Backpack - Upper South Fork Skokomish River


Backpack - Upper South Fork Skokomish River

Hike about 2 1/2 miles from the trailhead among some of the biggest Doug firs and cedars on the Olympic Peninsula to a campsite on the Upper South Fork of the Skokomish River, where we will camp overnight under a full moon. This trip is intended as a training trip for families with children, including novices.

  • Moderate, Easy, Easy
  • Easy
  • Mileage: 5.2 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 500 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 1,600 ft
  • Pace: 1.5, with stops for children

Participants can carpool, meeting at 8:45 am at Haggen's, West Olympia, or , if coming from the north, at the fish hatchery parking lot on Skokomish Valley Road near US 101.  Driving distance is about 25 miles from Haggens to the fish hatchery, and another 25 miles from there to the end of Forest Road 2361.  Details will be emailed to registered participants a few days before hike.   No parking pass or  day  use fee is required at this trailhead.  For info on good carpooling practices and how to contact other participants for carpooling, please see this Mountaineers article on "Carpooling and Mountaineers Activities/Courses":

About three miles of Forest Road 23 are badly potholed, as of May 2024. Even with an SUV or pickup truck, careful driving and cautious speed are needed.  Low ground clearance cars are not recommended.

This is an Olympia Youth and Families activity.  It is intended as a training backpack for families with children.  This could be a good first backpack trip for a family.  It is a backpack up 2 1/2 miles of trail to a campsite, and requires a commitment to stay with the group overnight once we leave the trailhead. We will provide a list of essential items and some recommended items, and tips and suggestions for family backpacking.  If you are new to backpacking, and follow the lists and suggestions, you should have a good experience.

This trail was designed to be passable by horses and pack mules, so the grades are not terribly steep, although it passes through some very rugged country.  We will have one creek crossing  on a large fallen cedar with a handrail on one side, about 42 inches above the log (which won't be useful for small children), one crossing of the Skokomish on a large fallen cedar footlog with no handrails (please see first photo) and numerous small feeders, mostly rock hops.   The "foot log" bridge crossings are not suitable for children under age 9, and parents wishing to bring children under age 12 should discuss the risks with one of the leaders before registering.


Some wet crossings are possible, depending on recent rain. At 2.6 miles from the trailhead and 1,600' elevation, we will come to a ford of the Skokomish, which is our intended campsite.   There are campsites on both sides of the river.  Crossing the river requires wading in mid-calf-deep running water.  A change to Tevas or sneakers or other sturdy water shoes is advised, as are trekking poles or a walking stick.  We'll explore the area before hiking out Sunday. 

Fording the Skokomish

The trail is not suitable for strollers or other wheeled conveyances.  Since this is a backpack requiring overnight gear, participants will have to carry packs of gear rather than carry small children in backpack carriers.  Children will have to carry at least some of their gear (equaling up to 25% of their body weight) in an appropriately sized  backpack with a waist belt.   Please do not register unless you are confident your child can walk at least 2 1/2 miles on a trail, with some rest, snack and hydration stops, with a pack.

The Olympia Mountaineers have some backpacks and tents available for loan, and possibly other gear.  We will have a gear check session about a week prior to the hike to make sure that all participants are adequately equipped.   We will give some guidance on food, stoves and cooking gear.  This is an area where advice and planning pay off.  Food and cooking gear appropriate to car camping may be too heavy and bulky to carry a distance, and prone to spoilage in July heat.  We may also consider a group meal.  Please click on the blue tab marked "Required Equipment" on this trip's listing page, and read the list of Ten Essentials.  It is most important that you limit yourselves to packing and carrying only lightweight essential items.  Registered participants will receive more information on this closer to the event.  We suggest that you hold off on buying gear for the trip until then.   It is in retailers' interests that you buy as much as possible; it is in you greatest interest to bring as little as possible. 

This will be a mentored hike. Mike Forsyth and Zua Stivers are the mentored co-leaders, with Dixie Havlak as the mentoring leader as part of the process for qualifying for a Mountaineers Youth and Family Backpack Leader badge.   Mike and Zua each are Mountaineers Qualified Youth and Family Hike Leaders, and have extensive experience backpacking and leading backpacks in the Northeastern US and Montana (Mike) and in the Pacific Northwest (Zua).  Dixie is the Chair of the Olympia Youth and Family  Activities Committee, and a Qualified Youth and Family Hike and Backpack Leader. 

Please feel free to contact any of the trip leaders with any questions  you might have about gear, clothing, food, and whether this trip is right for you and your family members.


Upper South Fork Skokomish River

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

  • Tent with footprint/ground tarp
  • Stove and fuel
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter
  • Bear canister or extra stuff sack and cord designated for hanging food
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper and shovel or blue bag to deal with waste

We may have to ford the Skokomish to find an available campsite.  Teva-style sandals  or sneakers in addition to your hiking boots as well as trekking poles or a walking stick are recommended.

Because this is a beginner family backpack, we will be sharing gear and offering assistance in outfitting your group. Don't go out and buy all new gear for this activity as it is designed to help you decide what gear is appropriate for you.

Kids will need a well fitting backpack. We have some available to borrow.

Kids will be expected to have age appropriate essentials, to be discussed with registrants.

Trip Reports