Multi-Day Backpacking: Olympics

With feeling a bit more confident in my backpacking skills, I’m planning to tackle my first multi-night backpacking trip this year! There’s ton’s of options here, some available even now!

“The Olympics” are a vast area. They include mountains, the coast, rain forests, and tons of rivers. Nearly all of which have multi-night backpacking options! Some of these will be on national park land, others national forest land, so make sure to double-check before bringing a pooch and have a permit and bear can where needed. I highly advise making use of Olympic National Park’s Wilderness Trip Planner Map.


A typical day on the rugged Olympic Coast.

The Olympic Coast has a few options where hikers can enter to backpack. The furthest-north, Shi Shi Beach, just re-opened. Being on Makah Land, they have their own regulations and permits for entering and day hiking, in addition to those on park land further south. There are a few campsites and 1-spot-only sites, until you reach the Ozette area.

From here, there is 20 miles of coast and headlands to hike and scramble over, until you reach Rialto Beach. Alternatively, just south of Rialto at La Push, you can also do a multi-night journey on the South Coast Trail to Oil City. While the two trails don’t quite connect, ambitious hikers can do both with some hitching or road walking. Again, have a permit for where you are camping, and be respectful of tribal lands.

Rain Forest

This tree was well over 6 feet in diameter.

There are four rain forests in Washington: Hoh, Bogachiel, Quinalt, and Queets. All four offer multi-night backpacking options for those okay getting a little wet–and maybe seeing some wildlife. I don’t just mean rain, but potential river fords, too! Queets is the most remote of the four, which some might enjoy but I found terrifying. Multi-day routes here definitely call for skilled route-finding and navigation. Hoh is probably the most popular of the four, especially the full route to Glacier Meadows. The Bogachiel trail is actually the Pacific Northwest Trail, which continues to the coast (with hitching and road walking).



Your first peek at the Dosewallips River.

Okay, technically, a lot of the rain forest trails are also along rivers. But here, I’m mostly talking about those on the Eastern side of the Olympics. These trails are accessible by early spring, and if ferries are timed right, some can be reached in just 2 hours from Edmonds or Tacoma. Trails here amble along the Skokomish, Duckabush, Dosewallips, Quilcene, Gray Wolf (the one I linked is for the short trail of the “lower” Gray Wolf, the Upper Gray Wolf is the multi-day option), and Dungeness rivers. Many of these are partially on forest land as well, which has the gamble of first-come, first-served tent sites. The Enchanted Valley here, partially along the Quinalt River, is a very popular multi-night route in the Olympics, but I like the (increased) solitude of Dosewallips.


Lastly are the mountains of the Olympics. These trails are limited in times one can hike them due to snow, and are also very popular, so I actually haven’t visited any yet! The Seven Lakes Basin are some of the hardest permits to get in Washington. Maybe one day I’ll hit these, but there are so many places, so little time in this area!

When in doubt, one can easily play around with the Wilderness Trip Planner Map to create the multi-night hike of their dreams in the Olympics. They also this handy chart that can help you in planning securing permits and food storage, too! Rangers are also a wonderful resource. Have you done any multi-night trips in the Olympics?

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