Wilderness PortalInspired by stories of the untamed Olympic Mountains, the Seattle Press sponsored an expedition to explore the wild core of the Olympic Peninsula. Area tribes routinely used the area for hunting, gathering and travel. In fact, Klallam elders recall how a grandmother took her children across the mountains to visit relatives near Quinault. But to Euro-Americans the interior was a mystery. The Press Expedition left Port Angeles in December 1889. After many mishaps and nearly starving, they emerged at Lake Quinault six months later. Today, people complete the hike in four or five days. The Quinault Valley is a wilderness gateway to alpine meadows, jeweled lakes and ice-carved peaks. For shorter visits, the valley has a scenic loop drive and short trails through temperate rain forest in both Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest.
Quinault Area InformationNOTE: Roads in the Quinault Valley are often damaged by winter storms. Call 360-565-3131 for current conditions.
Facilities: Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station: accessible restrooms, picnic tables, self-guided nature trails. Open part-time in summer as staffing allows, with information, exhibits, book and map sales. Olympic National Forest and Park Information Station: open daily in summer, weekdays only the rest of the year. Information, wilderness permits and bear canisters. July Creek Picnic Area: tables and accessible vault toilet.
Camping: North Fork Campground: 9 sites, pit toilet nearby, picnic tables, fire rings, no water. Graves Creek Campground: 30 sites, picnic tables, fire rings, restrooms (summer only), no potable water; the rest of the year it has an accessible vault toilet. North Shore Road is narrow and not suitable for trailers or large RVs. There are also three Olympic National Forest campgrounds on the south side of the lake.
Regulations: Required wilderness permits for all overnight backpacking are available at the Olympic National Forest and Park Information Station on the south shore of Lake Quinault, or in Port Angeles.
Trails at QuinaultThe first two trails have hard-packed surfaces and are accessible with assistance (they do not fully meet ADA standards but some users may be able to travel them).
Maple Glade: Flat 0.5 mile loop through a mossy bigleaf maple grove. Begins across the bridge from the Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station.
Kestner Homestead: Learn about homestead life on this flat, self-guided 1.3-mile loop from the Quinault Rain Forest Ranger Station.
Cascading Terraces: Flat 0.5-mile trail through forest at Graves Creek. NOTE: 2016 flooding swept away the riverside part of this former loop.
Irely Lake: Trail climbs about 100 feet in 1.1 miles to shallow Irely Lake. It begins .25 mile before the North Fork Campground.
Trails from the North Fork and Graves Creeks trailheads offer longer hikes. There are also short loop trails and longer more strenuous trails on the south side of Lake Quinault in Olympic National Forest.
Rain Forest ElkIn the rainforest valleys of Olympic National Park, you may glimpse the largest land mammal in the park––Roosevelt elk. Darker and larger than Rocky Mountain elk, a bull can weigh 1,000 pounds. Only males grow antlers, shedding them each spring before growing new ones in summer.
Throughout the year, look for groups of cows, calves and young bulls grazing in old homestead fields. During the fall rut, bulls try to gather harems of up to 30 cows with which to breed. High, squealing bugles echo through the valley as bulls challenge one another for dominance.
Elk browse understory vegetation, creating the open, park-like character of the forest. The broad west side valley bottoms are ideal habitat, and elk populations here are larger and less migratory than those on the east side.
These elk have survived many changes. By the end of the 19th century, elk had nearly disappeared from this last frontier. President Theodore Roosevelt, after whom they are named, established Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909 to protect elk from overhunting. By the time the park was established in 1938, elk populations had rebounded.
Today about 3-4,000 elk are protected in Olympic National Park. Elk outside the park or on the boundary face hunting and altered habitats. Inside the park, elk are able to move unhindered through the landscape, shaping vegetation and being shaped by it like it has been for millennia. With protection and vigilance from us all, elk should continue shaping their forest homes and thrilling visitors far into the future.
Last updated: March 19, 2018