The Olympic Peninsula is found in Washington’s northwest corner and covers about 3,600 square miles (9,325 square kilometres), with 1,440 square miles of this contained within Olympic National Park. While the park is often first on the list for outdoor explorers looking to hit the scenic trails of the Olympic Peninsula, there are a ton of options outside of the park as well. While exploring this breathtaking piece of wilderness you will encounter glaciated mountain peaks, ancient rainforest, cascading waterfalls and untouched ocean coast. Although there are countless hiking trails to explore (and there really is no bad choice), here are a few of the BRMB team’s favourites:
Colonel Bob Trail
Located in the Colonel Bob Wilderness, at the southwest corner of the Olympic National Forest, this 14 mile (23 kilometer) round-trip trail leads you to the summit of Colonel Bob Mountain at an elevation of 4,300 feet (1,310 meters). Enjoy the 360-degree view down to Lake Quinault, Mount Olympus, Mount Rainier and, if you wish, branch off along the Pete’s Creek Trail for even more trail exploring.
Deer Ridge Trail
This 9.5 mile (15 kilometre) return trail begins at Slab Camp and enters Olympic National Park after 3.5 miles. The trail leads you through open forest and rocky slopes, with views of Baldy and Gray Wold Peak along with the summits of Mounts Walkinshaw, Clark, Deception and Mystery, eventually ending in a beautiful alpine meadow.
Fall View Canyon Trail
This is an easy hike with a big reward, as it leads to views over the Big Quilcene River and a branch to a 100 foot (30 metre) waterfall surrounded by lush forest. The 2 mile (3.2 kilometre) trail accesses a picnic area near the falls, where you can enjoy a relaxing lunch among the splendor of the Pacific Northwest wilderness.
High Divide Trail
At 18 miles (29 kilometres) in length with an elevation gain of 3,050 feet (930 meters), this trail is best split into a couple of days. Those that take it on are treated to the best that Olympic National Park has to offer – old growth forest, subalpine meadows, seven different lakes, stunning views of Mount Olympus and the chance to see elk and bear.
Olympic Discovery Trail
Open to hiking, cycling and horseback riding, this trail is billed as “Washington State’s premier destination for non-motorized touring.” The 125 mile (201 kilometre) trail extends from Port Townsend west to La Push on the Pacific coast, passing through Sequim and Port Angeles along the way. The trail is divided into four sections and, no matter if you are choosing to tackle the entire distance or just a portion, you will be treated to the incredible scenery that makes the Olympic Peninsula such an amazing place to explore.
Ozette Triangle Loop
Located within Olympic National Park, this 9.2 mile (15 kilometre) trail leads you through a coastal and intertidal ecosystem along a combination of dirt and boardwalk. Leading you to the Cape Alva Coast, the trail offers the chance to see petroglyphs and other Native American artifacts, as well as various wildlife. The trailhead is found at the Ozette Campground and there are campsites once you reach the ocean, with minimal elevation gain to get there.
Queets River Trail
This trail begins with the challenge of fording the river, and from here it is 16 miles (26 kilometres) to the trail’s end. Since the trail follows along the river, there is relatively little elevation gain as you make your way through the stunning old growth forest.
Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail
The shortest trail on the list, this half mile interpretive trail offers easy access to the temperate rainforest with interpretive signs describing the old growth forest ecology. The trail leads you along Willaby Creek and through stands of ancient trees, with the first 850 feet accessible for wheelchairs.
Skyline Ridge Trail
Beginning at the Low Divide Ranger Station, this primitive trail spans 30 mi (48 km) as it leads you up and over Kimta Peak, passing several lakes that make for some incredibly scenic camping spots. The trail is usually covered with snow until late July or even early August, but it is worth the wait.
South Coast Route
For some of the best oceanfront hiking in the country, check out the 17 mile (28 kilometre) South Coast Route, which runs between Third Beach and Oil City. While the trail is quite flat where it follows the ocean, there are steep overland sections that utilize ladders and stairs. You can camp right on the beach, with the chance to see orca whales and other fascinating marine life.
Did we miss your favourite Olympic Peninsula trail?
Let us know in the comments below, or pick up a copy of the Washington State GPS Maps for detailed coverage of these and many other trails in the area. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Washington State Backroad Mapbook, coming soon!