Backpacking in Olympic National Park is near-perfect in the summer—the weather is wonderful, the scenery is spectacular, and there are so many great options to choose from. There are countless trails that will take you past waterfalls and rushing rivers, through fields of wildflowers, and allow you to view wildlife. Check out the park’s backcountry trail map to see which campsite will be best strung together for your next adventure!
1. NORTH COAST TRAIL
- Trailhead: Shi Shi Beach
- Distance: 19.4 miles
- Days to complete: 3-4
Begin your journey at Shi Shi Beach, on the Makah reservation
, and hike 19 miles to Ozette Lake. Although the mileage is relatively low on this trip, the terrain is dramatic, with bowling ball sized boulders that are slick with wet moss and algae, steep overland routes, and the pressure to make a crossing before the tide
rolls in. But, this dramatic terrain is what makes the landscape so beautiful, and high risk means high rewards along the North Coast. You can expect stunning sunsets, endless stretches of pristine and uninhabited beaches, ancient rock spires, and tiny sea creatures in tidepools. It is best to do this over the course of 3-4 days; from Shi Shi Beach, you will head south along the coast, then turn inland on the boardwalks to Lake Ozette. Arrange a shuttle beforehand, or do the return hike back to your car.
Let an experienced guide lead you along the North Coast Route
on a guided backpacking trip. The guiding company will take care of all the logistics and planning, so you don’t have to stress about anything. All appropriate gear, gourmet backcountry meals, and transportation is included, letting you fully enjoy your Olympic National Park vacation.
2. HOH RIVER TRAIL
Backpacking through the Hoh Rainforest is absolutely perfect in the summer. The rainforest can experience up to 140 inches of rain throughout the year—most of that rain occurring November through April. With so much rain over the winter and spring, backpacking through this area of the park is extraordinary in the summer. Along the route, you can expect to see a dense old-growth forest, with mosses and ferns covering every inch, colorful wildflower-speckled meadows, and the raging Hoh River. Because of the shelter that the old-growth trees provide, the Hoh Rainforest is a great habitat for many of the park’s wildlife. Keep your eye out for deer, elk, beavers and owls. There are many wilderness campsites
along the Hoh River, ranging in distance from 3 miles (Mt. Tom Creek) to 17.4 miles (Blue Glacier at Mount Olympus), so you can choose how long you want the trip to be. The first half of the trail is relatively flat, gaining only 350 feet over 10 miles, once you reach the Olympus Ranger Station, however, the trail starts to gain serious elevation as it traverses the side of Mount Olympus. Hiking the Hoh River Trail all the way to the end is a great way to experience the diversity of Olympic National Park.
Choose to go on a guided backpacking trip, where an experienced guide will lead you up to Blue Glacier on a 5-day, Hoh River Traverse
. With all the appropriate gear and delicious backcountry meals provided, you can rest easy knowing that you are in good hands, as your safety is the company’s main priority.
3. ELWHA VALLEY TO QUINAULT RIVER
Backpacking from Elwha Valley (just south of Port Angeles) to the North Fork of the Quinault River (just north of Lake Quinault) is quite an epic journey. The trail takes you into wilderness that you can only get to on foot, and provides you with untouched old-growth rainforests, deep river valleys and alpine meadows with expansive views. Going north to south, you will retrace the footsteps of the historic "Press Expedition" , which, in 1889, sponsored by the Seattle Press, left Port Angeles in hopes of exploring the wilderness of the Olympic Wilderness. Six months later they arrived at Quinault Lake. Nowadays, it takes backpackers only four to five days to complete the same journey. By traveling into the most remote areas of the park, you will be able to say that you traversed the entire length of Olympic National Park.
Let Wildland Trekking take you on a Historic Press Traverse
guided backpacking trip, where your local guide will share their knowledge about the historic expedition, in addition to the ecology and history of this diverse landscape.