Primitive WildernessWith few visitors and over 11 miles of winding road to reach the Upper Queets, this glacially-carved rain forest valley is perfect for solitude. Look for elk under moss-draped bigleaf maples and towering Sitka spruce, watch salmon spawn in a side channel, or examine the old barns, scattered fruit trees and old pastures left as evidence of early homestead families who attempted to carve a new life from this remote valley.
The orignal Queets road was severed by a landslide in 2005. By working with Olympic National Forest and the Washington Department of Natural Resources, the park opened a new route to the upper valley using neighboring forestry roads. Watch for active logging traffic on these narrow routes, which are not suitable for trailers or large RVs.
Queets Area InformationFacilities: The Queets Ranger Station is not staffed. Note: winter storms can blow down trees and damage the campground, trails and boat launches.
Boat Launches: Launch from Hartzell Creek, Streator Crossing, or the Queets Campground.
Camping: About 20 sites are open year round with pit toilets, no potable water and no hookups; trailers are not advised.
Regulations: Pets must be leashed and are not allowed on trails. Backpackers need bear canisters and wilderness camping permits; see www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/wic.htm for more information.
Trails at the QueetsSam's River Loop: A flat 2.8-mile loop through temperate rain forest, this trail begins at the end of the Upper Queets Road. Winter storms often damage this trail; be prepared for rough conditions.
Queets River Trail: A lengthy 16.2-mile trail, with elevation fluctuating between 240 and 800 feet. The trailhead starts at the end of the Upper Queets Road. Hikers must ford the Queets River (see below).
What was once one of the park's biggest Douglas-fir trees stands about 2.4 miles up the valley. Just before Coal Creek, search beneath downed trees for a trail on the left that leads 0.2-mile through rain forest to the humbling giant. Though parts have died, its 14-foot diameter is still impressive.
Wild Salmon, Return and RenewalFive species of Pacific salmon, including steelhead, spawn in the Queets River. Salmon are a gift from the sea, distributing nutrients among the forests, wildlife and people who live along the rivers. Area tribes continue to depend on these great fish for their livelihoods. Their ancestors watched closely for the return of salmon. A First Salmon Ceremony honored and gave thanks to these fish—supernatural beings who lived beneath the sea. The first salmon caught in spring was prepared in a prescribed manner, and shared with each member of the village. If shown proper respect and gratitude when they visited, the salmon would return in great numbers. They would continue to bring the gift of their flesh to the villagers, thus ensuring the people’s survival. Tribal members continue to honor the return of the salmon.
Researchers discovered that salmon also provide important nutrients to a river valley's wildlife and forests. Most Pacific salmon die after spawning. Historic runs with hundreds of thousands of fish returning to area rivers provided a wealth of spawned out carcasses throughout the year. Biologists found that dozens of species of birds and mammals feed on salmon carcasses—everything from tiny winter wrens to raccoons, otters, eagles and bears benefit. Research also revealed that carcasses provide essential nutrients to streamside forests and fuel the growth of future generations of fish hatching from their gravel nests.
Today, most of the Queets River watershed is protected. Though not what they once were, its salmon runs are relatively healthy. Olympic is the only national park outside of Alaska that supports so many diverse runs of wild anadromous salmon. The park serves as an essential salmon sanctuary.
Last updated: November 10, 2021