(Helpful Tips) Hiking the Olympic Peninsula

Walking through the rain forest or in the Olympic Mountains is very inspiring. So often people ask me about tips and suggestions online. Things like: Where is a great place to hike? What is the weather going to be like? Which resources do you use for planning? Ect.

Here are my thoughts, I hope you find them helpful!

Luna Oso (2017 Review) Flaco and 2.0 Sandals

Luna Oso Sandals are a hiking and running sandal with an aggressive tread manufactured here in the Pacific Northwest. They are great as a running sandal, but I will be using them primarily for walking. As soon as the mailman arrived, I took them out of the box and headed into the forest.

Hiking in the Forest with the Oso

Right away the hardcore tread catches your eye. The Oso features a custom Vibram Megagrip Outsole, that screams, "take me into the mountains!". So that is just what I did. After only a few steps, I said to myself, "oh yes".

You see, I've been looking for a mountaineering type minimalist sandal, that I could use on my adventures in the Olympic Mountains. Typically I wear sandals on and off the trail. These puppies are just what I need!

Disclaimer: This article contains ads in the form of affiliate links, which help finance future content on this site (no extra cost to you). These sandals were given at no cost in exchange for testing. These words are strictly my own opinion.

Luna Oso 2017
2017 Luna Oso with Vibram Megagrip Tread

Olympic National Forest vs Olympic National Park (Info and Details)

National Park and National Forest Managed Lands

At first glance, our nation’s National Parks and National Forests may appear to be the same thing, with both being federal public lands. Under closer comparison though, each has their own unique history and priorities. Perhaps the greatest difference between the two is the multiple use mandate for National Forests. While National Parks are highly vested in preservation, barely altering the existing state, while National Forests are managed for many purposes—timber, recreation, grazing, wildlife, fish and more.

Olympic National Park vs Olympic National Forest

Think of Olympic National Park as a huge chunk of mostly pristine wilderness. The total area comes to almost a whopping 1,500 square miles! Which additionally includes the longest strip of wilderness coastline in the US. Some rangers say the Park is in the shape of a pig. After you look at my beautiful creation below you will never forget it when you see maps of Olympic National Park. But seriously, all of the green that you see below belongs to the National Park. There are very few roads that peek into the edge of the Park, making most of the park accessible only by foot.

olympic national park map
Olympic National Park is a Pig

Planning (Overnight Hiking) for Olympic National Park

Planning for an Overnight Wilderness Backpacking Trip

Preparation is a very important step of your adventure. Doing this should not be overlooked and can mean the biggest difference for a successful trip. I see a lot of backpackers waiting until they are at a ranger station to begin planning which can lead to being sent to over-populated areas or holding up the line behind you while you struggle on deciding on which campground to be at each night. You cannot obtain a wilderness permit without knowing where you plan on camping each night. If you are the type of person that refuses to plan and doesn't want to be restricted to specific campsites each night you should backpack in the National Forest (no permit required) rather than the National Park.

Often people just wing-it (I've done this) and choose a random place on the map, then walk into that location. This can be fine in some occasions. However, you are increasing your risk of having a safe experience in the backcountry. A hiker can get caught in rapidly changing weather (even in summer). Additionally, terrain may be outside of your comfort zone and/or fitness level.

Don't forget about water sources! Seasonal water sources might be dry, especially in the high country. And on the converse you don't want to carry in large amounts of water when you have easy sources along the whole route. So do your pre-research.

overnight hiking guide
Overnight Hiking Guide for Olympic National Park

Bear Canisters (Mostly Required) in Olympic National Park

I often get asked if a bear container is needed for backcountry overnight camping. The answer is yes in most cases. Most of the popular areas require you to store food in a bear canister at all times the food is left unattended (i.e. when you're sleeping or leave food behind at camp). The Olympic National Park Rangers can be pretty strict about this. Even asking you to go home in extreme cases!

What the Heck is a Bear Canister?

A Bear Container is a hard cylinder {affiliate link} shaped object to keep critters out. The canister usually has a lid on one end, that opens by turning locking screws or turning it like a peanut butter jar. Generally they have been tested and certified by actual bears, before being allowed into the National Park system. Mostly, they are really good at keeping mice out of your food!

Black Bear
Black Bear in the Olympic Mountains

Food Resupply in Olympic National Park

The Olympic Mountains are a popular destination for overnight hikers. The Olympic National Park backcountry hold a lot of possibilities for different types of camping. Most do their adventures in a weekend (one or two nights), but every so often there are a select few that want to go on a large Olympic Expedition type trip. Staying in the woods for that many nights, takes a lot of food! So I will share my backpacking food experiences with you through the years to help shorten your learning curve.

Breakfast in the Olympic Mountains (added fresh picked wild blueberries)

Keep From Getting Cold Feet (Minimalism in Snow)

I often get asked about wearing minimalist footwear in winter. "How do your feet not freeze"? So thought I'd talk about some thoughts and tips on this topic, to help answer those questions. Here are my thoughts!

Feet in Snow
Night Hiking in Snow Wearing Minimalist Sandals

Many Moods of Hurricane Ridge (Webcam)

We are lucky to have a webcam at Hurricane Ridge. These webcams can be accessed anytime, with anyone with an internet connection. People from all over the world use this valuable resource, to glimpse into the Olympic National Park.

Time of year, weather and position of the sun. Keeps the Olympic Mountains always looking different. This makes it a dream for photography. Let's look at a few moments frozen into time.

Hurricane Ridge
Winter at Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

2016 Year in Review

It was an interesting year to go overnight backpacking in the Olympic National Park. The Olympic Peninsula is still recovering from a drought in the forest. This made for pour air quality mid-summer, caused by numerous wildfires in the Park's interior. The smoke from these fires were often visible on to the general public, on the Hurricane Ridge Webcams.

However, I was still able to juggle life's responsibilities, to get out for several overnight camping trips. My recreational time is very limited these days, so adventures must be planned weeks in advance. In this case years. Every trip must count!

Visiting remote glaciers

Olympic Dispatch: Seeking Wilderness Purity

It was a cold day in the Quinault river valley. The temperatures hovered just about 20 degrees fahrenheit. There was not a sound to be heard, only the soft roar of the river moving through the forest. Moments like these, are what I consider to be wilderness purity.

Unfortunately, because of the spike in digital articles and social media, places and moments like these are becoming more rare. What causes this sudden influx? Detailing and naming places online for a minimal monetary gain. Writers and hikers are publishing the same locations over and over again all over the internet. This causes heavy overuse in those specific areas. The impact of a campsite that gets heavy camping use in the backcountry, takes generations to recover from.

What would a writer gain from this? Without getting into too much detail on the topic of digital marketing. Lets just summarize. Brand purchases an article from an author (for a few hundred dollars), the brand puts the story on their website, web traffic sells products (considerable monetary amounts) or brings in ad revenue, and/or shares on social media. Hundreds from all of the world visit the same campsites. The forest gets damaged from overuse. All for what? What is the price of pure untouched wilderness.

All this leaves people that love the outdoors and live it as a lifestyle, in an endless quest to find the next untouched location. Which leads me to my journeys over the last few years (even more so this year). Find locations with no bare ground in campsites from overuse, no campfire rings, most of the time no trail at all. That is pure wilderness!

I interpret the wilderness act as freezing and preserving the land as it was, in that moment in time long ago (when the Park was established). Over-use does not fall into that, when specific trails and campsites are getting slammed.

Going days without seeing another person. That is a wilderness experience!

Winter in Quinault
An untouched place on the river (explore photography)

Note: I understand why accessibility and getting visitors to visit these areas, is very important for the financial health of National Park's. This isn't about that. It's about wilderness being untouched and preserved.

Article by Barefoot Jake

[Top 3] Outdoor Gear for PNW Hiking

Hiking in the Pacific Northwest can be quite challenging at times.  The weather can change rapidly here in Washington State, so a hiker must always be prepared for adverse conditions. Rain is the main thing that this area is known for.

Hiking in the Pacific Northwest

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links to help finance this website. I have used these products for years and continue to do so.

Surviving the Quinault Rain Forest

Welcome to Quinault

The Quinault Rain Forest is located inside the Olympic Mountains in Washington State. Getting on to the Olympic Peninsula one must drive on historic Highway 101. This is all part of the journey to experience wilderness.

The area is known as the “Valley of the Rain Forest Giants”, because of all the record setting trees that are located in the vicinity. Looking up at these massive trees, makes a hiker seem very small!

There are two river valleys (East and North forks) that come together and form a main river. This upper section of river flows into a natural glacier carved lake (Lake Quinault), before continuing to the Pacific Ocean. Can’t think of one particularly inch the area, that is not completely beautiful.

Anderson Glacier
Mount Anderson is one of the Quinault river's headwaters

The forest in the Quinault averages an astonishing 12 feet of rain annually. Going out in the wet season, would test our mind, body and spirits.

Join 4 hikers as they walk into wilderness. Here are some thoughts and feelings put into words, from our hike up the Quinault river.

Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite Rain Gear (Review)

I have been using Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite Rain Gear now for several hiking seasons.  Choosing over other costly competitors for its weight and water repellency, and of course the price point. I can easily roughly fold it up and quickly shove it in my backpack.  Then pull it out in a timely manner when it starts to rain.

Disclaimer: Barefoot Jake purchased this rain protection with his own money, to replace old lightweight rain gear. He was under no obligation to write this article. Contains ads in the form of affiliate links.

Rain Jacket
Frogg Toggs Rain Gear in Olympic National Park

iPhone Cases of Olympic National Park

Do you love Olympic National Park? Most people these days have an iPhone or some kind of smartphone device. Now you can carry a little bit of the beautiful Olympic Mountains everywhere you go!

All funds collected go to help pay for my very expensive photography equipment, which I am still in the negative. Then you get to carry a piece of my art in your pocket. It's a win-win!

iPhone Case
Olympic National Park iPhone Cases

Northern Mountain Loop (Off Trail)

Having 6 days to burn, the goal was to do a loop hike in the northern part of the Park.  Secondly, I wanted to stay off trail as much as possible, to avoid other hikers.  Solitude is the best way to experience wilderness in my option. I call this backcountry route the Northern Mountain Loop.

We would need a good weather window in order to make this trip happen. There is sections where map and compass, even GPS will not do.  A mountain traveler must read the land and follow game tracks, in order to complete this strenuous journey.  Being in thick clouds would hinder the success of our adventure.

Disclaimer: The directions to this full route is not listed in any guidebook. Extensive land navigation and traversing of very steep terrain is required. Do not go off trail, if you are not prepared to turn around and make it back to the point of entry. 

off trail
Looking ahead at our route

Stop Trail and Area Overuse (Hiking Rules)

Leave No Trace Principles are seven rules used to educate hikers on their impact on nature. Less is definitely more.

In 2016 the National Park system is breaking records for visitation. This is a good thing to encourage others to get outdoors. Unfortunately, people at these numbers are taking a toll on the landscape. It's come to the point where I will not even visit most places featured by an article in the spring and summer months.

To lessen the strain on our Olympic Mountains, it's very important that we do not give out too much information about these fragile environments. Would you send out a letter to 20,000 people letting them know an exact location to camp at your favorite lake? I think not! but, that is what you are doing when you put out such details online. To make things worse, some of the time, it's for a private monetary purpose.


LNT Rules for the Internet (Social Media and Websites)

  • Never publish GPS data (including maps)

  • Don't publicly share names of accessible locations

  • Stop talking about the same location repeatedly

  • Maintain a safe distance from wild animals

  • Refer a new hiker to a guide book

Following these rules will severely make a difference on the high impacted areas. Some of which, will take decades to recover from. Let us make a difference now, before your favorite hike or campsite is a reservation or quota system.

Article by Barefoot Jake

Happy Centennial NPS (Olympic)

Happy birthday National Park Service. August 25th 2016 marks the centennial celebration for the NPS. Without this system or something like it. The Olympic Mountains would not have been preserved for future generations to enjoy, like it is today. That is something to be thankful for. You can read more about the celebration here.

Olympic National Park
Hiking in Olympic National Park

Truth About Minimalist Footwear

Most Common Questions about Minimalist Footwear

  • Which shoe should I buy to transition my feet?

  • Do your feet stay dry in those things and are they waterproof?

  • Don't your feet get cold on the snow?

  • Do I need to spend $100 to train my feet?

  • How much should my footwear weigh?

  • What about Zero Drop?

barefoot running
Barefoot without Minimalist Footwear

(Review) Bedrock Cairn Sandals

The Bedrock Cairn Sandals are minimalist footwear designed for the active lifestyle. These sandals feature military grade webbing (straps) and an exclusive Vibram sole. I found the Cairn's great for hiking in the Olympic Mountains. They really did a awesome job at protecting my feet from sharp rocks and cradling them while on steep terrain.

Disclaimer: Bedrock provided these sandals for no charge, in exchange for an honest review.

Bedrock Cairn
Bedrock Cairn Sandals

Fishing Pole, Umbrella, Ice Axe and a Bug Net

Finished up another 7 day backpacking trip into the heart of the Olympic National Park. The weather forecast called for sunny skies, which was necessary to do the off trail route we were attempting. What we did not take into account is the amount energy that the sun would suck out of us. Not only would we be hiking in steep un-documented terrain, but the sun and bugs would be our biggest enemy. Never again will I plan a strenuous hiking trip during a heat wave!

Enjoy a few photos from the trip.


(Exploded) Quinault Big Cedar Tree

The smell of fresh cedar is in the air, as you make your way up the (now closed) Big Cedar Trail. The iconic tree near Lake Quinault, Washington is now in pieces on the rain forest valley floor. Tourist and locals alike have come to this location for several generations to gaze upon its pure size. Now the area is riddled with chunks and slabs of this old dinosaur.

About Quinault's Big Cedar Tree

This old big cedar was formally known as the world's largest. It was 19.5 feet a round and 174 feet tall. The trail that accessed it, got hundreds of annual visitors a year and is now has now been closed by the Olympic National Park Service. Tourist and local alike are sad to see it go.

big cedar
Quinault's Exploded Big Cedar Tree in Olympic National Park

Monsters (Pokemon) in the Rain Forest

Hikers beware on your next walk in the Quinault Rain Forest. There are Pokemon (pocket monsters) lurking around every old growth tree. Please be advised to enter the forest at your own risk! The Olympic Mountains are swarming with these mystical creatures. Ok, ok, but seriously!

What is Pokemon Go?

Pokemon Go is a phone app (game), that uses your smartphones GPS to capture, battle and collect little cartoon like creatures. This gameplay is made possible by combining a virtual mapping system (using GPS) and your phone's camera, and boy it's a real battery drainer. Be sure to pack an external battery pack for charging.{affiliate link}

This game has a secondary purpose to encourage players to walk to play. Tho ment for city play, you can find Pokemon on select trails; if you are in a location with cell service.

Pokemon in the Quinault Rain Forest

Submit Comment on Olympic Peninsula Trails

Maintaining the trails regularly in the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest is very important. Without this maintenance a hike simply would not be possible with minimal effort. Want to learn more? Simply just leave the trail for 50 feet and you will soon learn how important these vital systems are!

A good portions of the foot paths on the peninsula are located in dense rainforest valleys. This means it does not take long for them to get overgrown by brush and littered with windfall (tree blowdowns). Hundreds of hours of manpower is necessary and is needed to keep the Olympic Mountains preserved for the next generation.

Let your voice be heard! Report the quality of your favorite trail below!

Hiker wanders through overgrown trail in Olympic National Park

(TV Show) "Alone" Survival Gear List

The survivor reality series Alone is a television show on History Channel. The episodes feature 10 individuals that attempt to outlast each other for a cash prize. Each male or female is isolated from each other and all human contact. It's rather like watching a trainwreck!

Survival Gear Used on the Show

The participants are allowed to chose from a pre-established master gear list. This list is similar to the 10 essentials used for hiking, but a lot more cumbersom for dramatic affect and foriging for food. Taking the minimalist approach would definitely be beneficial to the individual, in my opinion. Carrying a heavy backpack off-trail through the brush, is not fun, I know this to be fact.

Alone in the Olympic Mountains

Kids (Baby) Hiking Gear List

Headed out the door with your family? Taking the kids for a hike? Local trails are a perfect place to teach your children the benefits of nature. These are some things that have worked for me and my kids in the woods. Consider this a base list, you will want to customize your own variations after time. This is awesome hiking gear for your next adventure in wet pacific northwest. I hope this inspire you to get outside!

Always check the weather forecast before headed outdoors!

Baby in Olympic National Park

Abandoned Trails of Olympic: Litchy Creek

The abandoned Litchy Creek Trail starts near the Graves Creek Campground. The old trail runs in the Quinault river drainage and has been abandoned for a few decades. There has not been maintance on it since before I've been alive. You can find this route on very old USGS maps.

We found signs of old cross cut logs. These trees have multiple inches of moss on them and are well rotted through, it appears they were cut before the Park was established.

Our journey lead us through some steep and brushy forest. It seems, a few years back a windstorm swept dozens of old growth trees down. This lead to thick undergrowth and lots of down wood to navigate. The whole trip was a good workout tho! This kind of country, made you really respect the Olympic Elk.

Lichy Creek
In the jungles of Quinault

Ti Deuce of Spades (Backpacking Trowel)

The Tentlab Deuce of Spades is a small tool made out of titanium. The purpose of this device is to dig cat-holes in the backcountry for going poop. This trowel can be used for both hiking and backpacking. It is so light and small, that you can literally carry it in a small pocket.

(Info) Mount Olympus, Washington State

Mount Olympus in Washington State (Wa) is at the heart of the Olympic Peninsula. It is has the tallest peaks in the Olympic Mountains. It's west peak is 7,980 feet above sea level. This one of the reasons climbing her such a unique experience, because the Hoh River Trailhead (approach trail) is in the 600 feet elevation range. That is a lot of up!

The mountain is literally surrounded by rain forest. Because of this, Olympus generally falls under heavy snow each winter. There are several receding glaciers that decorate its rock, which include Blue, Hoh, Humes, Jeffers and White Glaciers. All the glaciers mentioned are viewable from various places inside the Olympic National Park. Most take several days on or off trail to witness, but the effort is well worth it. Doesn't that sound amazing?

Did you know? A person can just see the top of Mount Olympus on the Hurricane Ridge Webcam! The Bailey Range blocks most of the mountain from view at the Visitors Center.

Mount Olympus
Mount Olympus from the Bailey Range (buy a postcard)

Podcast featuring Barefoot Jake

This spring have been featured in a local hiking podcast. You can listen to me articulate my love for the Olympic Mountains in a short interview. Additionally, I talk about backpacking adventures in the Olympic National Park and even some outdoor gear talk.

Hiking Podcast Feature

GG Backpack Hipbelt Upgrade

The Mariposa and Gorilla backpacks are two of GG best selling models. They are high volume, and work great for almost any kind of adventure! These packs are available with removable hipbelt and aluminum stay (frame).