Home Backpacking Trip Report: Olympic National Park (North Zone)

Trip Report: Olympic National Park (North Zone)

by Lisa

This past weekend I got to meet up with a hiking friend and explore the north end of Olympic National Park.

This was my third trip to the Olympics. The first trip was an amazingly sunny July weekend to car camp and visit Hurricane Ridge and some hot springs. The second trip was a backpacking trip along a section of the coastal trail and a visit to the Hoh Rainforest.

For this trip we stuck to the north section of the park. My friend had travelled all the way up from San Francisco and had made the Olympics her destination for her very first trip to Washington.

Our first stop was the Visitor Center in Port Angeles, where we got some ideas and a permit for a short backpacking trip.

Next we grabbed a quiet campsite in the “Heart O’ The Hills” Campground. Once we were settled in there we drove further up the road towards Hurricane Ridge.

We stopped at a trailhead pullout a few miles before the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and followed the Switchback Spur Trail uphill 0.5 miles to join the Klahhane Ridge Trail. The clouds dropped away below us as we gained the ridge, offering us peak-a-boo views of the nearby peaks. The view opened up completely at the highest point on the ridge (6,050 ft.)

The majestic peaks of the Olympics

Deer taking in the meadows of Hurricane Ridge

We relaxed for a little while at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. We particularly enjoyed watching the deer and marmots grazing in the alpine meadows. After our break we decided to follow the road the 3 miles back down to the trailhead. It was an easy wander with great views.

For our second day in the park we headed a bit further west to the Elwha River Valley. We followed a gravel road to a trailhead and geared up for a 9 mile hike up the valley. It was a beautiful hike, with lots of variation in the forest. Every mile seemed to bring some new feature. We passed through cedar groves, hemlock stands, fir forests and even some unique arbutus copse.

Wandering through a fir forest

One of many lush stream crossings

We reached our campground, Mary’s Falls Camp, by late afternoon. The sites were on a large and lush island alongside the Elwha River. Luckily the weather was dry enough to scrounge some wood and start a fire, which gave us entertainment for the evening. We even had company, getting to know a couple women from Washington.

The Elwha River at Mary’s Falls Campsite

We woke to moist, grey skies. Thankfully it didn’t rain, but the valley held onto the clouds as we worked our way back down the valley to the trailhead. We treated ourselves to an indulgent lunch at a local diner and then my friend headed off towards the west coast of the park for more adventures while I turned myself back northwards for home.

It was really a fantastic weekend. I got to reconnect with a hiking buddy, explore further into the Olympic mountains, and even test out some of the gear that I’ll be using on the PCT!

Hiking alongside the Elwha River


sheila marples June 19, 2017 - 2:52 pm

I love hearing about your wknd adventure. Do you always hike with another person or do you hike alone ever? I would think it safer with another person but that is just me as I am cautious. I used to work at the summit of the Rogers Pass when I was 19 and I knew a couple that when hiking up into Balu Pass behind the hotel. They accidently got in between a mother grizzley and her cub and there was an attack. Malcolm had his scalp torn off and survived. Barbara- a room mate had horrible gashes. I also remember seeing Malcolm at the hospital in Revelstoke as I drove in with Barbara. Needless to say what I am trying to say is I have a thing about safety and bears. This was an accident and a person never forgets. I have a huge admiration for folks like you that do these kinds of hikes. I learned about mother nature from our parents and love it. I will also continue loving to hear your stories and seeing your pictures.

Lisa June 19, 2017 - 10:57 pm

Thankfully I seldom have to hike alone, and if I do go solo I usually hike on busier trails. Thankfully we don’t have the risk of grizzlies out here on the coast. While you certainly wouldn’t want to step between a black bear momma and her cubs, it’s not as dangerous an encounter.


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