Olympic National Park, Washington
Test your mountain skills on the Bailey Range’s haute route.
Olympic is the fourth busiest national park in America, but most visitors crowd onto beach walks and short trails. In the wild interior of the park rises the Bailey Range, a 65-mile semicircle of peaks looping around Mt. Olympus, the peninsula’s hulking, 7,980-foot summit. The challenging Bailey haute route traverses the range from north to south, beginning with a 12-mile hike along the Sol Duc River and High Divide Trails to Cat Peak, where the trail ends and an airy ridge called the Cat Walk begins.
From there, it’s about 30 miles and at least three days of ridge scrambling, snowfields, and cross-country navigation to reach the headwaters of the Elwha River and Low Divide, where you’ll rejoin maintained trails. The traverse requires rudimentary mountaineering skills–snow travel with an ice axe and crampons–plus simple rock scrambling and solid routefinding ability. (But you won’t need a rope.) Allow plenty of time for extracurricular exploration: While camping in high meaows, you can bag half a dozen summits along the way, including Mt. Carrie (6,995 feet), and you’ll want to linger over views from glaciers to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Emerge on the Elwha River Trail or North Quinault Fork Trail to end.
Map Trails Illustrated Map #216, Olympic NP ($12, natgeomaps.com)
Permits Wilderness permits ($5 per group, plus $2 per person per night) are required; early reservations are only recommended for the first night’s campsite below Cat Peak.