Upper Gray Wolf River Trail, Slab Camp Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington
Upper Gray Wolf River Trail - 21.0 miles
Slab Camp Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||21.0 miles (10.5 each way to Camp Ellis from Slab Camp TH)|
|Start-End Elevation:||2,550' - 2,950' (2,950' max elevation at Camp Ellis)|
|Elevation Change:||+400' net elevation change (+5,950' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Upper Gray Wolf River Trail - 21.0 Miles Round-Trip
The Upper Gray Wolf River Valley is a remote and lightly traveled corridor in the northeast corner of Olympic National Park. The Gray Wolf River is fed in part by glacial remnants on the west flank of The Needles and Gray Wolf Ridge. The water's striking blue-green hue comes from minerals in glacial till brought down from the mountains.
There are several ways to reach upper sections of the Gray Wolf, with easy year-round access from Slab Camp Trailhead just south of Sequim. Note that travel between Gray Wolf Camp and Camp Ellis may be difficult (if not impassable) due to extreme blowdown. Contact the Park for current trail conditions:
From Slab Camp Trailhead, the Slab Camp Trail quickly splits with the Deer Park Trail and undulates S-SE to its first major descent. Views of Deer Ridge and Gray Wolf Ridge emerge before the trail is completely cloaked by the canopy.
The Slab Camp Trail drops 1000' from the trailhead to the route's lowest point at Camp Tony (2.6 miles : 1.450'). A bridge leads over the Gray Wolf River to the Gray Wolf River Trail (2.9 miles 1,550'). The Gray Wolf River Trail turns SW up the east side of Gray Wolf River on a 1000' climb through fir, cedar and a diverse understory
Little changes for the next two miles until crossing a seemingly out-of-place scree field (5.0 miles : 2,330') leading to Slide Camp (5.5 miles : 2,310') and descending into the Slide Creek drainage. This area experienced a major wildfire in 1952, and now supports young stands of Douglas fir.
The trail crosses Slide Creek and exits the Buckhorn Wilderness into Olympic National Park (5.7 miles : 2,000'), where it begins a steady climb under notably tall fir and cedar.
The trail crosses a small footbridge (7.0 miles : 2,360') before cresting and dropping quickly to Gray Wolf - Three Forks Camp (7.6 miles : 2,050'). A backcountry registration board marks the split to Gray Wolf Camp, highlighted by the confluence of Cameron Creek and the Gray Wolf River (a short walk to Gray Wolf Camp offers a good look at this river feature).
Turn left at the backcountry registration board to stay on the Gray Wolf Trail, and within a mile you'll hop back over to the west bank of the Gray Wolf on a major bridge (8.7 miles : 2,465').
It closely follows the river while negotiating many downed trees and scattered debris (9.5 miles 2,750'). The debris fields can be challenging (especially with large packs), but those willing to push through are rewarded with a rare degree of solitude.
The trail gradually levels out along the river to Camp Ellis (10.5 miles : 2,950'). Camp Ellis is an established 'primitive' backcountry site with two distinct riverside camping areas. The trail continues past Camp Ellis with access to Cedar Lake (5,325'), and on to Gray Wolf Pass (6,485').
- N47 57.906 W123 11.613 — 0.0 miles: Slab Camp Trailhead - 2,550'
- N47 57.415 W123 11.569 — 1.0 miles: Trail begins descent through Rhododendron
- N47 56.734 W123 10.930 — 2.0 miles: Half way through 1000' descent to Camp Tony
- N47 56.441 W123 10.577 — 2.6 miles: Camp Tony - cross Gray Wolf River - 1,450'
- N47 56.324 W123 10.669 — 2.9 miles: Turn right (southwest) onto the Gray Wolf River Trail
- N47 56.094 W123 11.365 — 4.0 miles: In full ascent - 2,060'
- N47 55.618 W123 12.141 — 5.0 miles: Cross scree field
- N47 55.546 W123 12.141 — 5.5 miles: Slide Camp - 2,310'
- N47 55.613 W123 12.609 — 5.7 miles: Enter Olympic National Park - 2,000'
- N47 55.382 W123 13.354 — 6.5 miles: Start 2nd major climb
- N47 55.069 W123 13.812 — 7.0 miles: Cross footbridge - nearing crest of 2nd ascent
- N47 54.911 W123 14.535 — 7.6 miles: Gray Wolf Camp - Three Forks Camp - 2,050'
- N47 54.188 W123 14.543 — 8.7 miles: Major river crossing - now on west side of river
- N47 53.587 W123 14.602 — 9.5 miles: Ascending old growth forest towards Camp Ellis
- N47 52.895 W123 14.962 — 10.5 miles: Camp Ellis - 2,950'
- River Otter, Beaver and Fishers are known to inhabit the Upper Gray Wolf River Valley. High degrees of deadfall and nfall and perrenial river debris.
- Cedar Lake is accessible past Camp Ellis on an unmaintained trail. Trail conditions vary greatly and stock is prohibited on the Cedar Lake spur.
- Prominent peaks in the Buckhorn Wilderness include Mt. Fricaba (7,134'), Buckhorn Mountain (6,988'), Iron Mountain (6,950') and Tyler Peak (6,350').
- The Gray Wolf, Dungeness and Big Quilcene Rivers are the major waterways flowing through the Buckhorn Wilderness. The Gray Wolf River joins the Dungeness River before reaching the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Permits are required if camping inside the Olympic National Park boundary. Contact the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles for permit info and current regulations / trail conditions.
Permits are not required if camping in the Buckhorn Wilderness. Abide by Leave No Trace principles.
Fishing is permitted along the Gray Wolf River. Catch cards are required in both the NPS and Olympic National Forest (Buckhorn WIlderness). Specific seasonal and species regulations may also apply, and change at any time. Contact the ONF or ONP before setting out to confirm current guidelines.
- Olympic National Forest abides by all Washington State Fishing Regulations. Fishing license required.
- 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
- No pass is required to park during the day or overnight at Slab Camp Trailhead.
- Pets are not permitted within the Olympic National Park boundary.
- Permits are required for camping in Olympic National Park - but not within the Buckhorn Wilderness
- Groups of 12 or more are prohibited.
- No motorized vehicles or bikes of any kind are allowed.
- No caching of personal gear for more than 24 hours.
- Fires are not permitted above 3,500'.
- Livestock can not be tethered to a tree or other foliage for more than 30 minutes.
Directions to Trailhead
From Port Angeles: drive east towards Sequim on Highway 101 and turn right onto Taylor Cutoff Road. Take Taylor Cutoff Road for 2.5 miles and it will bend right and turn into Lost Mountain Road.
Take Lost Mountain Road for 2.5 miles to Slab Camp Road and turn left on to Slab Camp Road. Drive 0.9 miles on Slab Camp Road and turn right onto Forest Service Road 2875 (unmarked intersection) then drive 3.5 miles to the well marked Slab Camp Trailhead.
Note: Slab Camp Road is a semi-paved gravel road which has many deep water-filled potholes. Please drive carefully and watch for these hazards.
From Hood Canal Bridge / Sequim - drive north / west towards Sequim on Highway 101 and shortly after leaving Sequim, turn left onto Taylor Cutoff Road. Take Taylor Cutoff Road for 2.5 miles and it will bend right and turn into Lost Mountain Road. Take Lost Mountain Road for 2.5 miles to Slab Camp Road and turn left on to Slab Camp Road. Drive 0.9 miles on Slab Camp Road and turn right onto Forest Service Road 2875 (unmarked intersection) then drive 3.5 miles to the well marked Slab Camp Trailhead.
The Upper Gray Wolf Trail runs through the Buckhorn Wilderness and Olympic National Park. Specific rules apply to recreation and camping under the respective agencies.
Hood Canal Ranger District | Quilcene
295142 Highway 101 S.
PO Box 280
Quilcene, WA 98376
Olympic National Park
600 East Park Avenue
Port Angeles, WA 98362-6798
Wilderness Information Center and Backcountry Permit Office (WIC)
Visitor Information: 360.565.3130
Road & Weather Hotline: 360.565.3131