Queets River Trail, Queets River Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington
Queets River Trail - 23.2 miles
Queets River Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||23.2 miles (roundtrip to Bob Creek)|
|Start-End Elevation:||285' - 589' (622' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+304' net elevation gain (+1,157' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Queets River Trail - 23.2 Miles Round-Trip
The Queets River Trail leads deep into the most remote and primitive rainforest in Olympic National Park.
This minimally maintained and lightly used trail is distinguished from the Hoh and Quinault rainforests by lower elevations, near-level grades, large meadows and extensive travel through lush bottomlands.
While otherwise ecologically similar, the Queets has a uniquely wild feel. The Queets River Trail runs approximately 16 miles, a hike that can be taken in parts:
Fording the Queets River
Hikers must ford the Queets River to access the trail and enter the rainforest. The ford is located right at the trailhead, and is generally only safe when river levels drop below 700 cfs.
This typically occurs on a consistent basis from late August - September. While possible at other levels, 700 cfs is the safety line drawn by the Park (horses can safely cross below 1,000 cfs).
Boating over is another option, though your put-in and take-out points must be carefully scouted.
Sam's River joins the Queets River just above the trailhead. Crossing Sam's River first is ideal, as the Queets is considerably wider and more voluminous just below this confluence.
The trailhead is located on a high bank overlooking the confluence, and provides a clear view of the trail on the far side, which is marked by an orange symbol.
It's important to locate the trail symbol before crossing, as it's difficult to reach with precision on the ford, and tricky to find once over.
To reach the water, walk a few yards up the Sam's River Trail to an unmarked spur that branches left down to the river. It's a fairly narrow cross of Sam's River to a gravel bar between the rivers. Then it's a thigh-chest high ford of the Queets to the north bank where the trail begins.
While the river may be passable on the way in, it may not be on the return. Plan accordingly.
From the River Ford to Spruce Bottom Campsite
Once over, the trail runs flat through luxuriant meadows and bottomlands canopied by fir, hemlock, spruce and big leaf maple. Salmonberry, huckleberry, vine maple, ferns and moss fill a variously thick and open understory.
Browsed salmonberry right along the trail indicates uninterrupted elk activity, which is less common in the heavily trafficked Hoh and Enchanted Valley corridors.
Ill-defined stream crossings from 1 - 1.5 miles funnel into an oft-flooded rock gully. This is the first of many points where you must simply test a few different paths to find the correct one.
Travel moderates to Andrews Field (1.75 miles : 352'), a large open meadow. Take note of your entry and exit points, as ribbon markers are easily hidden by the forest on either side.
The trail can vanish in tall grass, and you must distinguish the intended path from elk tracks. Head straight across and re-enter the forest at 1.9 miles (357').
Clarity improves to an unmarked spur for a 17' diameter fir tree, once a record holder before losing its crown in a wind storm (2.3 miles).
The trail crosses streams at 2.45 and 2.85 miles to several river access points from 3 - 4.0 miles. Proximity to the river opens the forest to big leaf maple, which for stretches is the primary tree.
You'll reach a campsite spur at 4.3 miles (385') that leads to a very long, open bank on the river. This spur continues informally across the river to Tshletshy Creek and Smith Place, an old hunting cabin.
The trail undulates ruggedly on to Spruce Bottom campsite, located right along the trail. The site is ringed by several immense fir just inside a bend in the river (5.35 miles : 420').
Both sites have fire rings, sitting logs and easy river access. The site at 4.3 miles can generally accommodate more people.
Spruce Bottom Campsite to Bob Creek
Travel intensifies past the Spruce Bottom site to a creek crossing and surreal alder-meadow (5.7 miles : 414'). En route you'll crest a hill with terrific views up-valley, and of Spruce Bottom - a large beach on the river.
To reach Spruce Bottom, head a few dozen yards into the meadow and cut through to the bank. This is an ideal turnaround point for day hikers, and place to find dry wood for backpackers.
The trail abruptly exits the alder meadow into an ill-defined spillway by the river (6.0 miles : 415'). There's no guidance here, but you'll reclaim the trail by edging toward the river.
Travel resumes through idyllic bottomlands and rugged, muddy intervals to another unmarked spur leading down to the river (6.7 miles : 492'). This is part of the informal loop that begins at the 4.3 mile campsite and crosses the Queets to reach Smith Place on the south bank.
The trail drops steeply past the spur to the edge of a large meadow (6.8 miles : 455'), and up to a high bank with excellent views over major braids in the river (7.05 miles : 460').
It climbs back into a cluttered forest, including a section of disorienting head-high ferns (7.5 miles : 520'). The trail spills into an anomalously bare area dotted with maple (7.8 miles : 485'). Cairns and branches offer guidance, but are difficult to follow.
At worst, continue through to a stream (8.0 miles), where the trail is easy to find by conducting a north-south sweep. Anticipate many stream crossings beyond this point en route to Bob Creek.
The trail enters a large grassy meadow (8.3 miles) and vanishes once again between ribbon-marked entry points (it's clearer once back in the forest).
The trail moves steadily to creek crossings at 8.55, 9.05, 9.7, 9.95, 10.1, and 10.5 miles.
The 9.05 crossing is located just above a confluence with a larger creek that runs parallel to the trail. The 10.1 mile crossing angles upstream, and is worth scouting if water levels are high.
The 10.5 mile (527') crossing leads into a large, grassy meadow ideal for camping. Predictably the trail vanishes, but reconstitutes on the far side near the river.
Grades pitch up to Bob Creek (11.6 miles : 640'), another large meadow where the valley narrows. Unmaintained travel continues 4.6 miles to Pelton Creek Shelter, one of the most remote outposts in the Park.
- N47 37.472 W124 00.867 — Queets River Trailhead
- N47 37.493 W124 00.747 — 0.0 miles : Queets River Trail - begin trail after ford
- N47 37.760 W124 00.144 — .65 miles : Level travel through forested bottomlands
- N47 37.820 W123 59.817 — 1.0 miles : Cluttered forest ill-defined stream crossing
- N47 37.941 W123 59.370 — 1.5 miles : Rock gully leads to clearer trail
- N47 38.072 W123 59.245 — 1.75 miles : Enter Andrews Field (large meadow)
- N47 38.143 W123 59.036 — 1.9 miles : Exit Andrews Field
- N47 38.224 W123 58.529 — 2.45 miles : Cross Creek
- N47 38.311 W123 58.150 — 2.85 miles : Cross Creek
- N47 38.355 W123 57.649 — 3.5 miles : Bottomlands with river access
- N47 38.450 W123 57.160 — 4.0 miles : Trail enters taller forest
- N47 38.393 W123 56.784 — 4.3 miles : Spur to first campsite
- N47 38.887 W123 56.668 — 5.0 miles : Trail grows rugged and drops
- N47 39.128 W123 56.511 — 5.35 miles : Spruce Bottom campsite
- N47 39.313 W123 56.482 — 5.7 miles : Cross creek just west of Spruce Bottom
- N47 39.432 W123 56.193 — 6.0 miles : Exit alder meadow - enter ill-defined wash
- N47 39.751 W123 56.134 — 6.5 miles : Scenic bottomlands with large maple
- N47 39.872 W123 56.069 — 6.75 miles : Spur to unmaintained trail across river
- N47 39.929 W123 55.888 — 6.9 miles : Drop into large meadow
- N47 40.237 W123 55.409 — 7.5 miles : Rougher trail with head-high fern section
- N47 40.402 W123 55.198 — 7.85 miles : Cairn leads out of ill-defined area
- N47 40.428 W123 55.180 — 8.05 miles : Trail clarifies in forest
- N47 40.595 W123 54.787 — 8.4 miles : Intervals of faint trail
- N47 40.706 W123 54.185 — 9.05 miles : Cross creek
- N47 40.915 W123 53.885 — 9.45 miles : Brief brush with river
- N47 41.046 W123 53.728 — 9.7 miles : Cross creek
- N47 41.163 W123 53.501 — 9.95 miles : Cross creek
- N47 41.145 W123 53.286 — 10.1 miles : Cross creek
- N47 41.254 W123 52.876 — 10.5 miles : Cross creek
- N47 41.256 W123 52.493 — 11.0 miles : Trail continues past meadow to Bob Creek
- While the river provides preeminent guidance, the trail itself frequently loses clarity, especially past Spruce Bottom. Patience and intuition are your best assets. Test different paths, push through vague areas, and sweep north-south; the trail is never really too far, is generally always heading E-NE, and usually reconstitutes shortly past trouble spots like meadows, creek crossings, and deadfall.
- Most large meadows and major creek crossings have ribbons on their entry-exit points. These can be difficult to locate, and may only be visible from one direction. Be mindful of these points and use GPS, notes or pictures to assist navigation.
- The Queets River Valley is home to large and active elk, bear, mountain lion, and river otter populations.
- Custom Correct Maps is a Port Angeles-based map company that produces high quality quad maps for Olympic National Park. These maps are available at the WIC, and local merchants including Brown's Outdoor and Waters West Fly Fishing Outfitters. Custom Correct Maps are highly recommended for backcountry trips in Olympic.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Permits are required for all overnight stays in Olympic National Park. Contact the Wilderness Information Center (360.565.3100) for backcountry camping reservations, permits, and trail conditions. Visit the WIC: 600 East Park Avenue, Port Angeles, WA 98362.
- There's a $5 registration fee per group, plus $2 per person per night (children under 15 excluded). If you don't have access to a WIC, or plan to arrive early or late, call the WIC to arrange your permit ahead of time.
- You may self-register at the Queets Ranger Station or trailhead. The station is staffed intermittently throughout the summer.
- There are no quotas or required reservations for the Queets River Trail. Campsites are not individually assigned, but available to permit holders on a first come, first served basis.
- Camp only in established sites, or on sand-gravel bars. There are only two established sites along the Queets River Trail before reaching Bob Creek, so you may need to improvise if occupied. Terrain is generally accommodating, and dry wood can usually be found along wide, exposed river banks.
- Food Storage: Bear canisters are not required but, are highly recommended.
- Fires: Campfires are permitted up to 3,500'.
- A Washington State Fishing License is not required to fish in Olympic National Park except when fishing in the Pacific Ocean from shore. No license is required to harvest surf smelt.
- A Washington State catch record card is required to fish for salmon or steelhead and they must be accounted for as if caught in state waters. Fishing regulations are specific to site, species, and season. Contact the Park before setting out.
- Recreational fishing in freshwater areas of Olympic National Park is restricted to artificial lures with single, barbless hooks (exceptions may apply).
- The use of seines, traps, drugs, explosives, and nets (except to land a legally hooked fish or dip-net smelt) are prohibited.
Rules and Regulations
- There's a $15 fee to enter Olympic National Park ($30 annual pass).
- Pets are not permitted on trails. Pets are permitted in campgrounds and must be leashed at all times.
Directions to Trailhead
The turnoff for the Queets River Trailhead is located 53 miles south of Forks on Highway 101 - or 108 miles from Port Angeles.
From Port Angeles, drive 55 miles west on Highway 101 to the town of Forks. Continue on Highway 101 through Forks as it bends south. Drive an additional 53 miles south on Highway 101 for the signed turnoff for Highyway 21.
Turn left on Highway 21, following the signs for Queets. The pavement ends after 8.1 miles and turns into a well-maintained dirt road. Turn left at 9.4 miles then turn right at 10.8 miles and follow signs for the Queets River Campground. You'll pass the Ranger Station at 12.9 miles, and bear left into the campground at 13.9 miles. Drive to the end of the campground road to the Sams River Loop Trailhead. Park here.
While the dirt road segment is well maintained and suitable for 2WD vehicles, washouts and mudslides do occur. Call ahead for road conditions.
Olympic National Park
600 East Park Avenue
Port Angeles, WA 98362-6798
Visitor Information: 360.565.3130
Road & Weather Hotline: 360.565.3131
Wilderness Information Center and Backcountry Permit Office (WIC)
Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center
Quinault Wilderness Information Office