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6 Olympic National Forest hikes for all seasons

Explore the Olympics with these outdoor excursions

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The Olympic National Park is routinely listed among the 10 most visited parks in the country. But in the off-season, the Olympic National Forest is often overlooked as a hiking destination. And that’s a good thing—we’re not getting out there for the crowds anyway.

The park is actively maintained year-round, as opposed to most other parks in the state. That means, barring the occasional furlough, the trash will be emptied, falling trees will be cleared, and goats will be airlifted, making it a safe and supported place to adventure no matter the season. A few of these hikes even stand up to winter weather.

“But I don’t want to deal with the ferry,” you might say. It’s totally not necessary for these excursions, although the ride is beautiful.

Here’s some gorgeous, rewarding hikes—just 2 or 3 hours away from town—for which the ferry is optional (but encouraged).

Looking for more hike ideas? Try our map of 12 essential Seattle-area trails.

Seeking a car-free adventure? We’ve mapped 10 transit-accessible hikes.

Bringing your best friend? Hit up these 10 dog-friendly hikes.

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1. Mount Walker

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Only two hours outside of town, near Quilcene at the bottom of the Olympic National Park, the Mount Walker area offers a lot of great year-round options. Drive around Tacoma, up via Bremerton and Poulsbo, and go about a hundred miles, or cut that footprint in half and take the Seattle-Bainbridge or Edmonds-Kingston ferry. Take a hard left in the middle of the Peninsula Nowhere and find this gem tucked just behind Dabob Bay.

The hike itself is a little steep, gaining 2000 feet in 2 miles, but the views are, as usual, worth the jaunt. In the winter, the Mount Walker Road is gated and closed to vehicles, but this only adds a quarter mile to your hike. In the summer months, the viewpoint is accessible to cars along this road, so looking at a map of the mountain will make clear that it’s a great idea to make your way up to the viewpoint via the trail, and take the gentle grade of the road back down. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure to go in the spring months, but whether the road is open or not you’re in for a surefire treat.

The same turnoff also provides access to the Falls View Campground and the Falls View Canyon. If you’re planning to explore the mountain, it’s easy to make a brief detour to the falls and hike a 0.1 mile loop that will give you beautiful views of the falls. The easy trail offers the best view of the falls—however, if you’re looking for a bit more of a hike, turn left at the campground and drop steeply into the canyon along a set of switchbacks. The bottom is beautiful, with mossy boulders and a quiet, icy pool. Cross a little wooden bridge, and walk long the river through second-growth forest. You’ll come to a fork that’s the trail’s ending loop, part of which provides river-access, and head back up those steep switchbacks you came down.

The best part: You can bring your dog to this trail.

2. Lake Quinault

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The other end of the park (still, somehow, only three hours from the city) boasts Lake Quinault, just off of the 101, north of Aberdeen. Here, the obvious trail is the one that loops the lake. Going into dense rainforest just a few dozen feet from the trailhead, the trail lets you forget how close to civilization you are in an instant. The eight-mile-long loop gains little to no elevation, and makes for a great leisurely hike or trail run.

On the far side of the lake, you’ll find two trails that are nothing short of magical windows into our past. The Kestner Homestead Trail starts along Kestner Creek, an area lined with maples, spruces, and hemlocks, where Native people have lived for centuries. In the late 1800s, Europeans settled here, and this trail explores the traces of their colonialism. There’s a home, a barn, outbuildings, and other farming relics, and there’s a good chance you’ll run into some majestic elk in the colder months.

About a mile in, the trail intersects with the Maple Glade trail, a short, half-mile loop that leads into large maples hanging with dramatic rainforest mosses. The short trail could be described as enchanting and magical even by the most factual observers in your party—there’s just something about an ancient rainforest. At the intersection, head straight and you’ll come to the Maple Glade trailhead, turn left to explore the loop.

3. Lena Lake

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Tucked in between Mount Lena and Mount Bretherton, Lena Lake is a leisurely three hours away from the city. Leave early and loop around either Tacoma or Olympia—there’s no real drivetime difference—or dodge the traffic by taking the ferry from Edmonds. The ferry option requires a bit more scheduling, but it’s always a treat, and the drive from Kingston, through historic Port Gamble, and over the Hood Canal bridge is the beautifully scenic stuff of a good road trip.

Though it’s always prudent to check a recent WTA.org trip report before hiking in, Lena Lake stays reliably snow-free year-round. The roads to the trailhead are all paved, and the trail gains only 1200 feet in it’s 3.6 mile length (making for a 7.2 mile round trip). The payoff is nothing short of gorgeous.

4. Church Creek

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NF-2222
Montesano, WA 98563
(360) 765-2200
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If you’re into color, this hike will deliver for you the spring months, so take that allergy medication and enjoy the mountainous wildflowers. A ferry-free three hours away, this hike gets surprisingly little traffic considering it has everything. Through the old growth forest, you’ll find berries, flowers, and even a massive Western Hemlock when you reach the crest of the trail. Along the way, you’ll find a waterfall and a lake, and on top of all that it’s a great workout, gaining about 2500 feet in 3.2 miles for a near 7-mile total hike.

5. Mount Rose

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Because most of Mount Rose’s trail is south facing, it gets a lot of good sun and clears itself of snow much sooner than surrounding peaks do, and becomes reliably snow-free by the end of April. You’ll gain 1200 feet per mile on your way to the top, so bring snacks and trekking poles. By the end, though, you’ll get to see sweeping views of Lake Cushman, Lightning Peak, and even Rainier. The trail follows a lollipop loop. On the way up it’s best to go left—the steep way—to give your knees a break on the way down, but the ascent is possible in either direction. The peak is decorated with a very instagrammable sign marking the elevation (4301 feet), and there’s a little rocky spot for a quick picnic.

6. Spider Lake

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A little ways north of Shelton, Spider Lake sits three hours outside of town, and due to its low elevation, it is great for early spring hiking. There’s very little elevation to tackle on this hike—in fact, you’ll go down about a hundred feet at the beginning of the trail.

This trail gives you lots of options. On a hot day, hike in, find a private spot, and simply spend time by the lake. The trail does not get nearly as much traffic as surrounding lakes do, so it’s a wonderful place to enjoy the quiet of the forest. On a cooler day, hike the loop around the lake, through old

growth forest, across quaint little bridges and past a waterfall. The trail will gain back a few hundred feet, and you’ll get some quick views of the surrounding mountains.

1. Mount Walker

Mt Walker, Washington 98320

Only two hours outside of town, near Quilcene at the bottom of the Olympic National Park, the Mount Walker area offers a lot of great year-round options. Drive around Tacoma, up via Bremerton and Poulsbo, and go about a hundred miles, or cut that footprint in half and take the Seattle-Bainbridge or Edmonds-Kingston ferry. Take a hard left in the middle of the Peninsula Nowhere and find this gem tucked just behind Dabob Bay.

The hike itself is a little steep, gaining 2000 feet in 2 miles, but the views are, as usual, worth the jaunt. In the winter, the Mount Walker Road is gated and closed to vehicles, but this only adds a quarter mile to your hike. In the summer months, the viewpoint is accessible to cars along this road, so looking at a map of the mountain will make clear that it’s a great idea to make your way up to the viewpoint via the trail, and take the gentle grade of the road back down. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure to go in the spring months, but whether the road is open or not you’re in for a surefire treat.

The same turnoff also provides access to the Falls View Campground and the Falls View Canyon. If you’re planning to explore the mountain, it’s easy to make a brief detour to the falls and hike a 0.1 mile loop that will give you beautiful views of the falls. The easy trail offers the best view of the falls—however, if you’re looking for a bit more of a hike, turn left at the campground and drop steeply into the canyon along a set of switchbacks. The bottom is beautiful, with mossy boulders and a quiet, icy pool. Cross a little wooden bridge, and walk long the river through second-growth forest. You’ll come to a fork that’s the trail’s ending loop, part of which provides river-access, and head back up those steep switchbacks you came down.

The best part: You can bring your dog to this trail.

2. Lake Quinault

Lake Quinault, Washington

The other end of the park (still, somehow, only three hours from the city) boasts Lake Quinault, just off of the 101, north of Aberdeen. Here, the obvious trail is the one that loops the lake. Going into dense rainforest just a few dozen feet from the trailhead, the trail lets you forget how close to civilization you are in an instant. The eight-mile-long loop gains little to no elevation, and makes for a great leisurely hike or trail run.

On the far side of the lake, you’ll find two trails that are nothing short of magical windows into our past. The Kestner Homestead Trail starts along Kestner Creek, an area lined with maples, spruces, and hemlocks, where Native people have lived for centuries. In the late 1800s, Europeans settled here, and this trail explores the traces of their colonialism. There’s a home, a barn, outbuildings, and other farming relics, and there’s a good chance you’ll run into some majestic elk in the colder months.

About a mile in, the trail intersects with the Maple Glade trail, a short, half-mile loop that leads into large maples hanging with dramatic rainforest mosses. The short trail could be described as enchanting and magical even by the most factual observers in your party—there’s just something about an ancient rainforest. At the intersection, head straight and you’ll come to the Maple Glade trailhead, turn left to explore the loop.

3. Lena Lake

Lena Lake, Washington

Tucked in between Mount Lena and Mount Bretherton, Lena Lake is a leisurely three hours away from the city. Leave early and loop around either Tacoma or Olympia—there’s no real drivetime difference—or dodge the traffic by taking the ferry from Edmonds. The ferry option requires a bit more scheduling, but it’s always a treat, and the drive from Kingston, through historic Port Gamble, and over the Hood Canal bridge is the beautifully scenic stuff of a good road trip.

Though it’s always prudent to check a recent WTA.org trip report before hiking in, Lena Lake stays reliably snow-free year-round. The roads to the trailhead are all paved, and the trail gains only 1200 feet in it’s 3.6 mile length (making for a 7.2 mile round trip). The payoff is nothing short of gorgeous.

4. Church Creek

NF-2222, Montesano, WA 98563

If you’re into color, this hike will deliver for you the spring months, so take that allergy medication and enjoy the mountainous wildflowers. A ferry-free three hours away, this hike gets surprisingly little traffic considering it has everything. Through the old growth forest, you’ll find berries, flowers, and even a massive Western Hemlock when you reach the crest of the trail. Along the way, you’ll find a waterfall and a lake, and on top of all that it’s a great workout, gaining about 2500 feet in 3.2 miles for a near 7-mile total hike.

NF-2222
Montesano, WA 98563

5. Mount Rose

Mt Rose, Washington 98548

Because most of Mount Rose’s trail is south facing, it gets a lot of good sun and clears itself of snow much sooner than surrounding peaks do, and becomes reliably snow-free by the end of April. You’ll gain 1200 feet per mile on your way to the top, so bring snacks and trekking poles. By the end, though, you’ll get to see sweeping views of Lake Cushman, Lightning Peak, and even Rainier. The trail follows a lollipop loop. On the way up it’s best to go left—the steep way—to give your knees a break on the way down, but the ascent is possible in either direction. The peak is decorated with a very instagrammable sign marking the elevation (4301 feet), and there’s a little rocky spot for a quick picnic.

6. Spider Lake

Spider Lake, Washington 98548

A little ways north of Shelton, Spider Lake sits three hours outside of town, and due to its low elevation, it is great for early spring hiking. There’s very little elevation to tackle on this hike—in fact, you’ll go down about a hundred feet at the beginning of the trail.

This trail gives you lots of options. On a hot day, hike in, find a private spot, and simply spend time by the lake. The trail does not get nearly as much traffic as surrounding lakes do, so it’s a wonderful place to enjoy the quiet of the forest. On a cooler day, hike the loop around the lake, through old

growth forest, across quaint little bridges and past a waterfall. The trail will gain back a few hundred feet, and you’ll get some quick views of the surrounding mountains.