This weekend Rob (my husband), one of our good friends Kirsten, and I hit the trail for our first backpack trip of the summer for Rob's birthday. Also, the first backpack trip post-birth and YES, I was pumping on the trail. There are battery operated pumps for a reason, right?! All those stair master cardio days while pregnant really paid off for this one! I'm not kidding... it felt like the ultimate best way to train for backpacking, I felt great going up, actually I felt FIERCE and proud as I was getting ready to summit and still feeling GOOD... given how far I have come since my birth injury (unable to walk or hold my baby while standing). When I am having a rough day or feel down by the fact that I can't jump as high, run as fast, or I don't have as much power, these are the milestones I need to look back on.
Now on to the details!
We left Seattle at 6AM on Saturday morning and got to the trail around 9:30AM after stopping to go to the bathroom and grabbing some coffee. It's about a 3 hour drive and you don't need to take the ferry for this one since it's in the SouthWest region of the Peninsula. When we got to the trailhead there was only 1 other car. There are a few other trails that intersect so during the 2 day, 1 night trip we saw approximately 4 other parties hiking, none of which were backpacking/camping. It took about 7 hours for us to get to the summit, this included a long stop for lunch and a shorter stop for snacks and to rest our legs.
We hiked to the summit where we had views, but it wasn't completely clear. We camped at the top which was mostly fogged out by the evening, but waking up to a stunning sunrise where the clouds were simply melting away was kind of a dream. Yes, a literal dream.
Location:The Olympic Peninsula in Quinault, WA (very close to Quinault Lake which is a beaut)
Distance: 14 miles (closer to 14.5-15 if you go the summit)
Elevation Gain: 4,292 ft.
Highest Point: 4,492 ft.
The VIEWS: Panoramic views at the Summit! On a clear day you have 360-degree views down to Lake Quinault, Mount Olympus, and even Mount Rainier! We did this hike the first year we moved to Seattle as a day hike and when we got to the top it was completely fogged out, so it was our goal to come back one day and backpack with our pup, since this is one of the only trails in the Olympics you can actually bring your four legged friends (disclaimer: through recent research it seems that dogs are only allowed on Pete's Creek Trail, which starts on the southwest side of the park)
Difficulty: Moderate to hard... on the harder side if you are backpacking and plan to go to the summit. Also, it's overgrown and can be wet, so this makes it a little more difficult. It's a booty burner, you are going up almost the entire time, especially the last mile to the summit. If you are doing a day hike, I would recommend doing Pete's Creek Trail, as this is a shorter version to the same peak. Check out WTA's full write up, here.
Camping Spots (no permits needed from my research):
1. The Mulkey Trail Shelter is reached at 4.0 miles. It has built in bunks, if you want to be adventurous and sleep here without a tent (picture of this below in the slideshow)
2. Moonshine Flats would be a perfect place to camp, as it is just before the summit and is one of the main water sources. Mosquito repellent is needed if you camp here and really just needed in general.
3. At the summit, this was my husband's idea... to wake up to the beautiful sunset at the peak. It may have been a little chillier but it was so worth the views (literally, it took our breath away in so many ways) and if you are able, give it a try. The next best option would be to camp at Moonshine Flats and hike to the summit for sunrise in the morning, but if you know my husband he isn't getting up that early to then hike more.
-This trail is overgrown, because it's not used often... this simultaneously makes you feel like you have it all to yourself and also a bit of a struggle at times. This also adds to the difficulty of the trail, my feet got wrapped up in some vines and I hit my knee on the way down. Luckily, no major injury just a scrape and soreness.
-There is a meadow of wild flowers that will blow your freaking mind! Stop and take pictures or have lunch here!
-Be sure to pack enough water or fill up at Moonshine flats, as this is the last water source and as mentioned the last mile is steep and also more technical.
-SLUGS and WILD MUSHROOMS!
-So many beautiful wild flowers and berries along the trail.
-If you hike early, it will be wet. If it's sunny, the trail starts to dry up right around when we started both days 9:30/10AM.
-Grab a beer and bite to eat at Quinault Lodge after your hike, you will thank me later. Go down to the beach and sip a glass of wine, or heck stay at the Lodge a night if you can!
-There are surrounding campgrounds and showers you could also stay the night on Friday, before you hit the trail. I just didn't want to be away from Kaila that long, but this would allow you to take your time and/or make it a day hike.
Camping at the summit was pretty amazing, I have no other words for it. Of course there were some stories to tell... Arya popped Rob's sleeping pad (moleskin to the rescue) and we spent most of the evening in our tent since it was so cold at the top, but luckily Kirsten brought some arts and crafts per usual and we did water color painting in the tent. Something (usually multiple things with us) go wrong, but that's what the adventure is all about. Backpacking has so many life parallels for me. A few from this trip... If you have to, you will figure it out. The work is always worth it. And the reward comes shortly after you want to give up.
Let me know if you try this hike or comment below with any questions!