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Queets Campground Loop

Olympic Peninsula

Location

Olympic Peninsula -- Pacific Coast
View map below

Length

2.8 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 50 ft.
Highest Point: 300 ft.

Rating

3.50 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

National Park Pass
 
 

The Queets Campground Loop is a quintessential rainforest experience. At under three miles, it provides visitors with a generous variety of nature. Giant spruce and hemlock rise above great galleries of fern and oxalis. The wind whispers the memories of abandoned homesteads in the grasses of shrinking meadows. Owls hoot and frogs croak the song of an ancient melody. One stands here often and wonders about the history here.

Sometimes mistakenly called the Sams River Trail, this loop is especially beautiful in the morning or early evening. In the morning, steam rises in isolated patches of sunshine while drops of dew decorate nearly everything. In the evening, wildlife is often seen or heard, especially near the river where views are wide. The sight of an elk herd crowns any Olympic adventure.

From the Queets ranger station (likely closed even in the height of summer), find the trailhead and proceed immediately into a grand hallway of spruce, hemlock, and sword fern arranged in a strikingly orderly manner. Follow the trail into a dip which may be muddy most of the year. Cedar and spruce stumps remind one that the Queets, although wildest and most intact of all Olympic rain forests, has lost most of its old growth heritage.

At 0.3 miles the trail suddenly joins the river above a fresh bight in the bank. The view upriver frames Kloochman Rock, beacon of the region. The view also sheds light on just how close the forest was cut to the river. At this point the Queets Corridor is 1.5 miles wide – an area inadequate to pass down the legacy of its forest.

But there is hope. Young spruce are repopulating the fringes lost to the river. An ancient rhythm still plays here. Testimony to the past arrives in the next half mile, where old spruce and hemlock line up on nurse logs, giving the illusion that one is walking through an enormous castle or cavern, each room separated by living colonnades and curtains of moss.

Soon the trail comes out along the road. Follow it upriver, bypassing the campground, to the roads end. Some giant spruce hide among the ancients near the campground. One is 15 feet thick but believed to be only a few hundred years old. The signpost atop the washout marks the old trailhead to the Queets River ford.

Follow the trail to continue the loop, passing two paths leading to the left. The first is the new Queets River Trail. Proceed right among large spruce boles then down a dip to a view up the Sams River valley. At 1.5 miles the second side trail drops left to the gravel bars of the Sams River. This route is the beginning of the abandoned Sams River Trail, known today only by fisherman and black bears.

Now the trail penetrates a luxurious fern gallery. The forest is open and bright. Young spruce stick out anywhere they can. The trail soon enters an alder grove, weaving in between twisting trunks burdened with exaggerated shag carpets of moss. The canopy sparkles in an afternoon breeze and here there is a good chance to see or hear an owl. During spring this area might be too wet to cross.

At 2.3 miles walk into the large field that was once a homestead. Apple trees, some rotten boards, and a rare trinket are all that mark the former homesteads of the Queets. Several paths diverge but follow the field to its far corner and the way will become obvious again. This temporary disappearance, along with all the other trials of a true wilderness, are what sets this valley apart.

After the meadow the trail meanders along an old road grade, passing small ponds that create a mirror effect. Soon the road is seen and the way to the ranger station follows it a short distance. On your way out of the Queets, note the forest types of Olympic National Forest, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and tribal lands.

Contemplate the contiguous forest that once stood between Forks and Aberdeen, the greatest forest ever seen.

 

Queets Campground Loop

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.6164, -124.0321 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Olympic Peninsula -- Pacific Coast

Queets Campground Loop (#)

Olympic National Park

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Olympic Mountain Trail Guide (Robert L. Wood - Mountaineers Books)

Custom Correct Queets Valley

Getting There

This new approach to the Queets uses a number of different roads, but one won't get lost because all of the junctions are marked with signs for the Queets.

From Amanda Park take U.S. 101 North for 10.6 miles, then turn right at the Upper Queets entrance to Olympic National Park. Follow USFS 21, also called West Boundary Road, for 6 miles, bearing left at the Y. Bear left again at 2 more miles, and yet again after another one-third mile.

Follow the main road to the last left turn, and gawk at a clearcut that marks the boundary of the park. Descend a half mile down to the lower river terrace and turn right onto the Queets River Road.

Reach the ranger station after driving two miles through old growth splendor. There is room for several cars (one could also park near the campground, as it is on the loop route).

The ranger station will likely be closed, even in summer, as the Queets is the least priority of the National Park Service. A funky outhouse stands behind the building.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

National Park Pass
 

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Queets Campground Loop

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