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sunset1. Olympics NORTH

Updated September 2017
See also: Food, Sex & Death on the Dungeness
See also: Getting Loster

September 2017: Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has begun a highway repair project further west on Highway 101 along Lake Crescent. The work will last three summers, starting with this one, and will directly affect just one Clallam Transit route--14--which rolls between Port Angeles and Forks. While the work is taking place, long delays will occur; on specific days, Clallam Transit (CT) will actually have to cancel mid-day bus runs.

Starting 17 June 2017, Clallam Transit will be running a straight shot from the Bainbridge Island Ferry terminal to Port Angeles (named aptly, Route 123: the Strait Shot, in reference to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which the run roughly parallels). It will only make five brief stops along the way to pick up passengers, and the fare will be $10.

As to the Backpacking by Bus trips in Chapter 1, this will not directly affect trips you may take heading up the Elwha River (other than the possibility that your bus leaving westbound from Port Angeles may be late arriving from Forks). All trips westward of the Elwha (Barnes Creek, the Soleduck, the Ocean beaches, and everything south of Forks) will certainly be affected, connection- and timewise). Although the work directly affects only the one CT bus route, it may also affect connecting routes on either side of the disruption (I got to spend the night in Sequim a couple weeks back, as the delay at Lake Crescent had caused me to miss my connection with CT 123). So: be aware, and check with CT before venturing out here (and if you do, make certain you have a Plan B in case you get stranded). Clallam Transit has posted detailed information on their website, and will continually update it.

olympics north dungeness deer park hurricane ridge elwha Appleton Pass barnes creek soleduc shi-shi olympic beaches south bogachiel hoh oil city queets

This transit sequence gives the rider access to the high alpine country of the north side of the Olympic National Park, via the Rivers Dungeness, Elwha, and Soleduck, as well as Barnes Creek, among others. Use it to reach Olympic Hot Springs, and famed Hurricane Ridge.

Use it to visit ONP’s coastal strip, fifty miles of rugged, wild Pacific beaches. Use it also to access the rain forest drainages of the Olympics’ west side, the Bogachiel, Queets, and world-famous Hoh River.

Trail Options:

A - Dungeness Forks/Buckhorn Wilderness

Dungeness forks Bus stop to trailhead: 8.5 miles

At the far northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula, quite close to Seattle, explore shadowy river valleys that lead to upland ridges and alpine vistas.

Youʼll first pass through either or both of the two segments of Olympic National Forestʼs Buckhorn Wilderness, following the Dungeness River, the Gray Wolf River, or Copper Creek. To enter the Wilderness, simply sign in at the trailhead.

Beyond the Wilderness lies Olympic National Park; to enter you first must register with the Park. It is now possible to do so by phone, calling ONPʼs Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles at (360) 565-3100. This is a great advantage with this particular trip, as you wonʼt be passing a ONP Ranger Station on your way in.

Now, the bus stuff: Follow instructions in this section from Seattle (only the early sequence will work here, catching the 6:10 AM ferry, for reasons I will explain below). Stay with Jefferson Transit (JT) 8 all the way to Sequim, where you will debark at the Sequim Transit Center about 9:15 AM. Go find lunch. Or a late breakfast. I heartily recommend Elyʼs Cafe, @ 206 N. Sequim Avenue (thatʼs a block east, and around the corner to your left. Good stuff -- all the locals eat here).

Whatever you do, be back at the Transit Center before 11:45 AM to catch Clallam Transit (CT) 52 Diamond Point (the only other CT 52 leaves here at about 5 PM, so donʼt miss the 11:45!). Youʼll be backtracking here; for reasons involving pedestrian safety, JT no longer stops along narrow sections of Highway 101. So youʼll briefly head back in the direction you came from. Tell your CT 52 driver that youʼd like off at Sequim Bay State Park (thankfully, CT doesnʼt mind stopping there). Also, ask your driver precisely where to stand to catch the same bus heading the other way, and get a schedule!

About 100 yards south of the State Park entrance, find Louella Road (if traffic is bad, use the underpass to cross the Highway). Head steeply uphill. In one mile, head left on Palo Alto Road, reaching the Dungeness Forks Campground in another 7 miles.

From here your options open up:

Head southwest up the Gray Wolf River Trail (834) for a long, easy-grade trail with plenty of camp possibilities, eventually entering the Park. A side trail (838) will take you to Deer Ridge, a side-entrance to Hurricane Ridge.

Go south along the Dungeness River Trail (833), or the Tubal Cain Mine Trail (830), which follows Copper Creek. Either of these will eventually lead you to Marmot Pass.

You can parallel the last two trails on Road 2860 for seven miles or so (opening up the possibility of being offered a ride...). At roadʼs end, you can still reach either trail.

From 830 or 833.2, you can reach Marmot Pass, look back upon the entirety of the Dungeness drainage, and the Needles to the west, and then drop down into the Big Quilcene River drainage to the east. Exit there at the town of Quilcene, along Hood Canal, in possible, using JT 1.

Or, from Marmot Pass, head south, crossing Constance Pass, and drop down into the Dosewallips drainage.

Or (and I donʼt stress this enough) you can simply go in a mile or two to the first campsite that looks good, plunk down, sit there for a day or three, admiring the peace of it all, and then head back out the same way you came in. I forget that sometimes.

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C - Hurricane Ridge / Grand Valley

Bus stop to trailhead: 23 miles

Put the worst news up front, I always say. Twenty-two miles is awfully far to be walking uphill. Instead, you may wish to use this as an out-route, having entered the Park elsewhere. Itʼs actually twenty-five miles, but you will have taken Clallam Transit 20 from downtown Port Angeles to the ONP Information Center, getting two steep miles out of the way. After signing in, just continue on up the Heart of the Hills Road. Well- traveled. By strangers with candy.

Hurricane Ridge is one of the premier destinations of the Park, with open vistas north toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and south into the Park, and a well-paved road takes you fifteen miles. Beyond that, a narrow gravel road runs an additional eight miles to its end, at 6200 feet. But once youʼre there, every direction you can take is downhill.

You could continue east toward Deer Park. You could go south, through Badger Valley, and camping near any of several lakes, eventually reaching 6400-foot Grand Pass. From there, you could drop down any of three different drainages and exit the Park along its eastern flank (see Chapter 3).

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D - Whiskey Bend

Note Well: This information will affect D: Whiskey Bend, and E: Oly Hot Springs/Appleton Pass.

In the summer of 2015, work on the removal of the dams on the Elwha River was completed, and the roads paralleling the river were reopened for car and foot travel (thatʼs us!).

As of March 2016, ONP has received confirmation that removing said dams was a lot like unkinking a garden hose. Adding an el Niño wet season was a lot like cranking up the water to full, and then letting go of the hose. That "garden hose" has been flailing around the yard like a crazy thing, knocking out picture windows, terrifying the dog... the mailmanʼs afraid to get near the house....

Okay, the analogy is done, but you get the idea: The Elwha is once again a wild river. Itʼs doing things that werenʼt forecast or scheduled, and will continue to do so.

Heavy rainstorms in the winter of ʼ15-ʼ16 fed fuel to the river to thoroughly trash the place. For example, in early March ʼ16, the road along the lower end of the Elwha was washed out, and two campgrounds have been badly damaged. Bypass foot trails have been created -- you can still get up the Elwha! But cars canʼt. Everybody has been reduced to your mode of travel (though bicycles are still allowed along the road). So you may have company on your walk. But no oneʼs going to be offering you a ride.

Bus stop to trailhead: 9 miles

But itʼs a hard-fought 9 miles (bad news up front again...). Youʼll leave CT 14 just west of P.A., at the Elwha River Road. The first 4 miles are easy and well-paved and flat. But then you head up the Whiskey Bend Road. Itʼs steep, itʼs coarse gravel, and itʼs 5 miles long. Take your time; itʼs a slog.

But once you reach the trailhead, at 1100 feet, youʼre in lovely forest, interspersed with open meadows. For a long time. The trail gains and loses elevation, but the views across the valley are open and pleasant. Even at 20 miles in, youʼre only at 2100 feet. Youʼre seldom near the river, but youʼll cross countless streams and their attendant waterfalls.

You could head east along the Hayden Pass Trail into high rocky meadow country, exiting via the Dosewallips. You could continue south, cross the Low Divide, and exit via the North Fork Quinault. Or you could just go in for a day or two, soak it all in, and return via Whiskey Bend.

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E - Olympic Hot Springs/Appleton Pass

Appleton passBus stop to trailhead: 10.5 miles
Trailhead to Pass: 5 miles

Disembark Clallam Transit 14 about twenty minutes west of Port Angeles. Tell your driver you plan to head up Olympic Hot Springs Road – they’ll throw you out at the proper spot. Head up the road, along the Elwha River. It’s well-paved, but you’ll gain almost 2000 feet in elevation along the road. Smile at the drivers; you might be able to grab a ride.

But now: a warning. The Hot Springs sound inviting, but here’s the downside. They consist of a dozen or so shallow, mud-bottomed pools about the size of your bathtub at home, scattered over an acre or three. And by shallow, I mean only about a foot deep. And murky and sulfurous.

But the real downside is that they’re so easy to get to. People with cars only have to walk about two miles, along the abandoned and crumbled end of the paved road, to reach the Springs. The site has attracted a real bad crowd: people who bring their dogs into the Park, and worse still, the creepy guys with dark sunglasses who want to see naked chicks. The pools are isolated, and in a heavily-wooded area. Women have been raped there.

Keep all that in mind if you decide to hitchhike.

But Appleton Pass is the real destination, in that it’s a stepping-off point for a whole bunch of different possibilities. Check it out on your topo map. You can find several tiny alpine lakes tucked here and about. You can drop down into the Sol Duc drainage, or visit the Seven Lakes Basin. You could drop down onto the Bogachiel or the Hoh. Without a car, there’s no reason to head back out the Elwha; catch a bus at the bottom of one of those other rivers.

Barnes creek SolducF - Barnes Creek / Aurora Ridge

Bus stop to trailhead: 0 miles (Barnes Creek end)
2 miles (Soleduck Rd. end)

You’ll hardly meet anyone on this trip. It’s a ridge trail, not very far into the Park. The views are north – to Lake Crescent far below, and to the Strait of Juan de Fuca beyond that, where container ships the size of ants motor into Puget Sound. To the south, catch glimpses of Mount Olympus.

The east end of this trip originates at Barnes Creek, along Lake Crescent. The bus makes a stop here: don’t miss it – the road is narrow along the lake, with no opportunities for turnouts for the bus – the next place the bus stops is at the end of the lake five or six miles away. Tell your driver you want out at the Marymere Falls stop.

Hundreds of people visit the falls each day in tourist season; hardly anyone ventures much beyond it. An easy ford of Barnes Creek gains you solitude (as of Fall ’08, there is a log bridge across the creek there, but few expect it to last, as there’s a huge logjam just upstream that seems destined to soon obliterate it).

At the route’s other end, trailhead is reached by disembarking the CT 14 at the Soleduck River Road, and walking up the road about two miles.

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Barnes creek SolducG - Sol Duc / High Divide

bus stop to trailhead: 14 miles

The Sol Duc (variously spelled--no one can seem to agree) River Trail gives you access to lush old growth forests, waterfalls, and, eventually, the famed Seven Lakes Basin, with its rich alpine meadows and mountain vistas.

Leave CT 14 where Highway 101 passes the Soleduck (see--I told you!) Hot Springs Road, just east of Lake Crescent. Itʼs 14.2 miles to the trailhead, and youʼll gradually gain about 1500 feet in those miles. But the trees are tall, and your walk well- shaded.

About the Hot Springs: theyʼve long since been disappeared in their natural state. Theyʼve been shunted into pipes coming from their original source, then filtered, cleaned up, and even the smell of sulphur has long since been taken away. The Spring now flows into a privately-owned concession, licensed by the Park. One now pays to sit on a nice wooden deck, and dip into a heated cement pond, whilst sipping expensive refreshments. I usually stop briefly at the roadside counter for an ice cream cone or a Coke, before moving on (for the fearless, itʼs also a good place to cadge a ride out to the highway).

Thereʼs a trail that stays along the river for several miles before heading upcountry; two others head quickly to a ridge. They all connect to the east, encircling the Seven Lakes Basin (in which you can camp on a strict reservation-only basis--to keep the lovely place from being loved to death).

Three miles east of the High Divide itself is the stepping-off point for an off-trail traverse of the Bailey Range. I thought I would do it, once. But that stepping-off point begins with a path as narrow as the width of your foot, kindaʼ scraped into a 45 degree slope that you canʼt see the end of. Thatʼs as far as I got. But itʼs a nice, secluded place to camp, with majestic views of the Baileys, and the Hoh River far below.

If you decide to leave, you could drop down from the High Divide into the Hoh drainage, or that of the Bogachiel. Once the restoration work is completed on the Elwha River (scheduled for September 2014...) youʼll again be able to exit the Park via the Boulder Lake / Boulder Creek Trail, passing by a REAL hot springs (Olympic Hot Springs, described in Trail Option E) on your way out.

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Olympic coast northH & I - Olympic National Park Coastal Strip (North Section)

Bus stop to trailhead (south end): 5 miles
Trailhead to bus stop (north end): 9 miles

This stretch of the ONP coastal strip extends from the Rialto Beach, just across the Quileute River from La Push, north all the way to Shi Shi Beach, the northern terminus of the Park. It is 33 miles long. It is the longest continuous chunk of wild ocean beach in the lower 48. You will see deer (craving salt, like all ruminants, they eat seaweed). You will see seals, sea lions, as well as both river and sea otters. Eagles...you will eventually just stop counting. There will be raccoons probably within 50 feet of you at all times, even though you might not see them, and they already know of the Snickers bar in your jacket pocket, so don’t give them any opportunity to get accustomed to people food. When the tide goes out, everything hustles down to the beach to look for a meal—watch the sand for tracks. This is a world treasure--and you can reach it from Seattle in a day.

This long stretch of coastline is quite rugged, and it’s not everyone’s idea of “a walk on the beach.” Very little of it is gentle sandy beach, a good deal of it is rocky, and a great deal of that is draped with wet seaweed, or coated with various algae (some of those are slippery when wet; the rest are always slippery. You’ll quickly figure out which are which). And you may plant your foot on a log or a large boulder that you might logically assume isn’t going anywhere...just to have it start to pivot wildly on some unseen fulcrum below. I’m not trying to scare you... wait - yes I am! You’ve got to be aware of every step you take, despite all the beauty that surrounds you.

Pay attention to the current tide chart. Ignore at your peril. Again with the scaring you.... It’s a lot easier to walk the beach during ‘spring tides,’ when tides are extreme. Low tides reveal lots of cool stuff, and simply open up more of the actual beach to walk. But check that tide chart to remind yourself that 6 hours later you’ll have a correspondingly high tide to deal with, and plan accordingly. Sometimes you just have to sit down, make a beach fire, pull out a book or a kazoo, and wait it out. Best to plan your progress with the tides, rather than fighting them, as the ocean always wins. And it plays for keeps.

Give yourself a minimum of five days to walk the whole thing; six or seven would be civil. It’s not a race.

Of course, you don’t have to walk the whole thing. Entering at Rialto, once you get north of Smith Creek, about a mile in, camping is allowed. It’s perfectly acceptable, north of that point, to camp, sit for a day or three, maybe do little day trips northward (while remaining fully aware of the current tide chart, so as not to find yourself stranded overnight by the incoming tide away from your campsite). There are a few high-use areas along the coastal strip within which ONP will limit the number of people that are allowed to camp there on any given night. This is done to keep those areas from being crowded with humans and loved to death. This will be gone over when you register.

When you’re ready to return to civilization, you could head back south to Rialto and exit there. Or you can continue north, exiting at Shi Shi (although there is a road leading out from Lake Ozette, there is no bus service along that 30-plus mile road).

You could also enter the Park at Shi Shi, having walked the 9 miles from Neah Bay. You’ll want to be on the 1:00 PM bus from Forks (transit details follow) as the only later bus to Neah Bay will get you there after dusk, which is no time to be trying to negotiate the two miles of continuous boot-sucking mud holes you must cross to gain the beach. Trust me.

Bus stuff:


Follow yellow charted transit instructions below all the way to Forks. If you caught the CT14 from Port Angeles at 11:30, you’ll be able to catch the CT16 leaving Forks at 1:00 PM—destination: Neah Bay. If you missed the 11:30 bus from P.A., that option is closed. If you did manage to catch the 11:30 bus, be on CT 16 leaving Forks Transit Center at 1:00 PM, reaching Neah Bay at 2:13 PM. The Green Trails topo map, and Custom Correct as well, cover your route from Neah Bay to the ShiShi trailhead. And Makah Tribal Transit can make the first two miles of that go away. Call them for details.


Your other option, if you want to enter the coastal strip at Rialto Beach and then head north, is to catch Quileute Community Shuttle (QCS) at Forks Transit Center, heading toward La Push. It runs frequently; my usual plan is to reach the beach as soon as possible. But you may wish to find lunch in Forks and opt for a later bus. Your call. Sully’s makes a great burger.

At any rate, ask your driver to let you off at the Three Rivers Resort, where the road forks (the ‘Three Rivers’ are the Bogachiel, the Calawah, and the Soleduc, which join just below the Three Rivers Resort to spend their last few miles of riverhood as the Quileute—I just thought you should know...). From there you’ll walk five miles down Mora Road to the Pacific Ocean, and head north (alternatively, while still on the bus you could chat up any locals heading into La Push and ask if anyone would be willing to take you across the Quileute to the north side for a few bucks. Sometimes this works, and it saves you five miles of road-walking. The choice is yours).

Return bus stuff:


QCS leaves La Push Monday through Friday at 6:45 AM, 8:30 AM, and 10:15 AM. These will pass Three Rivers Resort shortly thereafter (be prepared to flag the bus down—stay safely out of the road, and wave vigorously). The 6:45 AM bus won’t get you back to Seattle any quicker: there’s a gap in service further east. Opt instead for one of the later buses. But remember how long it took you to walk down that five mile road in the first place, and know that now you’re going uphill. From Forks, follow the blue charted schedule.

Clallam Transit handles the La Push to Forks run on Saturday only, but THERE IS A GAP IN SERVICE IN JEFFERSON COUNTY. You will not be able to get back to Seattle with local transit. Your only option is Dungeness Lines (at about $40 a pop) from P.A. There is currently no transit service at all on Sunday.


Currently, the only sequence of buses with which you can get all the way back to Seattle on the same day starts at Neah Bay at 8:40 AM. Which means you must cover the 9 miles from Shi Shi before that point. Break camp in the dark, be on the move by 5:00 AM, maybe 5:30 if you’re a real bad-ass. You’ll probably need your headlamp to negotiate the mud holes in the first 2 miles. Makah Tribal Transit passes the junction of Hobuck & Flattery roads at 8:00 AM, which can make the last 2 miles go away.

MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHERE TO BE AT 8:40! (I hate using caps but you need to be at the right place at the right time or the next bus is in five hours, and all will have been for naught.) From that point, follow the blue return chart.

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I & L - Olympic National Park Coastal Strip south

Bus stop to trailhead (north end): right there
Bus stop to trailhead (south end): 11 miles

This stretch of the Park extends eighteen miles from the mouth of the Hoh River north to just upslope of the Quileute village of La Push (not actually a native word, but a slurring of the French, la bouche, as in the mouth of the river).

Clallam Transit #15 leaves Forks at 3:35 PM, heading to La Push. Quileute Community Transit also runs to La Push both before and after that 3:35 time. Check their site for times.

Boarding the CT 15, tell the driver you’ll want off at the Third Beach trailhead. It’s right on the side of the La Push Road. The Park starts in gorgeous old-growth cedar and spruce forest. You’ll get your first glimpse of beach in an hour or so.

This eighteen mile section of beach would more accurately be called ‘coastal forest with intermittent pockets and occasional stretches of beach.’ There are several places where you have to climb ladders, and pull yourself up (and let yourself down) with anchored ropes along steep dirt slopes well above the beach. I’ll translate the maps for you: where it says “Ladder” it often actually means “ladder, ladder, ladder, rope, rope, rope, and then rope, rope, and ladder, ladder, and ladder again down the other side.” In wet weather it can be a treacherously slippery adventure.

But don’t let that scare you off. Between those vertical pieces lie short, magnificent stretches of wild beach, some rocky, several sandy. Eagles are as numerous as pigeons are in the city, seals watch you from the surf. Tide pools beckon for your exploration.

Two creeks must be crossed at low tide; Goodman Creek (three crossings, actually. It’s a rather complicated meander. Take a pair of sneakers and explore it; you can’t reach the actual mouth of the creek, but you can travel several hundred yards along its tidal estuary), and Mosquito Creek.

South of Mosquito Creek there is a beautiful stretch of tidal pools, extending south perhaps a mile, which can be explored at low tide, but then you must regain the bluff above the beach. At anything other than a minus tide, after crossing the creek you must head immediately up onto the bluff, where you remain, slogging through thick brush and mud for about five miles. Many choose to end their trip south before hitting that, and turn back north to exit the Park the same way they came in. There’s an argument to be made for that: after that long bunch of mud you drop back down to rocky beach for about two miles, then you’re out of the Park.

I’ve often done the whole section by disembarking West Jefferson Transit at the Oil City Road, walking the eleven mile road to the mouth of the Hoh River, and heading north, exiting at the Third Beach trailhead. The Oil City Road was splendid solitude, I’d often see elk, deer, or coyotes. There are only two or three houses near the end of the road, so the likelihood of cadging a ride is remote, unless you’re spotted by a car almost full of backpackers.

But in the summer of ’06, extensive timber cutting began along the drainage. My last time down the road featured no less than thirty logging trucks hauling out logs, and almost as many gravel trucks hauling in rock (which I interpret to mean that they were building more roads to haul out even more logs). By the end I was covered with dust, scared half to death from near misses with rampaging trucks, and saddened. The thrill, it seemed, was gone. I haven’t gone in that way since.

The choice is yours: by not entering from Oil City you’re really not missing that much of the Park. Once you head north from Oil City you’re only on the beach (and a rocky beach, at that) for a couple miles, and then you’re up in the woods, losing your boots to eternal mudholes, without even a glimpse of the beach, until you reach Mosquito Creek.


Addendum May 2014: Just did the south-to-north trip for the first time since ʼ06, and Iʼm gonnaʼ stick to my guns on my previous statement: itʼs really not worth it. That road- building development along the Oil City Road ended with the economic slump of ʼ08, so you donʼt have that to contend with. But the southernmost five-or-so miles of the Park, including all that glorious mud (itʼs still there!) just donʼt justify the gravelly twelve mile walk down... and up... and back down... and back up - seriously, no road to the ocean should have that much uphill in it. But do go south as far as the beach just south of Mosquito Creek - it is lovely!

Timewise, you might be better off entering this section from the north end, at Third Beach, heading south as far as Mosquito, and then turning around and leaving again via the north. There’s that nice section of tidepools beginning just south of Mosquito Creek, but those can be done as a day trip before heading back north.

Be cognizant of the tide tables, and know that the Mosquito Creek crossing, and to an even greater extent, the Goodman Creek crossings, can only be accomplished at a low to medium tide ( 0 to 3 feet). If you cross at low tide, then fiddle around on the other side for a while, you might have to wait until the next low tide (twelve hours later) or close to it, for your return. If your initial crossing was noonish, and your gear is on the other side, you might now realize your predicament. Heading upstream to find another possible crossing site is...problematic...in a old growth temperate rain forest. Trust me.

Plan accordingly.

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J - Bogachiel River Trail

ONP mapBus stop to trailhead: 5 miles

You’d be amazed at the number of people who’ve never heard of the Bogie (as it’s called by locals). It lacks the southwest-to-northeast orientation of the Hoh, Queets, and Quinault Rivers, and so, doesn’t capture wet weather systems as completely as those rivers do. It resultantly lacks some of the features of a true rain forest, as in profusions of mosses, lichens and general sogginess. But it has some damn big trees, a nice river trail, and comparatively fewer people.

At the Forks Transit Center you will catch the West Jefferson Transit (WJT) shuttle at 2:40 PM, heading south along Highway 101. You’ll leave the WJT about ten miles south of Forks, at the Undie Road, just opposite the entrance to Bogachiel State Park. I don’t know how the Undie Road got its name; there’s bound to be a story there (just as there almost certainly is for the Kitchen-Dick Road outside of Sequim). At about four miles the Undie Road heads steeply uphill to reach the trailhead.

At about fifteen miles the trail moves onto the north fork of the river, and eventually connects with the Soleduck and Elwha trails. You could also cross over southward to the Hoh River. You could even ford the Bogie (in late summer) and bushwhack along the main branch of the river, off-trail, if seclusion is what you’re looking for.

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K - Hoh River Trail

Bus stop to trailhead: 19 miles

Okay, so it’s nineteen miles…but you can do it. There are a couple of pay campgrounds about five miles from the highway if you want to start the following morning (you’ll leave the West Jefferson Transit bus at about three in the afternoon), but first…stick your thumb out, affect a limp, look tired and sorrowful: the road is extremely well-traveled. You’re likely to get a ride.

The Hoh River Trail is as flat as a board (but muddy as hell until the end of June, at least) for the first ten miles, but it’ll be hard to keep looking at your feet anyway. Huge trees, cedars and spruces and big-leaf maples, abound, festooned with all sorts of rain forest lichens and saprophytes and fungi. This place is a world treasure, and so, is a tough place to find solitude. But on the bright side, you’re likely to meet folks from almost anywhere.

Unless you really want to walk those nineteen miles back out to the highway, you might consider taking another route back out, such as the Bogachiel, Soleduck, or Barnes Creek.

You could reach the Hoh either by the North Route or the South Route listed next chapter. If by North, you could sign in either on line or at the ONP headquarters in Port Angeles. By the South, you’d have to register for your visit at the Hoh Ranger Station at the trailhead. If you don’t manage to cadge a ride in time to reach trailhead by closing time, camp at the campground and register the following morning before starting up the trail. By the South Route, you’d reach the Hoh River Road about an hour (that’s two or three miles) earlier.

M - Queets River

Bus stop to trailhead: 15 miles
Roundtrip, railhead to end: 16 miles

This is possibly the least-visited drainage in the entire Park, because to reach the trailhead you must first ford the river, a feat that often is not even possible until late July or early August (and the river level can fluctuate with whatever might be going on upstream after you cross).

As mentioned earlier, approach this one from the North Route, so you can register either on line or at the ONP headquarters in Port Angeles. West Jefferson Transit will take you south from Forks; just after the bus stops at Kalaloch (usually long enough to grab some ice cream or a bottle of pop) it heads inland. Tell the driver what you’re trying to do, but keep your eyes open for the sign anyway.

It’s a fifteen mile, coarse gravel road (signs are everywhere, telling you that there’s no camping allowed along the road—but if you run out of light, just bushwhack over to the river and camp there).

There is also a campground at road’s end, and some huge trees, including the state’s tallest Black Cottonwood, and the world’s largest known Sitka Spruce. (The world’s largest Douglas fir is across the river, just off the trail—they grow ‘em big out here.)
The ford of the river is tricky, the actual crossing place varies year to year. It’ll usually be marked; ask around at the campground, and cross with others, if possible. It’s safer. The river is wide, with a rocky bottom; you should also watch out for logs floating downstream.

But once across, you have some damned fine rain forest to revel in. And it’s flat as a board, gaining only 800 feet in fourteen miles. The trail, sadly, does not connect with any other, so you must exit the same way.

Other options:

B - Deer Park, D - Elwha River (Closure of the Elwha Road does not affect access to this site. Trailhead at Whiskey Bend is still open), South Fork Hoh River, G - Sol Duc



Strait ShotStarting June 2017, Clallam Transit will be running a straight shot from the Bainbridge Island Ferry terminal to Port Angeles (named aptly, Route 123: the Strait Shot, in reference to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which the run roughly parallels).

It will only make five brief stops along the way to pick up passengers, and the fare will be $10. This bus will be a game-changer for us, for several reasons:

  1. It will run seven days a week. Until now, we couldn’t get through from Seattle to Port Angeles on weekends. Now we can! Two runs Monday through Saturday, one run on Sunday.
  2. It’ll be a whole lot faster! What we’ve long been doing is hopping on and off four different buses from three different transit systems, with wait-times of up to 45 minutes between them, eating up a total of about three-and-a-half hours. Now: one bus, two hours.
  3. Resultantly, we no longer have to be on the first ferry at 6:10 in the morning. No more alarm going off at 4:45! We can hop the 9:30 ferry, and get to Bainbridge in plenty of time to board the bus, which leaves at 10:20.
  4. We no longer have to lug our backpacks on and off all those buses. Luggage racks are available. I am so looking forward to this.
  5. And we will no longer have to break camp in the dark to begin our return trip: the eastbound bus we’ll be using leaves Port Angeles (P.A., henceforth) at 5:30 PM, reaching Bainbridge by 7:30 PM.

Though there are two runs, six days a week, only the early westbound run directly helps us (unless you’re planning to spend the night in P.A.). That early run leaves the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal at 10:20 AM, reaching Port Angeles at the Gateway Transit Center downtown at 12:15 PM. (The later run reaches P.A. at 10 PM.)

The westbound run on Sunday is of little use to us, as it reaches P.A. at about 8 PM. And the eastbound run, too, is limited by the fact that the Clallam Transit buses to Forks do not run at all on Sunday. But if you find yourself in P.A. on Sunday afternoon and have to be back to work in Seattle on Monday morning, it could work for you.

Remember also that if you must travel uptown in P.A. to visit the ONP HQ to register and/or to pick up a bear barrel, you must leave time to do this. If you’ve registered online, and have your own barrel, this is not a problem for you.

Like I said: game-changer! I still may catch the very early bus westbound so I’ll be able to reach Shi Shi on the same day (not quite possible with the Strait Shot), or to get to the beach at Rialto a couple hours earlier...but, gosh, sleeping in ‘til a decent hour is sounding better and better all the time. Check out the Clallam Transit website!

We will continue to list both the Strait Shot and the regular, slower, multi-bus sequence, and you may wish to use one or the other, depending on your needs. Keep checking the CT website, as they may change the regular bus schedules that pertain to this run, especially if the Strait Shot really takes off. I hope it does!

Seattle to Olympics West – Monday through Friday only

Seattle Ferry to Bainbridge Is. leaves Coleman Dock @ 6:10 AM arr. Bainbridge Island @ 6:45 AM
Kitsap Transit (KT) 90 leaves Bainbridge ferry terminal @ 6:55 AM arr. North Viking T.C. @ 7:25 AM
Jefferson Transit (JT) 7 leaves N.Viking T.C. @ 7:26 AM arr. Haines P&R @ 8:27 AM
JT 8 leaves SR 20 & Four Corners @ 8:40 AM arr. Sequim Transit Center @ 9:27 AM
Clallam Transit (CT) 30 leaves Sequim Transit Center @ 9:45 AM arr. Gateway Transit Center @ 10:20 AM
CT 14 leaves Gateway Transit Center @ 11:30 PM arr. Forks Transit Center @ 12:50 PM
CT 14 leaves Gateway Transit Center @ 1:30 PM arr. Forks Transit Center @ 2:50 PM


Clallam Transit leaves Forks Transit Center * @ 1:00PM arr. Neah Bay 2:13 PM
Quileute Community Shuttle leaves Forks Transit Center @ 1:05, 2:05, 3:05... Three Rivers, Third Beach, La Push 25 minutes later
Jefferson Transit Olympic Express leaves Forks Transit Center. ** @ 2:40 PM arr. Lake Quinault @ 4:50 PM

* Catching this bus would necessitate having been on the CT 14 leaving Gateway at 11:30 (see text).

**Catching this bus would necessitate having been on the CT 14 leaving Gateway at 11:30. Next JTOE leaves Forks at 6:45 PM.

There is another sequence of buses that will get you from Seattle to Forks on the same day, starting with the 8:45 AM ferry (you get to do the work on that one). This sequence will limit your options past Forks, but if your plans included getting a room in Forks or Port Angeles, this might work for you.

You must register for your trip into ONP. You may do this online beforehand at nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/permits.htm. You could also register at ONP Headquarters in Port Angeles, in the next paragraph I’ll explain how to quickly reach it so that you can still make your connection at 11:30. The only other reason for which you might need to visit ONPHQ is to pick up a bear barrel (one of these is required almost everywhere in the Park, and strongly advised everywhere else; the Park will let you borrow one of theirs for $3). So if you have your own barrel, and have already registered online, there’s no reason for the trip to HQ. But if you don’t, and/or if you haven’t, here’s what you do:

From Gateway Transit Center, catch CT 20; it leaves just 5 minutes after you arrive, so have your driver point out where it’ll be. Walk 2 long blocks uphill to the ONPHQ; register at main building. If you manage to miss that next CT 20, it’s not the end of the world. Wait for the next CT 20 and go back downtown. You’ll be leaving on the 1:30 bus, so go find lunch.

Forks to Seattle (North Route)- Monday through Friday only


Jefferson Transit Olympic Connection leaves passes Bogachiel River Road @ 10:05 AM arr. Forks Transit Center @ 10:19 AM *
Quileute Community Shuttle leaves La Pushr @ 8:30 AM, 10:15 AM ** arr. Forks Transit Center @ 9:00 AM, 10:45 AM
Clallam Transit 16 leaves Neah Bay @ 8:40 AM arr. Sappho Park & Ride * @ 9:38 AM ***

* You will miss the early run, and so must connect with the later one.
** This one means you’ll connect with the later run from Forks.
*** This connects you with the CT 14 that left Forks at 9:45 AM.

Clallam Transit 14 leaves Forks Transit Center @ 9:45 AM arr. Gateway Transit Center @ 11:05 AM *
CT 30 leaves Gateway Transit Center @ 12:00 N arr. Sequim Transit Center @ 12:35 PM
JT 8 leaves Sequim Transit Center @ 12:50 PM arr. Haines P&R @ 1:29 PM
JT 7 leaves Haines P&R @ 3:12 PM arr. North Viking Transit Center @ 4:18 PM
KT 90 leaves North Viking Transit Center @ 4:35 PM arr. Bainbridge Ferry Terminal @ 5:10 PM
WS Ferry leaves Bainbridge @ 5:30 arr. Seattle Coleman Dock @ 6:00 PM

* Believe it or not, this can give you enough time to return your borrowed bear barrel to ONPHQ: hop on the next CT 20, run the barrel uphill (if there are 2 or more in your party, all but one stays at the bus stop at Race & Lauridsen with your heavy packs while one of you runs like hell with the barrel or barrels). Catch the next CT 20 (should be about 12:05 or so by now); this bus connects with the 12:00 CT 30 at the east end of town. Let your driver know what you’re trying to do -- they’re really helpful! If you have your own barrel, ignore this and go find ice cream or lunch.

** You won’t want to sit at the Park & Ride for 90 minutes; take the bus on into Port Townsend, find lunch, dry out your gear at the park. Find ice cream. Before doing this, find out from your driver which bus to catch to get back up to the Park & Ride in time to catch your bus.

Forks to Seattle - Monday through Friday LATE RUN

Clallam Transit 16 leaves Forks Transit Center @ 11:30 AM arr. Gateway Transit Center @ 12:50 PM *
CT 30 leaves Gateway Transit Center @ 3:10 N arr. Sequim Transit Center @ 3;:45 PM
JT 8 leaves Sequim Transit Center @ 4:20 PM arr. Four Corners ** @ 4:57 PM
JT 7 leaves Four Corners @ 5:19 PM arr. North Viking Transit Center @ 6:09 PM
KT 90 leaves North Viking Transit Center @ 6:15 PM arr. Bainbridge Ferry Terminal @ 6:50 PM
WS Ferry leaves Bainbridge @ 7:10 arr. Seattle Coleman Dock @ 7:55 PM

* This leaves you plenty of time to get to ONP HQ, or for lunch and ice cream.
** Due to time constraints, this will be your transfer point.


Washington State Ferry $6.70 (westbound walk-on passenger; eastbound is fare-free)
Kitsap Transit $2.00
Jefferson Transit $2.50 (day pass--includes out-of-county boarding fee).
Clallam Transit $2.00 (day pass)
West Jefferson Transit .50

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