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sunset1. Olympics NORTH

Updated June 2012
See also: Food, Sex & Death on the Dungeness
See also: Getting Loster

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: 22 miles

It’s actually 25 miles, but don’t let that frighten you. From downtown PA, you have to take the CT 20 uphill to the National Park HQ to register, so you’ve already taken care of three very steep miles. And beyond that, almost everyone heading up the Heart O’ The Hills Road is going into the Park, too, so the likelihood of being offered a ride is high.

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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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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 Rialto Beach, just north of the (unfordable, so donʼt even think about it) Quileute River from La Push--north to Shi Shi Beach, the northern terminus of the Park. It is 33 miles long. You do not, of course, have to walk the whole thing. Entering at Rialto, once you get north of Smith Creek, about a mile up, camping is allowed. Itʼs perfectly acceptable to camp anywhere north of that point, sit there for a day or three, maybe even do little day-trips northward (remaining fully observant of the current tide chart, so as not to find yourself stranded overnight away from your campsite). You could then exit the Park back at Rialto, walk back up to where you could catch the return bus (CT 15).

If you do decide to walk the whole thing, it makes good sense to enter at Rialto and head north. If you try to enter at Shi Shi, at the extreme northern end, you will find that your last bus (CT 16) reaches Neah Bay at 7:15 PM, leaving you too little daylight, even at summer solstice, to walk the nine-plus miles before nightfall (and the last two miles are one continuous boot-sucking mud hole best not attempted in the dark. Trust me.).

Bus stuff:

Follow transit instructions below all the way to Forks. Wait at the Forks Transit Center for the CT 15 La Push bus at 3:35 PM. Ask the driver to let you off at the Three Rivers Resort, from which point itʼs an easy five mile paved stroll down the Mora Road to Rialto Beach. Then...head north onto the largest wild chunk of ocean beach in the Lower 48. You will see deer (they like seaweed). You will see seals and sea lions in the surf, or perched on rocks offshore. Eagles are everywhere. When the tide goes out, everything hustles down to the beach for lunch; watch the sand for tracks. This is a world treasure--people come from all over to see this--and you can reach it by bus in a day.

Pay close attention to the current tide chart. Ignore it at your peril. Itʼs 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 beach to walk. But be aware that about six hours later youʼll have correspondingly high tides that can trap you if youʼre not paying attention. 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 bare minimum of five days to do the whole section. Six or seven days would be civil. Sadly, you canʼt exit (or enter) at Lake Ozette, as no bus serves the site.

This long stretch of beach is quite rugged, and is not everyoneʼs idea of “a walk on the beach.” Very little of it is gentle sandy beach; most of it is rocky; and a good deal of that is seaweed or algae-covered. Some of that is slippery when wet; the rest is always slippery. Youʼll soon figure out which is which.

Return bus stuff:

To get from Shi Shi to Seattle in the same day: the opening race, from Shi Shi itself to Neah Bay, must be accomplished by 8:45 AM. Youʼll want to be on trail by 5 in the morning. Maybe 5:30, if youʼre a bad-ass. Follow the trail uphill, through all the mud, up to Hatchery Road. Continue north. Cross the Sooes Creek Bridge, then the Waatch Creek Bridge, then itʼs a straight shot NE to Neah Bay. Be there before 8:45 AM. The CT 16 will be heading east along Front Street. From there, you will transfer at Sappho to CT 14 heading to Port Angeles.

If youʼre not so concerned about getting back to Seattle the same day, the next bus leaves Neah Bay at 2:20 PM (youʼll be able to get east to P. A., maybe even Sequim, but thatʼs about it).

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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).

To reach the north end, catch CT 15 heading to La Push from Forks (if you left Port Angeles at 1 PM, arriving at Forks at 2:30, you’ve about an hour—the 15 leaves at 3:35). If you haven’t yet registered with ONP, you can do so right at the Forks Transit Center; the Park maintains an office there (somewhat limited hours—phone ahead).

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.

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 2:45 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 at either Port Angeles or Forks. 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.

E - Olympic Hot Springs/Appleton Pass

Appleton passNote: As of September 2011, the road to this option is completely closed to both and foot and auto traffic, due to the demolition of both dams on the Elwha river. This project will take three years. Olympic Hot Springs and Appleton Pass can be reached via other trailheads including Sol Duc and Barnes Creek.

Bus 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.


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 at either Port Angeles or Forks. 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

BUS STUFF:

Seattle to Olympics (North Route) – 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 @ 6:57 AM arr. Poulsbo Transit Center @ 7:20 AM
Jefferson Transit (JT) 7 leaves Poulsbo Transit Center @ 7:30 AM arr. SR 20 & Four Corners * @ 8:24 AM
JT 8 leaves SR 20 & Four Corners @ 8:45 AM arr. Sequim Transit Center @ 9:21 AM
Clallam Transit (CT) 30 leaves Sequim Transit Center @ 9:43 AM arr. Port Angeles Transit Center @ 10:20 AM
CT 14 leaves Port Angeles Transit Center @ 1:00 PM arr. Forks Transit Center @ 2:30 PM

*Jefferson Transit 7 actually continues to the Port Townsend Transit Center, but turnaround time is so close that the driver will usually recommend disembarking at Four Corners and waiting for your connection with JT 8 there. Ask your driver: they’re all very helpful and will usually ask if there’s anyone onboard trying to make these connections. If necessary, they will radio ahead to hold your next bus.

This is the sequence of buses that you can use to reach all points on the north side of the Olympic National Park, as well as the Park’s coastal strip along the Pacific Ocean. It is effective Monday through Friday only, excluding all major holidays. You cannot use it on weekends. Some of the routes do run on Saturdays, on a very limited schedule, but there are gaps, particularly through Jefferson County.

There is one later transit sequence, beginning with the 8:45 AM ferry from Seattle, that will get you as far west as Forks. This sequence will not allow you to make connections beyond that point, and would cut into your trail time before dark, at any rate. (If, on the other hand, your plan is to get a room in Port Angeles (PA, henceforth) or Forks, this later sequence could work for you.)

You can register in person at the ONP Headquarters in PA, or at the Ranger Station right at the Transit Center in Forks (hours there are limited; call or check online for current schedule). You can now register online beforehand for your trip into ONP at nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/permits.htm . About all you can't do online is to pick up a bear barrel (which you can still do at PA or Forks).

port angeles mapTo reach the ONP Headquarters, catch the CT 20, leaving at :25 and :55 after the hour, as soon as you arrive in PA. This will take you about a mile uphill; get off at Race & Boulevard (you’ll catch the return bus at the same stop, heading in the same direction, in 30 minutes, or an hour. Note the time) and walk two long blocks uphill to reach the Headquarters. Register at the small trailer behind the main building, then trot back downhill to catch the CT 20 back downtown.

You had some time to kill anyway, as the bus westward doesn’t leave until 1:00 PM. If you’ve any time left you may wish to grab some lunch. If you plan to head up toward Hurricane Ridge, you might as well have grabbed lunch right when you hit town, so that you can leave from HQ and just keep going up along that same road (more on that in the section on Hurricane Ridge).

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

Clallam Transit 14 leaves Forks Transit Center @ 9:30 AM arr. Port Angeles Transit Center @ 10:50 AM
CT 30 leaves PA Transit Center @ 12:00 N arr. Sequim Transit Center @ 12:35 PM
JT 8 leaves Sequim Transit Center @ 12:45 PM arr. Port Townsend Transit Center* @ 1:29 PM
JT 7 leaves Port Townsend Transit Center @ 3:24 PM arr. Poulsbo Transit Center @ 4:27 PM
KT 90 leaves Poulsbo Transit Center @ 4:37 PM arr. Bainbridge @ 4:57 PM
WS Ferry leaves Bainbridge @ 5:30 arr. Seattle Coleman Dock @ 5:05 PM

* Westbound, you may recall, the connection was so tight that you couldn’t ride the bus into downtown Port Townsend. Now, on the eastbound leg, you have almost two hours to kill. Grab lunch, spread out your tent and sleeping bag to dry and/or air out in the park adjacent to the transit center. Hell, take a nap on the lawn (be aware: the park surrounding the lagoon adjacent to the transit center has a large transient population living in the brushy areas of said park; I’d recommend staying out of the bushes, and not leaving your gear unattended. So as far as spending the night there if you’re stranded, apparently it’s allowed, but you wouldn’t catch me doing it).

Again, this sequence of buses works only Monday through Friday, excluding major holidays. It will not get you through on weekends.

There is an earlier sequence of buses, as well as one later, leaving Forks at 7 AM, and 11 AM, respectively. The latter one will get you back to Seattle around 7:30 PM.


Fares:

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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