Back about 40 years ago when I lived in LA and was just getting my feet wet with backpacking, the Sierra Club offered a hike into the Enchanted Valley on the Olympic Peninsula. The hike was canceled that year due to lack of interest. But MY interest kept going until this summer, when my dream finally came true.
The Enchanted Valley is up in the headwaters of the Quinault River. You drive to the end of the road beyond Lake Quinault, park, and start walking, 13 miles to be exact – we took 2 days to do it. A small group from MeetUp had planned this trip, and I was not disappointed!
It’s only about a 4-hour drive from here to the upper Quinault River, to a whole different ecosystem, one where green is the only color and human sounds surrender to rushing water. Bears, indifferent to hikers, barely (scuse me) look up from their leisurely grazing for berries in the meadows.
The Enchanted Valley was a privately-owned destination in the 20’s, until the National Park took it over and maintained it as a ranger station and emergency shelter. It’s the first major clearing – there are many beyond it as the trees start thinning and shrinking – and I think it got its name from the myriad waterfalls that grace the cliffs surrounding it. While we were there – 2 nights in June – a crew was replacing the original cedar-shake roof, faithfully duplicating the original shingles, which were almost three feet long! They had had to mill them themselves – you just can’t buy shakes like that anymore.
On the way home, a few of us visited charming Port Townsend and Fort Worden, staying in the youth hostel there by the beach. It’s definitely shorter to go south through Olympia and Hoquiam, but it makes a nice loop to continue the circle.
I’m so glad I finally got to actually experience the Enchanted Valley, one of the many amazing places on the spectacular Olympic Peninsula!
You can see 130 photos from the trip, contributed by myself and the 7 other backpackers, on the Seattle Backpackers website.