Elwha River from Whiskey Bend


Backpack - Elwha River from Whiskey Bend

Elwha River from Whiskey Bend

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers activity.
  • Easy
  • Mileage: 26.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,900 ft
Although open to all club members over age 18, this trip is also part of the B3 backpacking Building Blocks series and eligible for B3 course graduation credit.

In addition, this backpack will have a practical instructional/learning focus and offer experience in proper gear use and camp set-up techniques.

Pre-trip assistance with gear selection, food planning, and gear sharing will be included in leader emails prior to the trip.

The six men of the Seattle Press Expedition in 1889 reportedly brought along three quarters of a ton of gear to explore the Olympic Mountains via the Elwha River valley. Needless to say, we will not be using their packing list!

Starting from the trailhead at the end of Whisky Bend Road in the north Olympics, we will hike about 9 miles up the Elwha River Valley, gaining about 1,000’, with Mary’s Falls Camp our destination for a two night stay. The next day, we will leave behind tents, etc. and hike further up valley along the trail, perhaps to historic Remanns Cabin (about 8 miles round trip), or further as the group decides. On day three, we will hike 9 miles back to our cars.

Maps: Green Trails – Elwha North/Hurricane Ridge No. 134S; Custom Correct - Elwha Valley.

You can also locate and print USGS topo maps online for free – see http://www.mountaineers.org/foothills/hiking/docs/how_to_print_usgs_maps_for_free.html

The Elwha River has recently been the focus of attention with the removal of both Glines Canyon and Elwha dams. Both impoundments - Lake Mills and Lake Aldwell - are gone, and the bare lake beds and restored river channels are easily seen on aerials (see Google Earth). The removal and restoration has reopened the watershed, inviting salmon to return after over 100 years of blockage.

We will drive past the former Glines Canyon dam site and upriver, passing the drained Lake Mills, to begin our hike at the Whiskey Bend Trailhead. For our hike, the Elwha River runs freely through a relatively narrow valley, through both old growth and regrowth forest. Along the way there are sounds of the rushing river and tributary streams, interesting historic homestead sites, and enchanting views and wildlife.

Prior backpacking experience is not required, but you should be in good physical condition and able to hike 10 miles in a day at 1.5 – 2 miles per hour with your loaded backpack. Lightweight backpacking is encouraged. Generally, your backpack (with food and water) should weigh 35 pounds or less.

You should check the current weather report shortly before departure: http://www.findlocalweather.com/pinpoint/us/wa/elwha+river+trail/current576434.html

While this location is more toward the drier side of the Olympics, this area gets plenty of rain, and rain should be expected. Bring rain coat, rain pants, and pack cover and clothes that will keep you warm when wet (no cotton). The trip is subject to change or cancellation if the predicted weather is unusually poor.

Other gear notes:

1. Our campsite has bear wires, so no bear cans are required. Bring a stuff sack to hang your food (no plastic grocery bags, please).

2. You should bring some method of water purification.

3. Bugs are certainly possible; bring bug repellant.

4. To reduce pack weight, you should consider sharing gear, especially stoves, cooking pots, water filters, and tents.

5. And we’ll bring all the 10 essentials.

Recent trip reports indicate no trail obstacles, and we will check again with the Rangers when we pick up our permit. As for any adventure, we will be safe and remain flexible and open to trying a suitable alternative destination, if needed.

About 1 week before the trip, I will send an e-mail to all. If you are interested in sharing any items, reply all, describing gear you would like to provide for sharing, or if you are interested in sharing another’s gear. Sharers should make arrangements directly with any interested people.

Carpooling will be encouraged, and arranged about 1 week before departure. Please plan on a late arrival home on Sunday evening.

Backcountry Permit from Olympic National Park is required, which we will obtain when we arrive at the Park. Entrance fee required to the Park.


Elwha River from Whiskey Bend

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials
Trip Reports