Review: Lower South Fork Skokomish River Trail

This marked my first visit to the South Fork Skokomish River area. I had driven by this area several times during my trips to the North Fork Skokomish River Trail (starting at Staircase Ranger Station). However, I hadn’t given it much notice. For starters, there isn’t much identification along Route 101. I think I saw one sign on 101 before reaching the turn-off to West Skokomish Valley Road, which takes you into the Olympic National Forest and to the trailhead. I had no idea you could reach the National Forest from this road, let alone access some great hiking. So research the directions and bring a map – you will need it to reach the trailhead through the maze of National Forest roads. For the most part, you will take NF Road 23.

Overall this was a great hike through a gorgeous river valley and plenty of old growth forests. Beginning at the trailhead for the Lower South Fork Skokomish River Trail – near the Brown Creak and Lebar Horse campgrounds – I hiked approximately 4.3 miles to the site of the former Camp Comfort. You can hike on this trail much farther though, all the way to the Upper South Fork Skokomish Trail and eventually into the Olympic National Park (near the Graves Creek area in the Quinault rainforest valley). But that’s quite a distance away. The half of the Lower South Fork Skokomish Trail that I hiked mostly stayed along the river and crossed over many small creeks. The warning about entering cougar country at the trailhead was a little unnerving, but for all I know these warnings exist at every trailhead on the Olympic Peninsula. If you’re looking to explore some old growth forests, though, and to hike easily through a mostly flat and beautiful river valley, I recommend this trail.

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A view of the river from a spur off the trail.

 

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Review: Little Mashel River Falls

When I was growing up, my family had lots of traditions involving outdoor activities. For instance, every year around Labor Day we would camp for a week at Nickerson State Park on Cape Cod. I remember always having to touch the U.S. Geological Survey marker at the top of every mountain we climbed for it to officially count – at least according to my dad. Also, for as long as I can remember growing up (and even today), my dad never bought a Christmas tree. We always hiked a mile or more into the White Mountain National Forest to procure the “perfect” tree from what I think was a swamp outside of snow season. It was sort of like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – except without the station wagon. Anyways, another tradition I remember clearly was almost always taking a hike on Christmas and Easter days. On Christmas Day, we would commonly hike across the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as they are right next to my grandparent’s house. However, on Easter, we usually went hiking in New Hampshire. Last weekend on Easter, I continued that tradition with my son and wife. We visited Little Mashel River Falls at the Charles Lathrop Pack Forest in Eatonville, Wa. It was a nice family hike (albeit muddy) and a tradition I hope to keep. Check out my review below and see the short video I put together.

Lower Falls

Lower Falls

Middle Falls (Bridal Veil)

Middle Falls (Bridal Veil)

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Review: Lena Lake Trail, Olympic NF

The Lena Lake Trail in the Hamma Hamma River watershed offers a spectacular hike up to a scenic alpine lake and easy access to other trails, including the Upper Lena Lake Trail in the Olympic NP and the path into the Valley of Silent Men in the Brothers Wilderness area. I hiked to Lena Lake (the lower one) with my son in early April. The hike up wasn’t too difficult, though it included lots of switchbacks in the first mile. At the end of this approx. 2.5-mile-long trail (5 miles out and back), I was greeted with amazing views of Lena Lake and the surrounding peaks. Many campsites line the western and northern sides of Lena Lake. I expect that this is a popular hike, especially during the summer season.

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Lena Lake viewpoint.

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Review: Hugo Peak Trail, Pack Forest

Back in early March my family and I hiked up Hugo Peak at the Charles Lathrop Pack Experimental and Demonstration Forest in Eatonville, Wa. The hike was easy (about 5 miles round trip) and the trail climbed gradually up through some clear cuts and older growth forests. All in all, it was a nice outing, though there wasn’t much in the way of a view except for about halfway when the trail traverses a clear cut and you can see northwards fairly well. The plusses: you don’t need to pay to access Pack Forest. The minuses: the facilities at the trailhead of the Hugo Peak Trail are in rough shape. The bathroom was out of order (because of vandalism) the last few times I visited.

A rare view taken from Hugo Peak Trail on the way up.

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Review: Flapjack Lakes Trail, Olympic NP

Alright, time for an overdue review! A few weeks ago I took an amazing hike up to Flapjack Lakes in Olympic National Park. This was my first major hike in Olympic NP and I got to the trailhead really late in the day (1 p.m.). That said, I was blessed with some great weather the entire hike and made it out just as the sun was setting. All told, the hike was 15 miles out and back, plus I think I hiked around the lakes for at least a mile. The scenery at the top was amazing with the Sawtooth Mountains rising up behind these alpine lakes and creating a gigantic natural amphitheater.

Western Flapjack Lake with Sawtooths.

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