From Aberdeen, head north on Highway 101. At milepost 125.5, turn east onto the Lake Quinault South Shore Road. The ranger station is a couple miles along this road, in the small town of Quinault (Lake Quinault Lodge, general store and cafe, and ranger station). To reach the trailhead, continue out this road. At 12 miles, stay straight (ignoring the bridge and road), and continue a mile to where the road is closed, at Howe Creek.
*This description describes the trail as far as the old Enchanted Valley Ranger Station in the Enchanted Valley. Those seeking a longer hike can continue on to Anderson Pass, and connect with additional trails to create several loop options, or a one way trip to the Duckabush River. Bear cans or hanging food is required (bear cans can be rented at the Quinault Ranger Station), as are backcountry permits which can be purchased at the Quinault Ranger Station.
The entrance road has been closed for several years, which adds 5.5 miles to the beginning of this trail (this has been added to the total trip mileage). The road walk goes fairly quickly, stays pretty level, and because it is gravel, is a little easier on the feet than a paved road would have been. During our trip, we even saw a black bear during this stretch of the trip, and views of the river and up the valley make it a pretty scenic road walk. It would be nice to see the National Park Service transform the road to actual trail in the future, since it really is a beautiful walk. The road nears it's end at the Graves Creek Campground, climbs a small hill, and the trail begins on a high bridge over the clear-green waters of Grave's Creek. All trail distances given throughout this description are taken from this bridge crossing.
From the bridge crossing, the path begins a gradual climb (this section is actually an old road bed as well), reaching a high point at 1300 ft, where a picnic table marks the end of the old roadbed and the climb. From there, the trail begins to descend, steeply in places, back to the Quinault River. A viewpoint opens to reveal the picturesque Quinault River sliding through a lush, narrow gorge. The trail crosses the Quinault on a bridge (Pony Bridge) over the gorge at the three mile mark, and arrives at a nice campsite.
The trail climbs higher above the narrow gorge below before beginning a gradual drop down to cross Fire Creek as it enters the Quinault. Numerous campsites can be found along the trail as the path travels through the forest of Fir, Cedar, and Hemlock, along with open grassy areas with Alder along the river and Maple trees sprinkled amongst the meadows.
A formal camp, O'neal camp is reached after 7 miles, and provides a bear wire and several camping sites. Further up the trail, the path reaches Pyrites Creek Camp (10 miles), which spans the creek. A couple camps and a bear wire are present on both sides of the creek (the nicer camps are on the eastern side of the creek). Directly after the creek crossing the the trail travels through another spectacular maple-filled grassy meadow. Keep an eye out for black bears, which seem to really like these lush, grassy areas.
As views up the valley continue to improve with limited glances at snowy peaks, the trail comes to a narrow bridge above the Quinault (12.5 miles), and crosses to the south shore of the River. Beyond the crossing, the trail enters a wash out, but following the trail is easy from the well worn path through the washout. As the trail enters the Enchanted Valley, it crosses a small stream, which can result in wet shoes early in the season. Scouting around should yield a log or two that can bridge the crossing.
Large, open meadows and spectacular views welcome you to Enchanted Valley. The northern wall of the Canyon features over a dozen ribbons of water that fall into the valley, while Mt. Anderson rises at the head of the valley. A large, two-story ranger station sits in the middle of the valley, which was closed during our visit, except for the portion of the building devoted to being an emergency shelter. Bears are a common site in the valley, so you can expect to see a few during your trip.
Numerous campsites dot the Enchanted Valley, which can occasionally be a little crowded. Hikers seeking longer trips can continue to Anderson Pass, and additional trail options.
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