We are quickly becoming a nation of nature addicts. Each summer, millions flock to wilderness regions around the country in hopes of scoring some secluded time in the midst of gorgeous natural settings. All too often though, we hope to find a slice of silence and solitude in our national parks, only to discover the trail we were hoping for is full of other people looking for the same thing. Trails are getting tapped out, forcing those of us who are up for more of an adventure to seek out new regions.
Our national parks are popular, as they deserve to be. The trails near their paved parking lots are crowded, as they should be. But there are always ways to dive deeper into the backcountry; to discover lesser-known paths in relatively untouched corners of the parks.
Olympic National Park, for instance, offers hundreds of these corners throughout its 611 miles of trails, making it the ideal place to reconnect with true wilderness and find that increasingly elusive solitude. Here are 5 of the least-traveled trails in Olympic National Park for you to discover.
1. South Fork of the Hoh
While everyone else is hiking the Hoh River Trail and Hall of Mosses, the South Fork of the Hoh quietly waits to be discovered. Remote, rarely visited, and granting access to ancient forests and huge sitka spruces, the stroll next to the South Fork of the Hoh is breathtaking. This trail doesn’t posses the magnitude of mosses that drip along the trees near the main trails of the Hoh. Instead, the forest becomes a jungle, with sections of the trail seemingly separated by walls of nurse logs, moss, and huge timber. The forest floor is ridiculously green and lush, impossibly so in the late spring and early summer months. After 3.5 miles of pristine wilderness and solitude, the trail ends along the banks of the majestic Hoh River. Giving off a stunning view in the middle of this immense slice of solitude, the world feels wild, rugged, and perfect.
2. The Duckabush
Chances are, you've never heard of the Duckabush River. This stunningly steep and beautiful river on the eastern flank of the Olympic Mountains is short and sweet, offering a few majestic views and remote old-growth timber. Most who hike the Duckabush won’t actually enter the national park, as the boundary is located 6.8 miles up trail. It won’t matter though, the hike starts out in Olympic National Forest before quickly crossing into The Brothers Wilderness, a 16,000+ acre swath of secluded, protected land. The highlight of day hiking along the Duckabush is the trail up to Big Hump, though all should hike to the national park boundary just a little over a mile away. At Big Hump, stunning views of the Duckabush River Valley erupt in both directions, while The Brothers Mountains loom high above.
3. Upper Lena Lake
If you have hiked along the Hood Canal side of the Olympic Peninsula, you have either heard of or hiked Lena Lake . The popular Lena Lake Trail rests in the Olympic National Forest, and makes for a great introduction to the backcountry lakes of the region. While most stop and admire the shimmering beauty, those who want awesome mountain views and even prettier, accessible lakes need to head up a steep ridge and discover the majesty of Upper Lena Lake. Gaining nearly 5,000 feet from the parking lot, 7.3 miles away, Upper Lena Lake is truly one of the more fun hikes in Olympic National Park. The trail is a bit difficult, but the reward is worth every drop of sweat. In the shadow of Mount Bretherton and Mount Lena, Upper Lena Lake is a high alpine gem, bringing to mind a few views reminiscent of Glacier National Park.
Just a few miles from Forks and the jaw-dropping beaches of LaPush, rests one of America’s least known rainforest regions, as it has for thousands of years. The Bogachiel River is crossed by millions each year, as they travel between Forks and the Hoh Rainforest, yet few take the time to discover it. The trailhead to the Bogachiel is up Undie Road, which quickly ends a few miles from Highway 101. At the trailhead, the region doesn’t look too amazing. However, just a few thousand feet from the parking area, magical sections of forest emerge, growing evermore impressive the closer you get to the Olympic National Park boundary. Once inside the park, the beauty of the Bogachiel becomes readily apparent, as massive old-growth timber rises out of the fern-filled forest floor. Hiking the trail is like traveling back in time to a prehistoric land. Ideally, this trail should be hiked as an 11.6 mile out-and-back.
5. Deer Park
The crowds will flock to Hurricane Ridge all summer long, taking in the breathtaking sights atop one of the most scenic ridges in the world. While you should never skip Hurricane Ridge, those who have already seen the sites and hiked the hikes need to bypass the Ridge and head up to Blue Mountain and Deer Park. Located east of Hurricane Ridge, the road to Deer Park is not for the faint of heart. Narrow, dirt, and gravel paths—with occasional vanishing shoulders leading to impressive drop-offs—wind their way through a high-alpine paradise unlike anything else in the Pacific Northwest. The road leads nearly to the summit of Blue Mountain, which gives off views of the entire Olympic interior, as well as the Salish Sea, Strait of Juan De Fuca, British Columbia, and the mountains of the North Cascades. For those looking for hiking, park at the lower lot and hike the 12-mile round trip ridge hike to Maiden Peak. You'll likely see more deer, marmots, and mountain goats than you will people.
For more of the best hikes in Olympic National Park, purchase The Definitive Guide to Olympic National Park, researched and written by this author.