5 Iconic Backpacking Trips in Olympic National Park

Some call Olympic National Park the most underrated region of the Pacific Northwest. The park offers visitors a plethora of vegetation zones, jaw-dropping views, and iconic backpacking destinations.

Looking for a night of pitching your tent on sandy beaches and falling asleep to the sound of rolling waves? The Olympics have you covered. What about witnessing a sprawling glacier amongst formidable mountains? Yeah, there’s that, too. Or maybe you’re looking for old-growth forests to stroll through and ponder how ancient the towering trees must be? No need to look any further.

Here are five of the most iconic backpacking trips in Olympic National Park that’ll serve as your gateway to all these Northwestern jewels, and more.

ENCHANTED VALLEY

Permits Needed? Yes – Reservations Needed

Length: 26-miles round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

The name itself describes how this out-and-back trail in the southern part of the Olympics will leave you feeling: Enchanted. You’ll need to sign-up for your reservations early though! Folks from all over the region have this gem as one of their must-do hikes, and permits are limited. For those lucky enough to score a spot, you’ll be rewarded with pristine mountain views framing a winding, picturesque river valley.

 

SEVEN LAKES BASIN LOOP (a.k.a. High Divide)

Permits Needed? Yes – Reservations Needed

Length: 19-miles round trip

Difficulty: Strenuous

Despite the misleading name, this trail actually has more than eight alpine lakes awaiting your arrival! If you’re lucky, you may also find mountain goats grazing on the hillsides, or black bears rummaging for berries amongst the flowering meadows. Yet this tranquil trip is not a secret, and to preserve the integrity of the area, only a limited number of permits are available. Be sure to check online and secure your spot in advance!

 

HOH RIVER TRAIL TO BLUE GLACIER

Permits Needed? Yes – Obtain at WIC in Port Angeles

Length: 37-miles round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Starting in dense old-growth forest, the trail snakes through the lush green trees and shrubbery while following the glacial blue water. As you gain elevation, you’ll witness first-hand a multitude of vegetation zones in the National Park. Eventually, you’re rewarded for reaching your final destination with expansive views of Blue Glacier and Mount Olympus. Despite its lower elevation, this iconic glacier covers over 1.5-square-miles and contains 580,000,000 cubic feet of snow and ice!

 

PACIFIC COAST WILDERNESS

Permits Needed? Yes – Reservations Needed

Length: Variable

Difficulty: Moderate Hiking/Advancement Navigation

Over 73-miles of coastal wilderness are protected by Olympic National Park, making for some of the most primitive and preserved natural coastlines in the lower 48-States. Wilderness camping permits are required year round. Depending on your starting point, you’ll either need to grab yours from the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles, or the South Shore Lake Quinault Ranger Station. With the majority of the experience only accessible by foot, prepare for secluded views of the Pacific ocean, dramatic cliffs, islands and sea stacks. However, you’ll also need to be ready for a unique challenge: Tides!

 

ROYAL BASIN

Permits Needed? Yes – Reservations Needed

Length: 16-miles round trip

Difficulty: Strenuous

Combining views of majestic peaks with a pristine milky-blue tarn makes Royal Basin a coveted destination for many backpackers. However, be prepared to work for the reward. The trail climbs through switchbacks for the first several miles, gaining over 5,000-feet of elevation. Yet the gorgeous wilderness awaiting you is worth the challenge. Due to popularity, permit reservations are required!

Image by RyanJLane

Brooke Jackson

Brooke Jackson is an internationally featured writer and photographer based in Seattle. As the founder of Wandering Trails Media, she specializes in travel, outdoor adventure sports, and environmental studies. Brooke also instructs for REI Outdoor School, where she finds joy in educating others on how best to get outside in a responsible and sustainable way. See more of Brooke's work at www.WanderingTrailsMedia.com



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