British sea captain John Meares might have raised expectations a little in 1788 when he named Mt. Olympus after the mythological den of the gods, but most backpackers would agree that the guy was on the mark. Few mountain ranges harbor such a variety of terrain-from rain forest to glaciated peaks-as the Olympics yet remain so accessible that you can sample them all in a weekend.
For a taste of what the Olympics have to offer, head to the namesake national park’s northeast corner, which sees relatively less rain and snowfall than the rest of the park. There you’ll find valleys thick with towering Douglas fir, hemlock, and cedar. In the alpine zones, wildflowers carpet the meadows in July, and the views of Mt. Olympus, Mt. Anderson, and The Needles will give you a Zeus-like perspective.
For a rigorous three-day, 27-mile loop hike, start at the Obstruction Point trailhead, then head to Deer Park, up Cameron Creek, and over aptly named Grand Pass through the Grand Valley. For a longer trip, add two days and 15 miles by hiking one valley further south, through Gray Wolf, Lost, and Cameron Passes. Obstruction Point and the high passes can be snow clogged until early July. Call ahead to make reservations during summer.
Where: 90 miles west of Seattle. The Obstruction Peak trailhead is 25 miles south of Port Angeles.
Maps:Gray Wolf-Dosewallips ($3.25, Custom Correct Maps, 360-457-5667).
Trail Info: Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center, (360) 452-0300); www.nps.gov/olym.