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Lower Gray Wolf River

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Perfect for a winter leg-stretcher or a spring woodland flower hike, this easy trail will appeal to most hikers, young and old. Through groves of old-growth conifers, over cascading creeks, and hugging the lush banks of the Gray Wolf River, the trail marches up a quiet canyon in the Buckhorn Wilderness. Plenty of good picnic sites, too, can be found along the tumbling, churning river. And there's always an excellent chance of spotting a big critter along the way.

A new beginning and an abrupt ending have changed this trail considerably since the 1990s. From the small parking lot, start downhill on new trail, formerly a logging road. A series of slides forced this reroute. The new trail starts away from the river, but its slope-side route provides some nice views of Maynard Mountain and the portal to the Gray Wolf Canyon.

After 0.5 mile of gentle walking, enter mature forest. The Cat Creek Loop Trail takes off to the left. An alternative route, it drops steeply through an ancient cedar grove, and then follows a portion of the old Gray Wolf Trail to return to the main trail about 0.5 mile farther. It's worth the walk, increasing the sweat factor only slightly.

The main trail leaves the old roadbed, entering a cool old-growth forest of fir and hemlock and accelerating its drop to the river. At 1.5 miles enter the Buckhorn Wilderness, the river growing louder. Finally reach the wild waterway and traverse a sun-kissed bottomland that invites naps and snack breaks.

At 2.5 miles leave the river bottom to climb diagonally up a steep hillside. A few breaks in the trees provide views up to lofty Gray Wolf Ridge and down into the canyon. Dropping back to river level, feel a cool breeze embrace you as the trail heads along the surging waterway. At 3.5 miles, after some of the nicest riverside hiking on this side of the Olympics, the trail once again climbs a steep hillside.

Enjoy good views of the Gray Wolf crashing through a tight canyon gorge. Make your way back to river bottom, and at 4.2 miles call it quits as the trail ends at a narrow gorge that once housed a high bridge. Noted Olympic guidebook writer and legend Robert Wood once observed, "The bridge was built high enough to preclude its destruction from floods."This was probably the only time Mr. Wood wasn't correct-a torrent in the early 1990s washed it away.

Fording the river here is extremely dangerous. If you want to further explore the Gray Wolf Valley, use the Slab Camp Creek Trail. But that's for another time. Right now, sit by the lovely waterway, letting its rapids mesmerize and its resident dippers entertain you.
Driving Directions:

From the west end of the Hood Canal Bridge, drive State Route 104 to its end and veer north onto US 101. Proceed 16 miles and turn left onto Louella Road (just before reaching the Sequim Bay State Park entrance). In 1 mile turn left on Palo Alto road continuing for 6 miles to a junction. Bear right at a junction onto Forest Road 2880. The road descends and crosses the Dungeness River, coming to another junction in 1.7 miles. Turn right on FR 2870, cross the Gray Wolf River, and arrive at the trailhead after 1.8 miles. (Alternatively, from US 101 west of Sequim, turn left/south on Taylor Cutoff Road, turn right on Lost Mountain Road, and then turn left on FR 2870 and drive 5.5 miles to the trailhead.)

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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 87 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Lower Gray Wolf River — Mar 14, 2014 — SequimBadger
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns
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Woke up in the morning to hard rain and we wanted to get started on the trail by 9 but delayed it fo...
Woke up in the morning to hard rain and we wanted to get started on the trail by 9 but delayed it for about an hour, when the rain was replaced by bright sunshine. When we hit the trailhead, it was in the high 40's.

The trail was fairly muddy with a few blowdowns but it didn't really impede our walk at all. Plenty of small streams to keep the dog watered and they were all easy to cross. On the way out some of the trail that gets sun had dried out somewhat. We went in approx. 3 miles and had a snack where the trail goes down to the river the second time and turned around.

We did not encounter anyone else on the trail and had a great time. This is a very good early spring hike for area.
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Lower Gray Wolf River — Mar 02, 2014 — HikesWithGuns
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Water on trail | No water source
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Supposedly it was raining today, I chose this hike due to it being in the rain shadow and was rewar...
Supposedly it was raining today, I chose this hike due to it being in the rain shadow and was rewarded. It's a fairly short hike but it is fun. My hiking partner also had fun. This dog will get in the water no matter what temperature, I swear she is part fish.

The trail doesn't really end, it just slowly goes away. Once you come to the washout and have to crawl under the fallen tree turn around. From there the trail goes straight up the hillside. It's extremely steep and the ground is not packed down.
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Lower Gray Wolf River — Jan 25, 2014 — jbrook222
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Mud/Rockslide | Mudholes | Water on trail | Snow on trail | No water source
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It was a beautiful day today for a hike/jog. We arrived later than we planned, so we did not get to...
It was a beautiful day today for a hike/jog. We arrived later than we planned, so we did not get to go to the end today. It was very pretty and brisk. In some areas there was frost on the trail. The frost on the trees was beautiful, but I would not want to spend the night out there this time of year. Make sure you bring something warm and start out early. We appreciated the sites easy to follow driving directions. It was just like it said, descend down the hill and go across the bridge. If there weren't other cars you might drive right past the parking area and start of the trail, as there is just a small sign. There are no bathrooms or honey buckets available. The trail is narrow and slick at some areas. It is a fairly easy and fun hike though.
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Lower Gray Wolf River — Dec 30, 2013 — bockdip
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Water on trail | Snow on trail
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The road was entirely snow-free, with no snow visible at the trailhead. The trail heading down to t...
The road was entirely snow-free, with no snow visible at the trailhead. The trail heading down to the river was slightly muddy in places, but not nearly as bad as I've seen it on previous occasions.

Ice became a problem upon reaching the bottom of the river valley. Several sections had iced-over snow on the trail, and there were patches of near-invisible ice as well. The only really tricky place was a damaged bridge about 3 miles out, where the logs and the occasional crosspieces were totally iced over. Several of our party bushwhacked around it, but with care and trekking poles it was passable.

Other than that, and a few blowdowns, it was a pleasant 8-miles roundtrip hike in surprisingly comfortable December weather.
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Lower Gray Wolf River — Dec 22, 2013 — BSOD2600
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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The road to the trail head was covered in slushy snow with patches of the gravel exposed. Slow going...
The road to the trail head was covered in slushy snow with patches of the gravel exposed. Slow going but nothing a Subaru WRX couldn't handle ;) The majority of the trail is snow free with a few patches here and there. No need for microspikes. Just one tree blowdown which other trip reports have stated. On the drive back, a new tree had fallen over the road. Thankfully was small enough to push out of the way.

Hiked in, ate lunch at the river and back, all within 3 hours. Lucked out with the weather and didn't get rained on. Even saw the sun peak out a few times.
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gray wolf river bob and barb.jpg
Gray Wolf River. Photo by Hikerchick.
WTA worked here!
2012
Location
Gray Wolf River (#834)
Olympics -- East
Olympic National Forest - Hood Canal Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 8.4 miles
Elevation Gain 800 ft
Highest Point 1500 ft
Features
Rivers
Old growth
Wildflowers/Meadows
Established campsites
User info
Good for kids
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Tyler Peak No. 136
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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Red MarkerLower Gray Wolf River
47.9670333333 -123.1274
  • BCRT 2012
  • Trail Work 2012
(47.9670, -123.1274) Open in new window
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