Lillian River Trail, Elwha Valley - Whiskey Bend Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington

Lillian River Trail - 13.1 miles

Elwha Valley - Whiskey Bend Trailhead

Old growth forests along the Lillian River

Old growth forests along the Lillian River

Round-Trip Length: 13.1 miles (distance will vary by route)
Start-End Elevation: 1,273' - 1,910' (2,175' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +637' net elevation gain (+2,315' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Lillian River Trail - 13.1 Miles Round-Trip

The Lillian River Trail splits off the Elwha River Trail on a challenging 6.55 mile hike to an isolated tract of old growth along the Lillian River. The route follows the main Elwha River Trail 4.15 miles to the Lillian River Trail, which runs 2.4 miles on steep up-down grades and across several creeks to a campsite deep in the backcountry. 

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Lillian River Trail is unmaintained, overgrown by salal for long stretches and difficult to follow. Only experienced hikers should attempt this trail.

Visitors will likely have this area all to themselves, and enjoy an exceptional piece of intact old growth that contrasts sharply with younger forests along the first several miles of the Elwha River Trail:

The Elwha River Trail heads south from Whiskey Bend on mild grades to the Rica Canyon Trail split (1.2 miles : 1,247'). It dips past the Krause Bottom Trail (1.6 miles : 1,127') to Michaels' Cabin at the Humes Meadow Trail split (1.9 miles : 1,118').

The trail climbs steadily past the cabin in a young forest that burned near the turn of the century. Pockets of large trees remain, but the forest is now mostly comprised of small trees growing in high densities.

A few creek corridors lined with cedar and hemlock were spared, highlighting an otherwise mundane stretch to the Lillian River Trail split (4.15 miles : 1,665').

The Lillian River Trail splits NE and climbs steeply through overgrown salal. The path is generally readable but narrow and frequently obfuscated. It rises quickly up thinly treed slopes dotted with madrone, which favor these drier slopes. Gaps in the forest offer a good look at the Lillian - Elwha valley confluence.

Travel moderates and undulates through 5.2 miles (2,100') before making a long, steady drop to a small creek (5.5 miles). The trail quickly rises back and drops to a more substantial creek with small cascades (5.75 miles : 2,033').

Though grades level now level off, navigation is considerably more difficult past this point. Salal envelops the route and makes it very hard to read. Pay close attention, especially when circumventing down trees (the trail is hard to regain once off). Look for tree cuts and occasional tree markings for guidance.

The trail crosses another creek into a notably lush and older forest near the river (6.3 miles : 1,965'), in sharp contrast to higher-drier parcels only a short distance back.

This archetypal old growth has a mature canopy structure with a decidedly undisturbed feel. Well-spaced trees and a thick moss floor enable exploration.

Travel clarifies on the final approach to a surprisingly well-developed campsite along Lillian River (6.55 miles : 1,910'). The trail continues along the river, but eventually fades in heavy clutter and a narrowing canyon.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N47 58.069 W123 34.945 — 0.0 miles : Whiskey Bend Trailhead
  • N47 57.395 W123 34.051 — 1.2 miles : Rica Canyon Trail split
  • N47 57.276 W123 33.615 — 1.6 miles : Krause Bottom Trail split
  • N47 57.204 W123 33.240 — 1.9 miles : Humes Ranch Trail split
  • N47 57.159 W123 32.457 — 2.5 miles : Steady climb up east valley wall
  • N47 57.052 W123 32.023 — 3.0 miles : Crest before drop to creek crossing
  • N47 56.925 W123 31.707 — 3.4 miles : Cross small creek
  • N47 56.430 W123 31.199 — 4.15 miles : Lillian River Trail split
  • N47 56.584 W123 30.541 — 4.7 miles : Steady climb across steep dry slope
  • N47 56.793 W123 29.970 — 5.2 miles : Undulating travel across valley wall
  • N47 56.821 W123 29.404 — 5.75 miles : Cross creek
  • N47 56.821 W123 28.947 — 6.25 miles : Cross creek
  • N47 56.718 W123 28.805 — 6.4 miles : Campsite along river

Worth Noting

  • This trail is not suitable for horses.
  • Only experienced hikers with good navigation skills should attempt extended the Lillian River Trail.

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 an $8 per person - per night fee to backcountry camp in Olympic National Park (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 Elwha Ranger Station, located just before the turnoff to Whiskey Bend Road. Permits are not available at the trailhead. The station is staffed intermittently throughout the summer.
  • There are no quotas or required reservations for Elwha Valley. Campsites are not individually assigned, but available to permit holders on a first come, first served basis.
  • Camp only in established sites, which are clearly marked along the trail and on most maps.
  • Food Storage: Bear canisters are not required but are recommended. Established sites have bear wires.
  • Fires: Campfires are permitted up to 3,500'.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is not permitted on the Elwha River or any of its tributaries, including Lillian River.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $25 fee to enter Olympic National Park ($50 annual pass).

  • Pets are not permitted on trails. Pets are permitted in campgrounds and must be leashed at all times.

Directions to Trailhead

Whiskey Bend Trailhead is located within Elwha Valley, 8.4 miles from US 101 in Olympic National Park. From Port Angeles, drive 7.3 miles west on US 101 to Elwha Valley - Olympic Hot Springs Road (south side of highway). Turn left and drive 4 miles to Whiskey Bend Road.

Turn left and follow Whiskey Bend Road 4.4 miles to the trailhead.

Whiskey Bend Road is a graded gravel road suitable for all vehicles, however it's subject to washouts and closures. The road is narrow and winding. Call ahead for road conditions, and arrive early to avoid backups.

Contact Information

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

Forks Information Station
360.374.7566 or 360.374.5877

Quinault Wilderness Information Office

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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