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Early Season Backpacking on the Olympic Peninsula

Posted by Loren Drummond at Apr 17, 2013 03:45 PM |
If you're a hiker who has started to feel the pull of the backcountry, an early season overnight or backpacking weekend may be just what you need to hold you over until the snow melts. If you're not afraid of a little rain or mud, then consider heading to the Olympics on one of these four great backpacking trips in the next month.
Early Season Backpacking on the Olympic Peninsula

An exceptionally fine May day on the Ozette Triangle loop. Photo by Half Century Hiker.

If you're a hiker who has started to feel the pull of the backcountry, a short, early-season backpacking trip may satisfy your craving for overnighting in the outdoors. Don't mind facing down a little rain or mud in search of wildlife, coastal wilderness and solitude? Then consider heading to the Olympics this spring on one of these four great backpacking trips.

Before you go

  • Check Trip Reports and with the Olympics rangers about trail and road conditions. Many trails may not be cleared by trail crews (like WTA) yet, and the local rangers will be able to alert you to any issues on the trail you're interested in.
  • Go prepared for springtime conditions like mud, wild weather and potholed roads. Also, spring melt-off can make Olympic rivers a hazard this time of year. Watch your step around banks and don't be afraid to turn around if a creek or river ford
  • Whether you're trying backpacking for the first time or not, it never hurts to brush up on your backpacking basics: what to pack, what to eat, and on-trail best practices.
  • Research the rules, regulations and tidetables on the peninsula. Dogs are only allowed on leash in the Olympic National Forest (see: Slab Camp Creek) and you may need a backcountry reservation or permit.

Where to go: river, forest and coast

Hoh River

A view from the Hoh River trail
A view from the Hoh River trail. Photo by jbrook222.
Location: Near Forks
Round Trip: 10.6 miles (2-3 days)
Elevation: 300 ft gain
Hike It: Read recent Trip Reports and get more info in our  Hiking Guide

As you hike through the lush forest, with curtains of moss draping from tree limbs along the trail, take some time to think about just how many shades of green you see. It's quite impressive! The trail offers open views of the Hoh river and snowy peaks. Campsites dot the trail at 2.3 miles, 4 miles and 5.3 miles. Enjoy the sounds of rushing water and a symphony of bird songs. Tthis trail is in Olympic National Park and does not allow dogs.

Toleak Point - Third Beach to Oil City Traverse

Location: Olympic Coast
Round Trip: 17 miles (2-4 days)
Elevation Change: 3000'
Hike It: Read recent Trip Reports and get more info in our Hiking Guide.

A March 25 Toleak Point hiker advises waterproof boots and gaitors:

"I took the ranger's advice to "embrace the mud" rather than skirt the mud pits and further widen the trail. The scenery CANNOT be beat, nor compared to more easily accessible beaches to the south! Sea stacks all along the route, tidepools when the tide's low, eagles, deer, and sea lions were present."

> Read the rest of the report

Experience one of the wildest - and most beautiful - stretches of coastline in the contiguous United States on this 17 mile traverse. But beware: this isn't just any leisurely beach walk. The going is tough. You'll be climbing ladders with your backpack on, scrambling along muddy headland trails, waiting out high tides and fording creeks. Up and down you'll go on this demanding trail. But it is entirely worth it for the ocean sunsets, the unexpected encounters with wildlife, the incredible sea stacks and the constantly crashing surf. This trail is in Olympic National Park and does not allow dogs.

Ozette Triangle: Cape Alava - Sand Point Loop

Location: Olympic Coast
Round Trip: 9.4 miles
Elevation: 300 ft gain
Hike It: Read recent Trip Reports and get more info in our online Hiking Guide.

Add a tide chart, binoculars and a camera to your backpack on this coastal classic. You'll be surrounded by beautiful lush green vegetation as you walk along the boardwalk to the beach. Be careful if the boardwalk is wet; it can become very slippery. Once at the beach, set up camp at one of the established sites, secure your food from the camp critters and spend plenty of time exploring. With your binoculars, spot birds, seals, otters or maybe a whale. Be sure to search for the petroglyphs at Wedding Rock.  
This trail is in Olympic National Park and does not allow dogs.

Slab Camp Creek and Grey Wolf River

Duncan Flat Camp Slab Camp Creek and Gray Wolf River
Duncan Flat Camp on Slab Camp Creek and Gray Wolf River in later March. Photo by Emily's Dad.

Location: Eastern Olympics
Round Trip:
5.6 miles
Elevation Gain:
1100'
Hike it: Read recent Trip Reports and get more info in our online Hiking Guide.

Thick green forests and the swollen Grey Wolf river will keep you company on this short backpacking trip on the eastern side of the Peninsula. There are three well established, large camping spots at Duncan Flats about 2.5 mi. in (one’s just across the bridge). Slide Creek Camp is about another 1.5 mi. from there. Both have water year round. If you go exploring east on the Gray Wolf river to the downed bridge, be careful; Trip Reporter Emily's Dad reported landslides across the trail.

Volunteer on the Duckabush River Trail

Want another great way backpack in the Olympic Peninsula while improving the trails for all hikers? Join a Backcountry Response Team along the Duckabush River Trail from May 24-May 27. This trail has seen its share of damage over the past couple of years, and WTA crews are trying to tackle as many problems as possible.

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