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Backpacker Magazine – May 2010

Forest: Hoh River Trail, WA

This Olympic National Park trail features serious elevation gain and switchbacks galore.

by: Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, Maps by Kris Wagner and Kim Phillips


Hike into the wild green heart of the Northwest on this 17.6-mile (one-way) tour-de-ecosystems in Olympic National Park. Sunlight stabs through dripping, moss-hung rainforests as the trail climbs 4,000 feet on 22 switchbacks from riverside through Sitka spruce to wildflower-filled alpine meadows (season’s first: avalanche lilies in May). Find a string of aquamarine ponds shimmering below the High Divide’s glaciated peaks at CB Flats, forage for huckleberries (starting to ripen in mid-July) in sprawling patches (watch out for black bear )—and ogle hulking Mt. Olympus. Then cruise 4.3 miles to heath-lined Heart Lake. The next day, retrace your route back to the trailhead. INFO Wilderness permits ($7). Reserve campsites a month in advance (May to September); half are held for walk-ins. (305) 565-3100; nps.gov/olym. Trip data: backpacker.com/hikes/261648

1. Hoh River trailhead
0430124E 5301197N; mile 0
Old GPS? Get a nav lock before rainforest canopy limits initial reception—or upgrade.

2. Canyon Creek Trail

0443561E 5303063N; mile 9.5

Turn left for the first of many switchbacks to the Seven Lakes Basin and the jagged, snow-capped High Divide.

3. Hoh Lake
0441039E 5305226N; mile 13.9
Pack an extra memory card: The photo ops here (4,539 feet ) include a wide alpine tundra and the glacier-laced flanks of 7,929-foot Mt. Olympus.

4. Deer Lake Trail
0441819E 5305948N; mile 15.2
Bear right below Bogachiel Peak. Extra day? Turn left/west in .2 mile to bag the 5,474-foot summit or make the 25-mile loop through the Seven Lakes Basin (bear canisters required, $3).

5. Heart Lake
0445214E 5306650N; mile 17.6
Camp lakeside in this small cirque, or hike north to the Heart Lake Shelter; backtrack to the Hoh River trailhead.

Tree Time
Find more forest hikes.



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