Nearly everyone in Washington knows of Sol Duc Hot Springs, but less well known are Olympic Hot Springs, located at the end of Boulder Creek Rd., off Elwha River Road. The springs were once the site of a large resort, but today they are essentially undeveloped. A 2.5-mile trail leads to shallow rock-lined pools, where the water varies from lukewarm to 138°F. The Park Service discourages bathing and prohibits nudity (but that doesn’t stop many folks from bathing au naturel).
Take the Elwha River Trail for two miles to Humes Ranch, built in 1889 by Grant Humes, who made his living leading wilderness expeditions and by hunting and trapping game. Today his cabin is on the National Register of Historic Places.
When a day hike is not enough, a number of hiking trails head into the backcountry from the Elwha area, and a variety of short and long hikes are available, including an across-the-park route that follows the Elwha Trail to Low Divide and then drops down to Quinault Lake on the North Quinault Trail, a distance of 44 miles.
For a north–south 44-mile trek, start at Lake Mills near Elwha on the Elwha River Trail. The trail runs 27.5 miles until it links up at Low Divide with the North Fork Trail, which follows the North Fork Quinault River until you reach the North Fork Ranger Station near Lake Quinault. You’ll be hiking the route of James Halbold Christie, leader of the Seattle Press expedition across the then-unexplored Olympic Peninsula. It took Christie and his party six months and one black bear to complete the route in 1890; it should take you only four days and a packful of gorp.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition