In early January of 2015, heavy rains, strong winds and saturated soil all combined to washout 50 linear feet of the extremely popular Whiskey Bend Road in Olympic National Park. The washout directly impacts local hikers and tourists coming to visit one of the more historic regions of America’s sixth-most visited National Park.
Whiskey Bend Road is most known for leading hikers and backpackers of all ages and abilities to some of the more iconic sights in Olympic. The closure makes accessing Goblin’s Gate, Humes Ranch, Michael’s Cabin, the Dodger Point Bridge, The Grand Canyon of the Elwha, and the Wolf Creek Trail up to Hurricane Ridge off limits until the road is repaired. The trail that is inaccessible is part of the Press Expedition of 1889-1890, as well as home to the trail that leads to the Humes Ranch, the location of the 1952 Disney movie, “The Olympic Elk.”
In a press release from Barb Maynes of Olympic National Park, park officials are unsure when the region will be back open to the public. The press release, states that, “A timeline for reopening the road has not yet been established; park crews are working with road engineers to develop a repair design and schedule.”
The press release continues by saying that,
“Weather permitting, the Olympic Hot Springs Road is open to the trailhead but may close temporarily in the event of snow, ice or fallen trees.
While the road itself is open, the Glines Canyon area including the parking area, dam abutment and spillway and access road to the former boat launch are closed because of unsafe conditions and ongoing construction. (See attached map.) This area is closed to all entry, including pedestrian access. It is expected to open this summer, when construction is complete and safety facilities are installed.
The Elwha Campground is open for primitive camping throughout the winter season. There is no potable water available at the campground, but vault toilets are provided. The Altair Campground is closed for the season. Floods and heavy rains in December caused significant damage to the campground road and several campsites, but the campground is expected to open in time for the summer season.”
While the Olympic Hot Springs are still open, with a few trails leading to pretty locations, the closure of the more popular hiking areas along the Elwha River will have a serious impact on tourism numbers if the road is not repaired. Olympic National Park was the 6th-most visited National Park in America, missing out on the 5th spot by just 2,495 visitors in 2014.
The closure of the Whiskey Bend Road does suck, and for many locals, it is easy to get discouraged when a place is closed due to a landslide. Hopefully, this road, unlike the road up the Dosewallips that was washed away more than a decade ago, will be repaired soon so more people can experience the true beauty of wilderness that only Olympic National Park can offer.
For those who were hoping to get a chance to hike along the Elwha soon, you will have to put those plans on hold until the road is fixed. Luckily, Olympic National Park has 611 miles of trails to explore, making the closure of one area an opening to explore somewhere new. We will be releasing a new guidebook soon, which focuses on the entire Olympic Peninsula, and we also are currently selling our well-received 52 Hikes on the Olympic Peninsula both in paperback and e-book formats.
Until the Elwha Trails open back up, find a new place to explore, discover a new favorite trail and fall back in love with the wilderness and ruggedness of Olympic National Park.