This route begins at Whiskey Bend immediately south of Lake Mills in the north central portion of the park. The trail winds through the Elwha River valley, following the Press Expedition track, 28 miles to its head. It provides a connection to Hayden Pass and North Fork Quinault River.
This trail begins at an elevation of 1,198 feet at the end of Whiskey Bend Road. Walk southward along the Elwha River Trail as it ascends slowly to a terrace above Rica Canyon. Nearly one mile from the trailhead is a spur trail leading to the right to Elk Overlook. This short path provides access to a view across the Elwha Valley to a former ranch site. Wildlife can often be seen from this observation point.
Continuing southward along the trail another spur trail leads to the right in less than one half mile. This trail leads down to the riverside and through Geyser Valley, which the Elwha River Trail avoids. A short distance southward on the trail is the end of the Geyser Valley semicircle. The main trail leads through a burn area between these two spur trails. Less than a half mile beyond the Geyser Valley Trail, the Long Ridge Trail splits from the main path.
Continue to the right at this junction the trail ascends northward above the river. Approximately one mile from the Long Ridge Trail junction the trail crosses Idaho Creek. The track continues to climb beyond Idaho Creek to a junction with the Lillian River Trail, which lies four miles from the trailhead. The Lillian River Trail ascends steeply up the northern bank of the Lillian River approximately two and a half miles before it dissipates.
Follow the left side of the split which descends steeply bringing you to a series of campsites and the Lillian River crossing. After making the crossing the trail descends westward along the Lillian River then turns sharply southward. The trail contours the Grand Canyon of the Elwha River for two miles to Windfall Creek. After crossing Windfall Creek the route descends steadily, reaching the river bank and Prescott Creek within a mile.
Marys Falls Camp lies along the river near Prescott Creek. The falls lie across the river along a small stream. Stock will have difficulty beyond this point due to a large blow down. Walking southward along the trail you'll find several campsites in the area. The terrain is level and the track follows the drainage bottom for several miles.
Three miles beyond Prescott Creek is the Elkhorn Camp and Ranger Station. This ranger station is manned during the summer months. It lies in a large meadow with a shelter and designated tent sites. One mile beyond Elkhorn the trail crosses Lost River, one of the largest tributaries to the Elwha. Continuing southward one half mile the trail reaches a ford. At this point a trail from Dodger Point joins the Elwha River Trail from the western bank. This junction lies at an elevation of 1,410 feet, approximately 13 miles from the trailhead.
The Elwha River Trail continues southward from this junction entering Press Valley named for the first expedition through this area. At the southern end of Press Valley is Tipperary Camp. A short distance beyond that is Hayes River Camp and Ranger Station. This camp lies at the mouth of the Hayes River. A trail leading eastward from this confluence leads to Hayden Pass.
The Elwha River Trail turns eastward at the mouth of the Hayes River and follows the river a quarter mile to a bridge across the Hayes. The trail leads southward along the drainage between Mount Dana, to the west, and Mt. Norton, to the east. It continues to ascend slowly crossing small streams that drain from the western aspect of Mt. Norton. The trail reaches Camp Wilder four miles from the Hayes River Ranger Station.
The river begins a slow turn westward to its headwaters from Camp Wilder. Mt. Wilder lies to the left south of Mt. Dana. From Camp Wilder the trail crosses Leitha Creek, Godkin Creek and Buckingham Creek before reaching a ford of the Elwha River. Upon the western shore of the river the trail crosses Slate Creek, descending from Mt. Wilder, then leads two and a half miles to Chicago Camp.
Beyond this camp the trail forks. The right side of the fork leads into Elwha Basin. This trail is not used often and may take some negotiating with topo map and compass. There is also a potentially dangerous crossing of the Elwha along this route. Two camps lie in the Elwha Basin: Happy Hollow and Elwha Basin. The latter is often used by climbers ascending the glaciers that lie at the head of the valley.
The trail leading to the left from the Chicago Camp junction leads to Low Divide. The trail crosses the Elwha at a turbulent spot then begins to switchback to the head of the valley. The route parallels a small stream for a short distance before reaching the divide between the Elwha and Quinault River basins. The summit of this divide lies at 4,430 feet. On the divide are two alpine lakes: Lake Mary and Lake Margaret. Beyond these lakes the trail reaches Low Divide Ranger Station and the North Fork Quinault Trail.
Directions: From Port Angeles, Follow Highway 101 westward approximately 8 miles to Elwha River Road, a.k.a. Olympic Hot Springs Road. Turn left and follow the river road southward into Olympic National Park. Three miles from Highway 101 you'll reach the Elwha Campground, continue past this facility to the Elwha Ranger Station. (Here you can obtain trail conditions and camping permits.) Beyond the ranger station the Whiskey Bend Road veers left at a fork. Follow this road 4.5 miles to its end and the trailhead for Elwha River Trail and several other routes.
Elevation: 1,198 feet
Ending Elevation: 3,545 feet
Usage: Heavy in Summer
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