This hike, an equally beautiful cousin to the often-crowded Hoh River Trail, is as long or short as you want to make it. The beginning, outside of the national park boundary, has been harvested, but once you enter Olympic proper, you'll enter a rainforest extravaganza -- huge Douglas firs, spruce, cedar, and big-leaf maples, including the world's largest silver fir, some 8 miles from the trail head. Approximately 6 miles into the trail is the Bogachiel Shelter, and 8 miles in is Flapjack Camp, both good backcountry campsites. This is pretty much the end of the flatland; farther up, the trail begins to get steep.
Length varies. Easy to moderate in the lowlands, more strenuous farther inland. Access: 5 miles south of Forks, turn left across from Bogachiel State Park onto Undie Rd., and continue 5 miles to the trail head.
Hoh River Valley
This is one of the most heavily traveled trails in the park, at least in the lower elevations, and it won't take you long to figure out why. Huge Sitka spruces hung with moss shelter the Roosevelt elk that wander among its lowlands. The first 13 miles, through the massive rainforests and tall grass meadows along the Hoh River Valley bottomlands, are relatively flat. The number of fellow walkers drops off after the first few miles. Happy Four Camp (6 miles in) and Olympus Guard Station (9 miles in) provide excellent camp or turnaround sites. The trail continues climbing east for the remaining 4 or 5 miles. You can eventually find yourself at the edge of the famous Blue Glacier on Mount Olympus, elevation 7,965 feet. Be careful. After July, hiking near the park's glaciers can be dangerous because of snowmelt.
Up to 17 miles one-way. Easy to moderate in the lowlands, more strenuous farther inland. Access: Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center.
Lake Quinault Loop
Inside the Olympic National Forest, not the park, this trail is easily accessible, is well maintained, and offers beautiful views. Consequently, it's quite crowded in the summer. Elevation changes are gentle, making this an excellent walk for kids.
The trail wanders about the shore of Lake Quinault, past historic Lake Quinault Lodge as well as the adjacent campgrounds and other lakeside attractions, before heading into its most popular section, the Big Tree Grove. Here you can wander among the huge trunks of 500-year-old Douglas firs. Watch for the interpretive signs. In addition, the Big Tree Grove is accessible on a 1-mile loop trail that originates from the Rain Forest Nature Trail parking lot.
4 miles RT. Easy. Access: Trail heads at various spots along the loop, including South Shore Rd., Quinault Lodge, Willaby Campground, Quinault Ranger Station, and Falls Creek Campground. All access originates from south shore of Lake Quinault.
Maple Glade Rain Forest Trail
This is a beautiful, peaceful trail with lots of exhibits. Take the kids, or enjoy it yourself. As you meander, you'll pass through trees, open meadows, and an abandoned beaver pond. Keep your eyes peeled for the ever-possible elk sighting. .5 mile RT. Easy. Access: Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station.
North Fork of the Quinault
The North Fork Trail could conceivably take you 47 miles, all the way through the park to the Elwha Valley on the north side -- if you make the right connections and are maniacal enough. The trail is relatively benign for the first dozen miles as it winds inward along the river toward its source near Mount Seattle. Wilderness camping areas are available at Wolf Bar (2.5 miles in), at Halfway House (5.3 miles in), and in a gorge in Elip Creek (6.5 miles in). Next, the trail climbs steeply toward Low Divide, Lake Mary, and Lake Margaret, where you can get beautiful views of Mount Seattle, at an elevation of 6,246 feet. Snow can remain at this elevation until midsummer, so be ready. There's a summer ranger station at Low Divide, and many high-elevation campsites here as well.
Up to 17 miles one-way. Moderate. Access: End of North Fork Rd.
Queets River Trail
This is the trail for the serious rainforest and wilderness lover. Part of its appeal is that the average hiker must exert a bit of an effort to reach the trail's solitude and quietly majestic scenery. Within 50 yards of your car, you'll be crossing the Queets River -- without a bridge. Even on this first of several trips across the river, the water can be treacherous. It's best to visit during the dry season in late summer. An option is to cross the Sams River to the right of the Queets, connecting and crossing the Queets River farther up. At 2.5 miles, gape at one of the largest Douglas firs in the park. After 5 miles of hiking through elk and giant fern territory, you'll arrive at Spruce Bottom, which is a common haunt for steelhead anglers and has several good campsites. The trail ends at Pelton Creek, where more campsites are available.
Up to 16 miles one-way. Moderate to strenuous. Access: Queets River Campground.
Sam's River Loop Trail
This short loop parallels both the Sams River and the Queets River, providing a view of some old homestead meadows, beautiful spruce trees, and perhaps an elk or two in the meadows in the evening.
2.8 miles RT. Easy to moderate. Access: Queets River Ranger Station.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.