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Olympic Peninsula, Wa

Five Incredible and Isolated Solo Hikes in Olympic National Park

 

Colonel Bob Peak, Olympic Peninsula

Colonel Bob Peak, Olympic Peninsula

 

There is something primal about a solo hike. Alone in the wilderness with no burdens of conversation, no reminders of the stresses back home, life is simple. Your ears finely tuned to the silence, white noise of the city replaced with small gusts of wind through the forests. Solo hiking removes you from everything ritual about life, heightening your senses for every change in smell, every crack of a branch and roar of an upcoming cascade gets your utmost attention. Alone in the wilderness, we return to the raw life we left generations ago, if only for a few miles.

 

There are many places around the country where one can go on a solo day hike, but there is really only one National Park that can get you isolated in a rainforest river valley, on a craggy peak or sitting on an exposed ridge. There is only one place were you can walk for 73 miles along the most gorgeous coastline in America. There is only one Olympic National Park.

 

611 miles may not seem like a lot, but think about it this way:  On the east coast, walking 611 miles is the distance from Charlotte, North Carolina to New York City, but instead of on a highway, it is in the most beautiful terrain you have ever laid your eyes on. I am not being hyperbolic about this, more like understating it. 611 miles of wild coastlines, wet rainforest valleys, glacier-capped mountains and the best panoramas in the nation. In 611 miles, you have rivers stocked with salmon, old growth forests full of deer, elk, bear and mountain lion, and the coast lined with majestic sea stacks visited by whales, otters, seals and tide pools creatures. Again, I am underselling.

 

Olympic National Park is the fourth most visited National Park, and in 2015, could be the Second or Third most visited park in the country. Yet, for the majority of the year, if one were to take a solo day or multi-day hike, there would be hours, if not days where you wouldn’t see a soul. Aside from a few weeks in the summer, the park’s trails are empty. Not a “I only saw a handful of people” empty.

 

No.

 

Olympic is more of the “I saw more mountain goats than people” empty. Olympic National Park is 95% wilderness. That means no roads, no campgrounds, no outhouses and in the majority of the park, no trails.

 

The minimal trails that do exist focus on the large river valleys, accessible mountain passes, and the rugged coast. Passing by waterfalls, lakes and rainforest flanked canyons, most trails head up into the mountains, toward a glacier that is the source for the mighty river. There are very few places where you can stand on the ocean in the morning and on a glacier that evening, but Olympic National Park offers that and more.

 

Like any park, there are trails that can get quite crowded, and with the popularity of Olympic, summer days can get quite intense in places. The areas with the most traffic will the the most famous destinations, like Hurricane Hill, Rialto Beach, the Hoh Rainforest, Staircase Loop and a few others. Those trails make up only about 75 of the 611 miles of Olympic Park gorgeousness. The trails below will be crowded on the really crowded weeks of summer, so when summer gets closer, I’ll post some better secret spots to beat the summer madness. Until then, please enjoy five of our favorite places to hike for solitude. We are also putting together a list like this for beach destinations and coastal hikes, so those have been omitted from this post.

 

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(More serious solo hikes: http://rootsrated.com/stories/3-stunningly-beautiful-and-secluded-hikes-in-olympic-national-park

 

 

 THE FIVE HIKES

The Trail to Elip Creek in Olympic National Park

The Trail to Elip Creek in Olympic National Park

North Fork of the Quinault- Elip Creek

 

When: Every month but July and August

 

Where: http://goo.gl/maps/IpbDz

 

Distance: 13.2 mostly flat miles roundtrip

 

Why: The Quinault is an amazing rainforest and often overlooked for the more glamorous and famous Hoh Rainforest. Situated south of the Hoh, the Quinault River flows through some of the most majestic and magical forests you will ever encounter. Home to salmon, eagles, bear, elk and rumored to be teeming with Sasquatch, the trail to Elip Creek on the North Fork of the Quinault River is magnificent. The North Fork, which leads to the Elwha, is less popular than the main section of the Quinault River, which leads to the Enchanted Valley and the Dosewallips River. It may not have the Enchanted Valley Chalet, but the North Fork has beauty, wonder and most importantly, isolation along a rainforest river.

 

 

 

Cub Peak, Olympic National Park

Cub Peak, Olympic National Park

North Fork Skokomish- Cub Peak

 

When: Every month but July and August

 

Where: http://goo.gl/maps/mxmdt 

 

Distance: 6.6 miles Round Trip and nearly 4,000ft of elevation gain

 

Why: Considered by many to be the steepest trail in Olympic National Park, the path up to Cub Peak in the Staircase Region of the park is well worth the effort. Climbing up past Wagonwheel Lake in the Southeast corner of Olympic, the trail to Cub Peak can be hard to find. However, once you climb the steep hill to the summit, you are rewarded with one of the most unique and isolated panoramic images in the park. Read more here: http://exotichikes.com/cub-peak-a-bear-of-a-hike-in-the-olympic-national-park/

 

 

 

Queets Rainforest, Olympic National Park

Queets Rainforest, Olympic National Park

The Queets- Spruce Bottom

 

When: Every month but July and August

 

Distance: 10.6 miles roundtrip

 

Where: http://goo.gl/maps/4TE3E 

 

Why: Few places are less explored than the Queets River. Home to a waterfall that nobody has ever hiked to the base of, the Queets River and Rainforest is one region of the Park that few ever venture. Even in the crowded summer months, the few trails that exist on the Queets are empty one mile from the trailhead. With dense rainforests and a pristine river, hiking along the Queets is about as far removed as you can get. Wet, green and gorgeous, explore the Queets needs to be done when isolation is your goal. To hike to Spruce Bottom, you will need to ford the Queets right away, making this hike a unique challenge. Introduction to the Queets: http://exotichikes.com/queets-river-hikes-sams-river-loop/ 

 

 

 

 

Walking Around Lake Constance, Olympic National Park

Walking Around Lake Constance, Olympic National Park

Lake Constance

 

When: Every month but July and August

 

Distance: 10 miles roundtrip with 4,200 ft elevation gain

 

Where: http://goo.gl/maps/pvIHD 

 

Why: Sometimes, a solo hike is about pushing your limits and really seeing how good of shape you are in. For that, there is no better trail than the Lake Constance Trail. For the first three miles, the path follows the gentle grade of the old forest service road that led to the Dosewallips Ranger Station. After a bridge the path becomes brutal, climbing 3,400 feet in 2 miles. Steep and difficult, the trail is also quite beautiful, weaving next to a small creek before finally reaching the jewel of Lake Constance. Rugged, wild and remote, the tough path to the lake makes this one of the least visited areas in the region. Read More: http://exotichikes.com/lake-constance-olympic-national-parks-steepest-trail/ 

 

 

 

Tarn in Upper Royal Basin, Olympic National Park

Tarn in Upper Royal Basin, Olympic National Park

Royal Basin

 

When: Every month but July, August and September

 

Distance: 16 miles roundtrip

 

Where: http://goo.gl/maps/e0kun

 

Why: Few trails offer as as much beauty and awesomeness as Royal Basin in Olympic National Park. At sixteen miles roundtrip, it is quite a long day hike, but with the views and experiences you get, it is hard to be tired while on this hike. The always scenic trail rises from the Dungeness River and follows the turbulent Royal Creek up through mossy forests all the way to the base of Mount Deception, the second tallest peak in the Olympics. With majestic views, incredible bouldering experiences, a beautiful waterfall and glacier tarns, it is hard to image a better location to go on a  solo hike in all the universe. Discover more here: http://exotichikes.com/hike-royal-basin-in-olympic-national-park/ 

 

 

Editors Note: There are many organizations and publications that frown upon solo hiking. It can be much more dangerous than going with a group, as the chances for rescue are greater when someone can go get help. However, very rarely do solo hikers need to be rescued, and those that do, have overwhelmingly were ill-prepared. Solo hiking is something that everyone should experience, when they are comfortable enough to know they will be safe. 

 

 

 

Want More Awesome Hikes and Day Trip in Olympic National Park?

Buy our 52 Hikes on the Olympic Peninsula Guidebook!

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