Humes Ranch Loop Trail Edition:
Location: From Port Angeles
Head West on Highway 101 for 7.6 miles
Turn Left and head South on Old Olympic Hot Springs Road for 4.1 Miles
Turn Left on Whiskey Bend Rd and follow it for 4.1 Miles to reach the Whiskey Bend Trailhead.
Early this year, the Elwha River, dammed since 1913, flowed without a human barricade. The Elwha River, once home to a large salmon population, as well as being one of the many scenic rivers long the Olympic Peninsula was finally returned to its natural glory. While the dam is still being demolished, the river now flows in a way it hasn’t known since Woodrow Wilson was elected president. This was before the world had known a true World War, before cars became common place and before Mount Everest had been summited. Only 5 years before the dam was started, Mount Olympus had been summited for the first time. Finally, to highlight the time that this occurred in, the Olympic Peninsula, being logged for the first time, had people living in the hallowed out stumps of the giant tress that still filled the landscape, seeing to never end.
In 2012, the Elwha dam came down and the waters ran uncontrolled down her banks again. The sight of this is one of the rarest sights in nature, as few dams are being torn down. The Elwha is the largest dam ever removed, for the purpose of releasing a river from her concrete barriers, she became free. However, the dam, the salmon run and the possible future development (My idea is to create a new road to the North side of Goblin’s Gate, making it accessible to all and increase tourism) of the area are subjects discussed elsewhere. This trail report is to let you know that the Elwha is back and better than ever, and you need to be a part of.
(A Look Inside the Elwha River in the winter: CLICK HERE!!!!!)
Located just around 16 miles from Port Angeles, The Elwha Valley of the Olympic National Park is the most accessible, easiest to get to forests in the Olympic Peninsula. This area makes a perfect place to have a picnic before you head (either driving or hiking) up to Hurricane Ridge* in the Mountains above or a great place to take family members of all ages, shapes and abilities to explore the Olympic Peninsula’s interior. You could also backpack from here, either hiking straight through, along the 44 mile trail to Lake Quinault, or join up for a multi-week hike inside the Olympic National Park.
The Elwha Valley, with its close proximity to a decent sized, easily accessible town, as well as multiple day excursions, is an ideal place to go all year long. The Elwha area is an ideal jumping off point for a multi-day backpacking trip, and I would be more than glad to recommend a route that will change your life, but this article is going to talk about a great day loop for your family.
With magical looking forests, abandoned cabins from settlement days, and even rumors of Big Foot and ghosts, it is no wonder why there is a hiking destination along the Elwha River known as Goblin’s Gate. The route described today is a little confusing, but with simple map reading abilities, or even a picture of a trailhead mileage marker, any level of hiker should be able to do this 6 mile loop with few difficulties. From the Whiskey Bend Trail Head, it is best, after using the privy and checking your gear for food and water, to read both the map and the trailhead sign. If you have a camera, snap a picture of each, this way, you will always know where you are.
Head along the wide open, mostly flat trail for 1.7 miles, until you reach the trail for Rica Canyon on the right. I suggest taking this route, as it is less step this direction. By dropping down in elevation through a story book forest, this .5 mile trail puts you right along the banks of the Elwha River. Staying to the right, you soon find yourself coming to the end of the trail, where the river sputters and churns next to an entry way to the properly named Goblins Gate. Narrow, rocks and picturesque, Goblins Gate offers little more than a narrow trail to stand on and take in the beauty of the greens of both the trees and the violently active section of the Elwha River.
From this spot head south, following signs to the Humes Ranch. The trail skirts the Elwha River, so be sure to keep an eye out for elk and, depending on the time of the year, a black bear. The trail is mostly flat, with a few small areas of elevation gain until you get to Humes Ranch. Humes Ranch, built in the late 1890’s served as a ranch house for hunters and tourists. While remote, it takes very little time to realize why this place was chosen. Take some time here, have a snack and imagine living here in both the sun and the wind and rain. Situated on a bluff, the stories the building could tell if it could talk would be the stuff of legends.
From here, follow the signs back to Whiskey Bend. The trail is wide, and while some elevation gain is noticed, it is far less direct than the route down to Goblins Gate. The trail passes another small cabin, this one being at Michael’s Ranch. While not as grand in size or view as the Humes Cabin, the rumors are that this cabin is haunted. Stand inside in silence and see if you can feel any of the old spirits that are claimed to be present here. Also, take a picture in your best old timey pose, as this rustic little cabin could be seen in any old Western Movie.
Once you get back to your car, your legs may be tired, but you will feel alive. With amazing sights, old buildings and smells that only the Olympic Peninsula can give you the Whiskey Bend Trail is one of those areas that needs your company. This is an under-rated trail, and while it doesn’t offer sweeping vistas of snowy peaks, it does give you a glimpse at just why the Elwha Dam being removed is so exciting for the area. The Elwha River, the scene of an upcoming post about the first Exploration of the area in 1889, is as wild and untamed as ever. Luckily for us, roads have been built and trails that are amazingly maintained allow all of us, hikers of all levels, to experience the Elwha River, now being restored to her original beauty.
For information on the area, hiking information and guided trips all around the Olympic Peninsula, contact us, the Olympic Peninsula Experts.
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*SIDE NOTE: From the Whiskey Bend Parking Lot, you can take the Gray Wolf Creek trail all the way to Hurricane Ridge. Best done during late Spring, Summer and early Fall. (http://www.windsox.us/NEAST/nelgray.html)