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Historic Press Traverse


  •   Historic explorer route
  •   Ancient old growth rainforests
  •   Abundant wildlife
  •   Mountains, rivers and valleys
  •   Fantastic solitude
  •   Remote part of Olympic
  •   Early human history


Follow the course of the original Press Expedition’s traverse of the Olympic Mountains (1889-1890). This 44 mile south-north traverse of the Olympics took the Press Expedition 6 months over one of the worst winters on record, but we’ll take 5 days (or 6, with a layover to explore in the middle). We’ll climb through primeval rainforests, ford deep rivers, and relax in wide open alpine valleys. This traverse will take us through some of the most remote parts of Olympic National Park, and you’ll earn your bragging rights for traversing the entire park!

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Backpacking Trip
Olympia, WA
6 days
53+mi / 85+km
Season: 7/10-9/30
$1715 Per Person

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Travel to Olympia, WA

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Trip Dates & Booking

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800-715-HIKE (4453)

Trip Itinerary

Day 1
  • Shuttle to the trailhead: 2.5 hours
  • Hiking Mileage: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 200 feet

This multi-day Olympic National Park hiking trip begins with pick up at your hotel in Olympia. After a 2.5-hour scenic drive, we’ll begin hiking along the North Fork of the Quinault River. We’ll start with gentle grades along the river bottom, and then weave back and forth through many shallow creeks, and cross several bridges over narrow ravines while climbing up above the river floor. Big leaf maples give way to Sitka Spruce as we wind further into the wilderness, before reaching our first camp along the beautiful Elip Creek.

Day 2
  • Hiking Mileage: 10.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2800 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 300 feet

Day 2 is our big climb day. We’ll cross swift creeks and ford the Quinault river, climb through ancient old-growth forests, and keep an eye out for blazes and marks from the original Press Expedition. We’ll eventually make our way up the Low Divide—the separation between the Quinault and Elwha rivers—and enter a beautiful sub-alpine meadow of the Low Divide with views of Mt. Seattle. We’ll make camp here and relax in the wide open meadows at the summit of our hike.

Day 3
  • Hiking Mileage: 8.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1700 feet

On day 3, we’ll continue across the Low Divide and on the way we’ll pass two icy alpine lakes, where we could stop for a brief swim if we have the time and courage. From there we drop quickly into the Elwha basin as we begin our descent following the Elwha River toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Open meadows, maple flats, and river views will accompany us on our way, as we hike along and ford the cool waters of the Elwha River. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for black bears, elk, and deer in the forest and the bright flash of fish such as rainbow trout or one of several species of salmon in the river. Our hiking day will finish at Camp Wilder, situated next to a large, dry channel of the Elwha that is perfect for star-gazing if the weather is favorable.

Day 4
  • Hiking Mileage: 9.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 300 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 800 feet

Day 4 brings us past more river fords, more old growth, and more beautiful river valleys. The glacial blue-green of the Elwha will deepen in color, while the vegetation changes as we continue to drop into warmer, more temperate climates. Along the way, we’ll begin passing signs of early settlement along the Elwha, including the historic Remann’s Cabin, a 1920’s fishing cabin, and we’ll meet up with hikers on the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) as it joins our trail at the Hayes River Guard Station. After a long but rewarding hiking day following the Elwha River, we’ll arrive at the Elkhorn Guard Station situated right on the river where we’ll camp for the night.

Day 5
  • Hiking Mileage: 9.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1100 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1300 feet

Our hike on Day 5 brings us to the upper end of the recovery zone of the Elwha River. Two recent dam removals are changing the landscape of the Elwha River, and restoring it to a balanced ecosystem. Salmon and riparian plants are returning, and as we get closer to the old dam sites, we’ll see how much has changed in just a few years. We’ll pass more historic structures just before camp at Humes Ranch, the site of a family homestead at the turn of the 20th century. We’ll set our camp there, on a bluff overlooking the beautiful Elwha River and enjoy our last night in the backcountry.

Day 6
  • Hiking Mileage: 9.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 350 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 1250 feet
  • Shuttle to Olympia: 3 hours

Our final day begins as we finish the last several miles of trail, and if time allows, a stroll past the turbulent whirlpools of Goblin Gates. We'll emerge at Whiskey Bend Trailhead, which is no longer accessible by most cars due to road washouts in the spring floods since the dams were removed. However, we might encounter a truck full of field biologists coming to study the recovery of the Elwha River. We’ll finish our journey with a walk along the Whiskey Bend Road, where we’ll pass the remains of the Glines Canyon dam with an amazing overlook of the floodplain of former Lake Mills as well as stand on remnants of the dam itself. After losing most of our elevation for the day, we’ll reach the washed out areas of the road that prevent vehicles from reaching the trailhead, and the bypass trails that now provide access for hikers and backpackers. Finally, we’ll reach the Madison Falls Trailhead, having completed the Press Traverse in a fraction of the time of the original explorers (and hopefully avoiding most of their trials, tribulations, and blizzards as well). We’ll drive through Port Angeles and get some views of the Hood Canal as we drive back towards Olympia, and deliver you to your hotel for a well-deserved shower and a real bed.

Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.

Trip Details

What's Included

  • Top-of-the-line tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and technical backpack
  • Use of trekking poles
  • All meals are included from breakfast the first day through lunch on the last day
  • A professional, knowledgeable, certified Olympic National Park hiking guide
  • Comprehensive, roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Olympia and back
  • All entrance fees, permits and passes
  • Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
  • You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!

What's Not Included

  • Clothes, raingear, and footwear (Oboz hiking shoes and boots recommended)
  • Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
  • Water bottles and a headlamp or flashlight
  • Guide gratuity (industry recommendation is 10-20% of trip cost)
See the Packing Lists page for more information.

Meals: What To Expect

All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.

For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables (fresh and dried). In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.

We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.

Gear We Provide

We provide all group gear which includes the following:
  • Deuter or Osprey backpacks
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty or Big Agnes tents
  • Sierra Designs, Kelty, Big Agnes and Mountain Hardware sleeping bags
  • Thermarest or Big Agnes sleeping pads
  • Leki or Black Diamond trekking poles
  • Cooking stoves and cookware
  • Company-issued first-aid kit
  • Emergency communication device(s)

What Gear To Bring

We ask that you supply a couple of gear items on your hiking tour. These items are two 1-liter water bottles per person and either a headlamp or flashlight per person. Basic items like sunscreen, bug repellent (where and when applicable), lip balm, and toiletries are also important. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

What Clothes to Bring

Please refer to the trip packet for a recommended clothing list (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots, rain gear, and non-cotton and cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required. All of these items are available online at Wildland Trekking Outfitters.

NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour. The trip packet you receive when you contact us will have the most accurate clothing and gear list for the tour you're interested in.

Trip Logistics

How do I Register?

Ready to hike? In the Dates section of this trip page, the green dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($100).

Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!

Where Do We Meet?

This trip originates in Olympia, Washington. Your guide will be in contact approximately 10 days before the trip start date to coordinate the pre-trip orientation, which will be at 5:00 PM at the Hotel RL Olympia (we recommend staying here as well - mention you're hiking with us and get a discounted rate as low as $99, 360-943-4000). If you're staying at the Governor Hotel (our other recommended hotel, 20% discount), we're happy to pick you up for the orientation. Your guide will then pick you up at your hotel the next morning for transport to the trailhead.

Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.

Start/End Times

Your guide will inform you of the first day's pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day normally before 5 PM (this time is not guaranteed, as a variety of circumstances can influence our exact return time).

Safety Considerations

Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.


Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.

Guide Working Parameters

Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time...etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides' off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.

Group Size and Age Restrictions

The standard group size on Olympic backpacking trips is 6 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum of 10 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.

Age restrictions are as follows:
  • 12 and older to join scheduled tours (mixed groups)
  • 5 and older to join private tours, with final approval and specific logistical requirements (such as porter or stock assist) determined on a case by case basis

Weather in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park covers a dramatic diversity of terrain from seashores to rainforests to alpine peaks and glaciers. The weather will be largely dependent on which trip you sign up for and which ecosystem you will be hiking in. Read below for average high and low temperatures in different parts of Olympic National Park:

Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)
3.8 in
3.9 in
2.8 in
2.1 in
2.8 in
2.2 in
4.4 in
4.7 in
11 in
8.5 in

Camping on Backpacking Trips

backpacking tent

Backcountry Sleeping

Tent Camping

Sleeping on backpacking trips is in premier 1-person, 2-person or 4-person backcountry tents. Solo travelers, and anyone else who requests it, are issued single tents. Top-of-the-line self-inflating sleeping pads and sleeping bags (professionally laundered after every trip) are also provided.

backpacking meals

Backcountry Cuisine

Fresh & Delicious

Meals from breakfast Day 1 through lunch the last day are fully included and prepared by your guide. We never use dehydrated backpacking meals, instead serving freshly prepared, delicious backcountry cuisine made with a variety of common and specialty ingredients that travel well in the wilderness.

backpacking campsites

Amazing Campsites

In the Action

Of course campsites vary tremendously by destination, trip and even by the individual day of a trip. However, you can expect to camp in beautiful areas that put you right in the action to make the most of your backpacking adventure. We carefully design our itineraries with campsites in mind.

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