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Olympic National Park - Washington

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 Page 3: Quinault Rain Forest | Seashore Areas Dosewallips | Hotels

 

Queets Rain Forest

The Queets River Valley widens from its narrow source, as three major tributaries feed glacier melt and abundant rainwater into the main river. The river receives water from three glaciers: the Queets, and the Humes and Jeffers glaciers on Mount Olympus. The river is one of the largest on the Olympic Peninsula. This is a famed fishing river, revered for its salmon and steelhead, and also for rainbow and cutthroat trout.

This is a valley not widely visited by tourists, except for the lower fishing areas. There has been a deliberate attempt on the part of the Parks Service to keep the upper parts of the valley as wild as possible. Therefore, the Queets Trail offers one of the best opportunities to experience a truly natural rain forest. Because of the lack of facilities, it has become a trail used mostly by backcountry hikers.

All of the existing trails and facilities are accessed by the Queets River Road, which meets Highway 101 seven miles east of the town of Queets. There was settlement in the valley as early as the 1890s. However, when the national park was created, the federal government forced the departure of the stump ranchers and other settlers from the valley.

The Queets Ranger Station is located 12.4 miles along the road. This station is open during the summer months. The Queets Campground is located beside the river at 13.4 miles, in a forest of Sitka spruce. The sites are suitable for tents, RVs and trailers (with a limit of 21 feet). The road ends at the confluence of the Sams and Queets rivers.

Day Hike in the Queets Valley

The Queets Campground Loop Trail is the only short trail in the Queets River area. The trailhead is located just west of the campground entrance, on the north side of the road. The trail wanders through forest, and through old farmers' fields. After crossing the second meadow, you'll see the Queets Ranger Station. The trail then crosses the road, and wanders through second-growth forest. Remaining stumps are seen, and you will probably hear the roar of logging trucks in the distance. Passing through a stand of alders covered with white lichen, the trail passes into a forest of spruce and into rain forest with thick vegetation, particularly salmonberry. The large formation atop the ridge is Klootchman Rock. The trail comes out at the end of Queets River Road, a hike of three miles.

Quinault Rain Forest

Draining most of the southwestern Olympics, the Quinault River also has two branches. The East Fork comes down from near Anderson Pass, tumbling down a long, narrow valley. Near the head of the East Fork valley stands the world's tallest western hemlock tree.

The East Fork joins the North Fork, and the combined river flows through the broad Quinault Valley, into Lake Quinault. This is a lovely natural lake created by glacial action which formed the dam. The Lake sits at 200 feet above sea level. Below the lake, the river flows through the Quinault Indian Reservation, and empties into the Pacific. The north shore of the lake is in the national park, while the south shore borders the national forest. The west shore lies in the Quinault Indian Reservation.

This is another fine rain forest. The lower area near the lake receives 140 inches of rain each year, while the upper parts get much more. The trees here are enormous, growing to world record heights.

There are roads along both the north and south shores of Quinault Lake. The North Shore road departs from Highway 101, leading along the lake to the Parks Service's Quinault Ranger Station. The main access route to the rain forest attractions is the South Shore Road. The road forms a Y at the west end. It is found just south of the Quinault River, 16 miles north of Humptulips, and 27 miles southeast of Queets.

Camping

The Quinault Loop Trail and Willaby Creek Campground are located at the 1.8-mile mark on South Shore Road. The route continues along the lake, providing access to two private resorts and a ranger station, in the community of Quinault. Falls Creek Campground is located just beyond the village. The road leads northeast through a harvested area to Cottonwood (primitive) Campground, entering Olympic National Park at 12.1 miles. The rain forest appears as North Shore Road meets South Shore Road.

The road continues, climbing through the mossy rain forest, which includes stands of bigleaf maple as well as spruce and Douglas-fir. Graves Creek Ranger Station is located at 18.8 miles. This summer-only station is the place to obtain backcountry hiking and camping permits. Graves Creek Campground is located near the ranger station in the fir and maple forest. The road comes to an end just beyond the 19-mile mark, at the head of the Enchanted Valley Trail.

Most first-time visitors to the national park tend to visit the Hoh Rain Forest, without exploring the beauties of this more southerly rain forest. That's too bad, because this too is a magnificent example of the work of nature. Not only is there the lake, but several Quinault trails lead through magnificent stands of huge trees, including big-leaf maples with rich understoreys of mosses and selaginella. Campers will appreciate the quiet serenity of Graves Creek Campground&emdash;away from traffic noises, located in a sublime setting.

Resorts

South Shore Road provides access to two major resort operations: Lake Quinault Lodge and Rain Forest Resort Village. The historic lodge is one of those seemingly rustic park-style buildings which were constructed during the first half of the century, combining a natural ambience with comfortable accommodations in the national forest. There's a fine lobby with a stone fireplace, an excellent dining room focused on northwestern cuisine, a swimming pool, and canoes to rent with nature trails nearby. For information and reservations, call (360) 288-2571 or 800-562-6672. Rain Forest Village has an inn and cabins with fireplaces and kitchens. The village complex includes an RV park with full hookups. For information and reservations, call (360) 288-2535, or 800-255-6936.

Quinault Day Hikes

The Quinault Loop Trail is located in the national forest south of Lake Quinault, lying just above the lake. The trail is a continuous loop with several access points. A handy entry point is on South Shore Road near Falls Creek Campground. From here, the trail runs beside Falls Creek, past a bridge which leads to the campground and a picnic area, and then to several walk-in campsites (to the west). The trail then moves to the lakeshore, past Quinault Lodge (another logical entry point). The vegetation in this area is thick and wild, and includes salmonberry and thimbleberry, skunk cabbage, and hydrangea. Highlie Peak is in clear view, across the lake.

The trail turns away from the lake at Willaby Creek Campground, passing under the highway bridge crossing Willaby Gorge. Now we enter the rain forest, with an understory of sword and maidenhair ferns, huckleberry, devil's club, and salmonberry. You''ll see cedars, along with the spruces and firs. Climbing to the junction with the Big Tree Grove Trail (also Quinault Rain Forest Trail), the route then drops through a second growth (post-fire) stand of western hemlock, and back into the old-growth forest, getting more boggy as the trail proceeds along a boardwalk. The trail meets the Lodge Trail, crossing Falls Creek, and then crosses another creek with tumbling water, returning to the South Shore parking lot. The total loop is four miles, and is probably the best way to spend an hour or so while visiting the Quinault area, particularly if your time here is limited.

Big Tree Grove Nature Trail is also called the Quinault Rain Forest Trail. It begins on South Shore Road, just west of Willaby Creek. The route climbs through the Big Tree Grove, a fine stand of Douglas-fir, about 500 years old. Ferns and oxtails cover the ground. Other trees in this forest include hemlock, western red cedar and spruce. This is a short trail, less than 0.6 mile long, meant to be enjoyed slowly. There are benches placed along the pathway so that visitors may thoroughly enjoy the inspirational feelings of contemplating one's existence while sitting in a primeval rain forest. The trail ends at its junction with the Quinault Loop Trail. From there, you have the choice of retracing the walk, or continuing along the loop trail to a point just east of the starting point, past Willaby Gorge.

The Lodge Trail is also a very short path starting across the road from Quinault Lodge, climbing through a young hemlock forest, and then into an older growth of western red cedar and Sitka spruce, with a few Douglas-firs. The usual ferns and huckleberry are here, in addition to oxalis. Running above Falls Creek, the trail ends at the Quinault Loop Trail. Again, you have your choice of return routes to the lodge area.

Graves Campground Nature Trail is a circle route leading from and to Graves Creek Campground. Only a mile long, the path begins at the river. We suggest that you take a counterclockwise direction, passing through big-leaf maples before crossing a gravel bar in what used to be a river channel. The forest is composed mostly of second growth spruce and fir. The path then crosses river flats with rain forest, thick with bigleaf maples, before returning to the starting point through a stand of Douglas-fir.

The Olympic Seashore

The Pacific Ocean is untamed as it crashes against the Olympic shore. Access to the coast is limited, except by taking long hikes. However, there are several access points where one may hike to and along the coast. One of the most scenic and rewarding areas is found in the Lake Ozette region, at the end of Lake Ozette Road. To get there, turn onto Highway 113 which meets Highway 101 (Olympic Highway) at the village of Sappho. After two miles, turn west (left) and drive along Highway 112 which leads to Clallam Bay and Seku. Turn left onto the Lake Ozette road. The Cape Alava Trail (the northern route) leads 3.3 miles to the coast.

The southern route (Sand Point Trail) runs three miles to the beach. Both trails lead mostly along wooden boardwalks, through a wonderful wildlife area. For a 9.3-mile loop hike, walk along the beach between the two entry points. This is an area long occupied by Native Americans, with evidence of their habitation in Native American petroglyphs. You'll see Ozette Island and Cape Alava, the western-most point in the contiguous forty-eight states.

To the south, State Route 110 leads to the ocean shore and the Native American community of La Push. A trail leads south from the end of the road, along the beaches and headlands, to Third Beach, Taylor's Point and Scott's Bluff. It is possible to walk south, along the beaches, and along pieces of coastal trails across the more dangerous headlands. A handy and necessary guide to the coastal trails is the Parks Service folder "Strip of Wilderness," available at the ranger stations and visitor information centers. Hikes available include the 1.8-mile stretch from Cape Alava to Shi Shi Beach; the North Wilderness Coast Hike (from Ozette to Rialto Beach, via Cape Alava), a walk of 21 miles; and the South Coast Wilderness Hike, from the Third Beach trailhead to Oil City, a rugged journey of 17.3 miles. Backcountry permits are free and must be obtained from a ranger station before undertaking overnight backcountry trips.

Kalaloch Lodge is found near the southern end of the coastal strip, beside Highway 101. South Beach is at the extreme southwestern edge of the park. Short beach trails lead from Highway 101 to Ruby Beach (to the north), with six additional trails leading south, to Beaches One and Two, and South Beach. You'll find beaches with tidepools, and beachcombing is particularly rewarding in this area. Clamming is permitted, in season and with a license. There's a park ranger station across the highway from the lodge. The lodge has overnight accommodations, a dining room and coffee shop. For information and reservations, call (360) 962-2271.

Dosewallips

Located in the eastern Olympics, opposite the Hood Canal, the Dosewallips River has three tributaries, the North and South forks and Silt Creek which has its headwaters in the Eel Glacier on Mount Anderson. Several high mountains enclose the valley, including Anderson and the "Five Peaks," Wellesley, Sentinel, Lost, Fromme and Claywood. This is a land of steep peaks and large meadows including the spectacular Thousand Acre Meadow.

Highway 101 runs along the eastern slopes of the Olympics, providing access by Dosewallips River Road (Forest Road 2610).

The road cuts through the Olympic National Forest, through recently logged areas and second growth forest. Approaching the nine-mile mark, the road enters virgin forest. Elkhorn Campground is situated in a large stand of Douglas-firs beside the river. As the road climbs high above the river, it enters Olympic National Park, passing Dosewallips Falls. The road drops before reaching Dosewallips Campground (14.7 miles). Here are campsites and a picnic area located in a red cedar grove. The Dosewallips Ranger Station is located at the end of the road (14.9 miles).

Several lengthy trails have been constructed in the Dosewallips wilderness areas, including the Dosewallips Trail, which provides access to the Thousand Acre Meadow, and beyond to a wildflower basin north of Sentinel Peak, and up to Hayden Pass (15.4 miles), where one can savor one of the best views of the Olympic Peaks.

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