training. Great river-side camps. Would have had views, but it was foggy. ~17 mile loop with plenty of elevation gain on both days. Could tack on Blue Mountain for views and 800 feet more elevation gain. Rhodies in bloom on the trail for a while near the Slab Camp Creek trailhead. Lots of pretty feeder streams on the Gray Wolf trail.

No privy at trailhead, but privy available at Deer Park. Deer Park road is open now. Privy available at Three Forks Shelter. Privy at Gray Wolf Camp has been smashed by a tree. Did not investigate whether it was salvagable.

Nice river-side camps at Camp Tony (near Slab Camp Creek / Grey Wolf junction), Gray Wolf Camp, and Three Forks. Walk downstream at Three Forks following the "camps" sign to find more private sites. Cameron Creek seemed to be less silty than Grand Creek, so I filtered that instead. The two creeks are very close together there. Gray Wolf Camp would be a better choice than Three Forks for a larger group.

Trail generally in good shape. Deer Ridge section of trail features lateral slope. Coupled with very few switchbacks, this is hard on the ankles. The rest of the trail is pretty pleasant to walk on, with the exception of Slab Camp Creek. Slab Camp Creek trail was muddy. There are a few trees down here and there. The section of trail between Three Forks and Gray Wolf trail has a section that has been disrupted by a downhill tree-fall. It's short and passable, but I wonder about the stability of that section. All creeks on the loop are passable on sturdy foot logs. Sections of the trail are brushy and will get you wet if it has rained recently.

The trail junctions around Gray Wolf camp are a little confusing. There are signs, but you have to look for them. Also, I believe the map to be wrong in this area. The trail between Three Forks and Gray Wolf Camp actually travels on the south side of Cameron Creek.

The turn off from Gray Wolf trail to Slab Camp Creek trail is confusing. The original Slab Camp Creek trail has been obviously blocked on purpose. It's re-routed a little ways downstream the Gray Wolf trail, but for some reason the sign hasn't been moved. Keep walking downstream and you'll find the correct trail. (or try the blocked trail and look to your right for orange flagging). This section of the Gray Wolf trail doesn't get too close to the river.

Loop described here. I did it in reverse. Note the driving directions.
http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8005516

Excellent map here:
http://www.nps.gov/[…]/WildernessMap.pdf

National Park Service is really good about emailing permits. We called, paid with a credit card, and printed the permit. No need to go out of our way to hit a ranger station during their hours of operation.
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deer ridge - happy yankee.JPG
Deer Ridge. Photo by Happy Yankee.
Location
Deer Ridge (#846)
Olympics -- East
Statistics
Roundtrip 10.4 miles
Elevation Gain 2800 ft
Highest Point 5360 ft
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Tyler Peak No. 136 and Mount Angeles No. 135
Custom Correct Buckhorn Wilderness

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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