Mileage: 15.4 miles RT
Elevation Gain/Highest: 3230/5125ft
Map: Green Trails Elwha NorthHurricane Ridge No. 133S, Custom Correct Seven Lakes Basin-Hoh
Favorite Eats After Hike: Turnip The Beet
8/20/15 This was a backpacking trip I led for women who were looking for a slower paced outing. I chose it because the hike in to our base camp was only 2 miles and flat. Then, on the second day folks could choose between heading up to Appleton Pass (more challenging) or over to Boulder Lake (less challenging). It also allowed for some road stops and history as we would be going by where they have taken out the Elwha Dam. You do need to stop by the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles for a permit first. There are bear wires for hanging food if you are staying at the campground but canisters are required if you are camping beyond that.
We drove over on the ferry early in the morning so we would have time to stop at the overlook for the restoration area. There was even a ranger there answering questions (love the history stuff!). We made it to the parking lot in time for lunch, which we ate before dawning our packs for the short distance to camp. I had my mom, Sheri, a trail angel I met on my 2013 PCT hike, and two gals from church. There were quite a few cars but the weather promised to be gorgeous and this IS the same route to the Olympic Hot Springs. Our hike in was easy but not without a few packs adjustments. The decommissioned road does go around a few washouts but it is well maintained and there is a fantastic bridge over Crystal Creek. It wasn’t long before we made it to the campground.
Unlike a lot of backcountry camps, this one is actually a decommissioned car campground so there are plenty of spots. It’s kind of cool to guess where cars and campers would have parked among the now moss covered space between the old growth forest. It did take me a while to find a place to hang my hammock because the trees were so big! And the bear wire closest to us had taken a blow by a fallen tree so it took some figuring out how to get the food hung. The only down side is that there is no water at camp, you have to walk up the trail a bit to a creek close by.
For our venturing from camp, the first night after dinner we headed up the Appleton Pass Trail to not only get water but to see if we could find the Boulder Creek Falls. We made it past the junction for the lake but not much further before turning around. The second day, my mom, Sheri and I headed to the pass and the two other gals tried out the lake. From camp, the pass is roughly 9 miles RT. We did pass the falls this time (only about 3 minutes past last night) and luckily the footbridge over Boulder Creek was in place. The trail was rather overgrown below the climb to the pass but nothing we couldn’t handle. My mom and Sheri were quite tired when we got to the top of the pass but there really are no views. You have to wonder up the ridge to your left for a bit to see anything. They were willing to keep on with me, I promised them some mountains to gawk at. There were some pretty awesome campsites on the ridge that I would love to return to. Oyster Lake was pretty tried up, more of a tarn I think.
Eventually we got to a point where we could see and everyone plopped down for lunch. My mom got up and did her best Julie Andrews impression! The views of the Olympic Range were breathtaking.
Our trip down was uneventful, and we returned to camp to hear from the other ladies who had hiked the 5.6 unswitchbacked trail to the Boulder Lake. They basically said it could have used some switchbacks, it wasn’t as easy as the short mileage wanted you to think. That evening we wandered down to the hot springs after dinner, choosing to stay up above the more popular spot and dip our feet in the pools on the trail above.
Hiking out the third day we all agreed it was a great trip and I hope to go back as part of my quest to hike the Pacific Northwest Trail that runs this route toward the sea.
Directions: Take US 101 about 9 miles west of Port Angeles. Turn left (south) onto Olympic Hot Springs Road. Stay on this road into Olympic National Park and all the way to the end. Along the way you will pass the Ranger Station, pass the turn off to Whisky Bend, cross the Elwha, pass the entrance to Altair Campground and the best overlook by a dam site. The well-marked TH is at the end of the road.
For more hikes on the Olympic Peninsula, click HERE.