The Sol Duc River Trail (also known as the Soleduck Trail) follows the Sol Duc River in Olympic National Park. The route is another beautiful example of an Olympic rainforest river valley, gradually leading up to the gorgeous subalpine. The Sol Duc Trail terminates at the High Divide above Sol Duc Park. Continuing east, the High Divide Trail connects with the Bailey Range Trail and more technical terrain. To the west, the High Divide Trail leads to the famous Seven Lakes Basin Loop. On good weather days, hikers enjoy outstanding views of Mount Olympus and the Hoh Rainforest. This zone is home of the Roosevelt elk and the black bear, plus many kinds of birds, insects, and delicate seasonal wildflowers.
Take the Coho Ferry from Victoria Inner Harbour to Port Angeles, Washington, USA (90 min sailing). Advance reservations recommended. Cost $175 USD/return for vehicle and 2 passengers. Black Ball Ferry Line. Drive 1 h 11 min (42.6 miles) on Highway 101 and Sol Duc Hot Springs Road. Arrive at the Sol Duc Trailhead in Olympic National Park. Google Map
All overnight stays in the Olympic National Park wilderness require a permit year-round. Backcountry areas with quotas need reservations. Wilderness Camping Permit fees are $8 USD per night per person. Persons 15 years or younger are free. Olympic Annual Wilderness Passes are $45 USD per person. Wilderness Passes cover your fees, but permits plus or minus reservations are still required. We find the best place to get permits is the Port Angeles Wilderness Information Centre (WIC). This location is convenient for us after driving off the Coho Ferry from Victoria. WIC rangers can answer your questions about permits, food storage, weather, trail conditions, or wildlife.
The Sol Duc Campground offers riverside camping in an old-growth rainforest. This camp is 1.4 miles (2.3 km) from the Sol Duc Trailhead and is run by the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. The campground has 82 tent sites (70 paved and 12 walk-in) and 17 RV sites with hookups. Reservations are available for 62 of the resort’s 82 tent sites and for all 17 of the resort’s RV campsites. The usual operating season is between May and October, but actual dates may vary. Flush toilets and running water. Primitive camping (no running water) is available during the off-season. Fee is $21 plus tax if a first-come-first-served site is captured; $24 plus tax if you reserve your site online. First-come-first-served sites can be paid via an envelope system and iron ranger fee collection box.
Sol Duc Trailhead to High Divide – June 30 – July 2, 2018
Distance: 28.8 km (17.9 mi)
Duration: 3 days
Peak: 1552 m (5092 ft)
Gain: 1353 m (4439 ft)
We have a funny tradition in that we find ourselves in the United States every Canada Day. Long weekends are precious, so of course we squeeze hiking into every one we can. After trips on the Grand Pass Trail and the East Fort Quinault River Trail, we returned to another lush rainforest river valley in Olympic National Park. Our ambitious goal was to complete the Seven Lakes Basin Loop as a three-day backpacking trip. During the winter, deep snow covers Sol Duc Park but we hoped it was melting fast. After getting the current conditions from the ranger, we changed our objectives. Deep snow still covered the High Divide. We decided to camp two nights in the meadow at Sol Duc Park and explore the divide as a day trip. Cold, wintery weather gave us the opportunity to practice keeping warm, even in late June!
- Day 1: Sol Duc Trailhead to Sol Duc Park
- Day 2: Sol Duc Park to High Divide
- Day 3: Sol Duc Park to Sol Duc Trailhead
Day 1: Sol Duc Trailhead to Sol Duc Park
Distance: 10.8 km (6.7 mi)
Duration: 4 h 30 min
Peak: 1284 m (4211 ft)
Ascent: 927 m (3042 ft)
Descent: 250 m (820 ft)
We started hiking later than usual because we travelled from Victoria that morning. At 1300 h, we put on our rain suits and walked into the lush forest. The first part of the trail to Sol Duc Falls was busy with day hikers. After the first junction, the route rose through the silent trees. The only animals we heard were the occasional Pacific wren and varied thrush. For flowers, we spotted lots of white Queen’s cup. Water was plentiful from several creeks. The drizzle stopped a few hours into our walk, but the humidity remained high. The mosses, lichens, and liverworts were happy with these misty conditions. As we left the Sol Duc River and turned south up Bridge Creek, we felt like we were inside the clouds. Our bodies warmed up enough on the steeper climb to shed some layers. The open subalpine terrain was welcome after hours in the darker forest. We encountered only a few other hikers on the trail; most were leaving because of the weather. There were reports of a large black bear in the area, but we never saw any sign. We set up camp at Sol Duc Park on one of the penthouse sites above Bridge Creek. Olympic National Park requires the use of bear canisters for food storage in this area. We shared one bear vault BV450 with a 7.2 L capacity. With 2.5 days of food and toiletries, we were at our maximum capacity! There was still snow on the ground in the camping area. New green plants were waking up and poking though the ice. The temperature at camp was always a chilly 7 degrees Celsius so when were weren’t moving, we kept our layers on.
Day 2: Sol Duc Park to High Divide
Distance: 7.2 km (4.5 mi)
Duration: 6 h 13 min
Peak: 1552 m (5093 ft)
Gain: 426 m (1397 ft)
We had a lazy start to our High Divide day hike. The morning dawned cool and foggy. We waited for the sun to break and warm the tent before we got up. Breakfast and prepping for the day was slow. We didn’t start hiking until around 1100 h. Several hikers passed by our tent on their way up, and we followed along. Within minutes of camp, we had to cross Bridge Creek without a bridge! The flow was strong and we used a mix of logs and rocks to make it across. The meadowland we passed through was gorgeous and wild. Flower favourites included: marsh marigolds, avalanche lilies, yellow glacier lilies, and Indian paintbrush. The route to the High Divide is another classic feat of Olympic National Park engineering. Beautiful stone steps and benches for resting made the journey up delightful. After only 45 minutes of hiking, we arrived at Heart Lake. This little Valentine-shaped tarn was the source of Bridge Creek. Snow and thin ice covered about 30% of the surface. A black duck with seven ducklings paddled into view on the cold, blue water. The mom dove for food and the babies copied her movements. We also saw an American dipper swimming for bugs. There were beautiful campsites at Heart Lake, but snow covered most of them that weekend. We hiked on deep snow up to the High Divide Trail and walked the ridge toward Cat Peak. Thick fog and low cloud obscured views of Mount Olympus and the Hoh River Rainforest. We didn’t have enough food to push hard, and the conditions were not ideal. But we still had fun hiking on more difficult terrain and got a visual sense of the Bailey Range. The sun came out in the afternoon, warming our backs for the descent. We cooled off fast after returning to camp for dinner. Time for warm sleeping bags and reading books! Bridge Creek was a nice lullaby once again.
Day 3: Sol Duc Park to Sol Duc Trailhead
Distance: 10.8 km (6.7 mi)
Duration: 4 h 6 min
Peak: 1284 m (4211 ft)
Ascent: 253 m (830 ft)
Descent: 930 m (3051 ft)
We woke up and got organized at a slow but steady pace. It was a double-puffy, double-hood, double-hat kind of day. Once we got moving, our bodies warmed up. We saw our first large mammal of the trip on the way down, a black-tailed deer. High hiker traffic that weekend made the mega fauna disappear. The Sol Duc Trail was in excellent condition and we had gravity on our side. The trip down and out was easy and pleasant. We warmed more as we descended, stopping for quick water and snack breaks as we felt like it. Sun and patches of blue helped us feel energetic. Once in the forest, we again passed several campsites available on the trial. Sol Duc Crossing Camp is right at the high bridge over the Sol Duc River. We took a long break as there was a comfortable log for resting. Rocky Creek Camp was a decent forest site. It was a bit exposed but had excellent water and a beautiful bridge. The junction with Appleton Pass was a good spot to take a break before the final push. Sol Duc River sites #4 through #1 were kind of close to the trail for our liking, but would be helpful if one started late from the trailhead. Almost at the end, we couldn’t resist a quick diversion to see Sol Duc Falls. This natural wonder is one of the most popular sights in Olympic National Park. There were lots of people at the falls again, and along the short section back to the trailhead. We ended our trip where we started, happy and tired. Even though we didn’t complete our original objective of the Seven Lakes Basin Loop, we got outside, got a good workout, put boots on the High Divide Trail, and had lots of fun in the stunning Sol Duc Valley. We did run into a party who had completed the whole loop in one big day! That approach sounded like a nice lightweight way to complete the objective. Something to ponder!