7 Day Backpacking Loop Trek

Seven day backpacking loop inside the Olympic National Park in summer. We had rain all but one of the days. Glad cold weather and rain gear was brought on this hike.

I would have two days to rest my right and now left feet. A combination of the climbing fall injury and the new wounds acquired from walking so many miles in very wet trail conditions. I was so focused on getting to the destination I failed to take proper preventive care during my last walk. The top 1/3 of both feet were missing skin, epsom salt to the rescue - as well as duct tape and super glue. All three would get me trail-worthy once again. This would be a start of 4 consecutive weeks in the Olympic alpine taking photos and video.

After months of planning and communication via the internet a group of friend, were standing on the front porch of the farm in Port Angeles. We had no real itinerary yet, but would sit down with a group of maps and go over a plan that worked best for everyone involved. Once going over all the route variations we had a real plan.

The group decided on one central location to park the vehicles. Trip would be a loop style hike, with a small dogleg out and back walk. We would be out for 7 days and 6 nights. Our campsite selections would give the more energetic parties an option for some peak-bagging out of a base camp. We would also be using basic land navigation skills as some of the sections would be off trail in remote and fragile places to backpack in the Olympic National Park interior.

Weather forecast had us sunny the first day, then turning into wet conditions with thunderstorms and early autumn temperatures in the alpine. It was a good thing I warned everyone, during planning that the Olympic Mountains can turn from fair weather to early winter type conditions overnight. I have a motto here - plan for worst conditions, but hope for the best.

Editor's Note: Article part of an extended trek in the Olympic Mountains.

three forks trail
Starting our 7 day loop walk into the Olympic Mountains.

We were at our first camp location after a few miles in and several thousand feet of elevation loss.  Around a campfire is a perfect chance to build relationships.  Most of these hikers only talked to me on the internet and never met in person.

grey wolf trail
The next day we were up with the sunrise.  Today's route would take us through coastal forest, then old growth and finally into world class Olympic alpine.  Just cant get over the size of these trees.

Grey wolf
Exploring some off trail later in the day.  I'm standing at the base of whats left of an old glacier.  Alpine views are my favorite.  There is a lovely waterfall below my feet (not pictured).

mount deception
Mount Deception in the evening light as a storm approaches.

olympic mountains
Off trail.

cedar col
Finishing our second night in wilderness.

locus gear khufu
First thing I see upon awaking.  It seems rain has moved into the area overnight.  Good thing we brought extra warm layers.

locus gear khufu
The next morning - lounging around camp trying to get the troops motivated.  During that time, I shared my shelter with two bad ass lady hikers.  I have admired both for years on the internet.  It was an honor to open my home to them that morning.  Guys, want to keep up with these gals?  You better start training now because they can out hike most fellas I know.  Both having thousands of trail miles under their belts. 

Grey wolf pass

We spent most of the day descending the pass and then walking up a river valley through plush old growth forests.  Back in Olympic alpine later that afternoon.  Everyone appears to be having a good time.

Here we took a nice water break and enjoyed all the Olympic Marmots that were in the area.  The weather was doing a nice job of not punishing us too bad. 

thousand acre meadows
View from near our camp for the next two nights.

Good night!

One must plan for any weather in the Olympic Mountains - no matter the time of year.  The middle of August through mid September generally is the best time to plan a backpacking trip here.  This is typically the most dry time of year on average.  I was glad to have warned everyone involved during pre-trip planning on how fast the weather can turn for the worse in this Park.

  Rain continued off and on through the days.  Generally sunny in the afternoon into evening, but overnight into the mornings were wet.  These were moments that we had every layer we brought on to maintain core temperature.  All the cold moisture in the Pacific Northwest air can be difficult to acclimate to.  This kind of feeling goes all the way into your insides - bone deep.  Especially for someone no from this area and living in a different climate.  It is not uncommon to wake up to a summer frost over camp; when sleeping above tree cover in the alpine regions.  I put water filters and camera batteries in the bag while sleeping at these elevations.  During this trip we only experienced above freezing conditions.

We would have a base camp day to explore this remote area of the Olympic National Park.  Taking only a few things we would need for the afternoon, we would explore an off trail loop route.  Doing this was a perfect way to experience all the different habitat zones and even do some ridge walking with glacier views.

golite chrome dome
Cooking with a view under hiking umbrellas.

olympic marmot
This Olympic Marmot doesn't look impressed.

lowbush wild blueberries
Millions of Lowbush Wild Blueberries.

thousand acre meadows
Wandering through nowhere.

sentinel peak
Sentinel Peak looms in storm clouds.  We have it in our itinerary to climb up there, but bad weather might alter that plan.

Waterfall descends from the clouds.  The rain would come and go all afternoon.  Wouldn't want to give those from out of state the wrong impression about Washington.  It has a unique beauty in any weather condition.

thousand acre meadows
Exploring the mountainous regions of the Park.

silt creek
Walking off trail on remote ridgelines gives you such a feeling of freedom.  Here we walk alone, overlooking the Silt Creek drainage.

After dinner some of the overachieving parties in the group decided to get an overlooking view of out camp.

thousand acre meadows
The next day was spent wandering the underbelly of an old glacier, which was now filled with millions of berries.  We got our fill until the lips and teeth were stained blue from their sweet juices.

sentinel peak
Sentinel Peak panoramic looking southeast to Mount Anderson

sentinel peak
Sentinel Peak panoramic looking Northwest.

sentinel peak
I convinced everyone to climb Hayden Pass and then Sentinel Peak.  We all carried full gear up the mountain that day.  There were no disappointed hearts that day, since the peak has world class views of the Park.  Here we enjoyed lunch and conversation.  Little did they know, there were two more mountain passes to climb this day.

lost basin
Ascending the 3rd mountain pass for the day.  The troops were tired but still had a smile on his face - so it couldn't be that bad?!  Thundershowers moved in and out of the area for the remainder of the day.

After climbing our third pass for the day, I could see that some in the group were wore out.  The Olympic Mountains take a lot of hikers by surprise on how much elevation gained and loss is here.  It is not uncommon for a trial to have 1,000' a mile grade.  You definitely earn the views. 

To top it all off, the weather took a turn for the worse.  Heavy rains and distant thunder moved into the area.  I could see a hot meal and good night sleep in the near future for everyone. 

We would be walking through a wide range of ecosystem diversity in the next few days.  Old growth forest to mountainous alpine regions.  The Olympic National Park can be an amazing place, if you stop to notice the little things around you.

Cameron pass
Last mountain pass for the day.  3 of 3 completed.

Cameron pass
Bad weather has its beauty.

cameron basin
I love this Park.  You can step into each drainage and feel like you're on a different planet.  Each area unique on its own.

locus gear khufu sil
Shelter Breakdown:  My Locus Gear Khufu Sil.

gossamer gear spinntwinn
Shelter Breakdown:  Gossamer Gear Spinntwinn.  'Hey, no sleeping in guys!'

gossamer gear spinnshetler
Shelter Breakdown:  Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter.  'Time to wake up Captain Dave!'

Zpacks Hexamid Solo-plus
Shelter Breakdown:  Chad enjoying coffee under his Zpacks Hexamid Solo-plus.

Gossamer Gear Q-Twinn
Shelter Breakdown:  Gossamer Gear Q-Twinn.  'Hey guys, just because its raining doesn't mean you can sleep in all morning!'

Cameron glacier
We were back on the trial again, after a leisurely morning in camp.  The rain gods weren't with us during the next few miles.  On the way up our first of two passes for the day we made some bees angry and one person in the party got stung.  Here we are enjoying a view with our lunch.

grand pass
During our next break, everyone was in their own moment of thought.  What could be on their minds?

grand peak
Enjoying the views of this rugged landscape.  Mount Olympus in the distance.

low pass
The group shares stories, as the weather takes a turn for the worse again.  Rain would cause an early bedtime tonight.

Our last sunset of this trip - as a storm moves into the area.

lillian ridge
The next day we decided on a high route exit of the area.  This took us through some dramatic landscapes.  Unfortunately the weather did not agree with our plan.  While traversing this mountainous area, it threw wind and rain at us.  It appears everyone was still having a good time!

obstruction ridge
The weather did break for us during the last 8 miles of the trip.  Glad it did - as those miles showcased some of the Park's world class views.

  We made it back to Port Angeles mid day, just in time for extra pub fries and a greasy cheeseburger.  It was sad to separate the group after experiencing so much during the last week and overcoming the unique challenges each day.  I personally forgot the rest of the world existed.  Lost myself in pure wilderness and I hope they experience some of those same feelings.  It was great bonding with new friends.

Liz decided to stick around for the next leg of the journey.  We wold be joined by my buddy Steve, for our 10 day Bailey Range Traverse. 

cock-a-doodle doughnuts
We would have two day to replenish calories in Port Angeles and do all of the 10 day food prep for the next leg of the journey.  

Video of the Trip:

People featured: Chad, Liz, Trinity, Jeff, Jessie, Dave and Grant

Part of the 'Walking through the Seasons' Trail Series np

Updated in May 2016 by Barefoot Jake