(Mountain Photos) Bailey Range Traverse

Coming off the previous 7 day Olympic backpacking adventure, we would have two days to do laundry and pack up 10 days worth of supplies. Food preparation is most dreaded part for me, but it would be nice to have the calories during the strenuous walk ahead.

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

About the Bailey Range Traverse

The Bailey Range is one of the most sacred off trail high routes in Washington State. These mountains create a crescent shape around Mount Olympus. Close enough where you can almost reach out and touch her at times. This dramatic landscape is what you see when peering into the interior from the Hurricane Ridge Webcam. Home to the Olympic elk during the late season rut and black bear which graze almost around the clock as winter approaches.

This route is not for the faint of heart or for someone who does not like heights. Packing lightweight and keeping everything fixed to your backpack is a must, because there are times you need to use all limbs to travel forward. There are key points of navigation, so doing your homework is a must as well as land navigation skills and terrain reading. Basic mountaineering skills are required as one must cross several small glaciers on this walk.

Editor's Warning: Map reading, route finding and compass required. This traverse has several points where a fear of heights is not welcomed. There are also several bad gully crossings; a slip would be fatal. Rock scrambling and glacier travel skills are also required. Also note that the Elwha Snow Finger is no longer in place after a record drought, please use other route options.

Bailey Range Traverse
10 days across the Bailey Range.

Our Backpacking Adventure

My friends Steve and Liz Thomas would be joining me for this grand adventure of Olympic sized proportions. What life lessons would we learn for the next coming weeks? Before we knew it, we were walking up the Sol Duc drainage on an approach to our Bailey Range Traverse.

Day 1: Sol Duc to Appleton Pass

dead elk
This guy didn't make it out of the Bailey Range.

Appleton Pass
We made it to our first Bailey Range camp, which has one of the best views in the Park - for being near a trail. This would set the stage for days to come.

Day 2: Appleton Pass to Eleven Bull Basin

mount baker
Sunrise from the first camp.

cat basin
During the first few hours of the official section of traverse, the sun and 9 more days of food started to take its toll. I was ready for a nice water break at an alpine tarn that was near here; with views of Mount Olympus.

catwalk trail
We met up with a small section of abandoned trail after lunch and walked it for a few miles. In this area the trail suddenly stops and one must climb to the spine that connects Cat Peak to Mount Carrie - known as the Catwalk. Liz was excited to see what a tough route in the Olympics had to offer.

Traversing our way across the Catwalk, the spine that connects Cat Peak to Mount Carrie. There is legend of a place along this section where one can look at the feet to see the Elwha and Hoh drainage's. Not suggested for those that do not like heights. Steve and Liz make it look easy.

boston charlie camp
After crossing the Catwalk during the heat of the day it felt good to take a break in the shade. Here we are at Boston Charlie Camp contemplating life. What could be on Liz's mind?

Mount Olympus
Arriving on the shoulder of Mount Carrie, one is rewarded with quite a view. A hiker can see all the way down the Hoh Valley and the view of Mount Olympus is splendid. All from one location.

mount carrie
After traversing the shoulder of Mount Carrie, one starts dropping elevation toward her belly where a handful of nasty gullies await. Here is Steve and Liz making there way down the loose and steep landscape.

eleven bull basin
Being in the sun all day takes it out of us Washington boys. I was happy to make camp in the shade of the mountain. Not too bad of a dinner view either?! 

mount olympus
Dinner views of Olympus.


Day 3: Eleven Bull Basin to Ferry Basin (High Steve Camp)

Mount Olympus
Good morning view from my shelter - starting day 3. Nice view waking up in the Bailey Range.

mountain goat
This guy wasn't impressed that we were sleeping in his area. Steve reported that he could hear sounds of hoofs all night as the goat wandered around in the moonlight.

waterfall hiking
A little morning stretching in our packs. One of my favorite parts of this section. You get to straddle a little waterfall. Whats better than that? The group takes their time on the slippery moss covered rock.

wild berries
Our progress was slowed.

Finishing up the last of the bad gullies of this traverse. You wouldn't want to take a misstep here. Looking at your feet, the Hoh River can almost be seen 5,000'+ below.

cream basin
In the abnormal 90 degree heat of the day, I grew quite thirsty - especially after drinking through my water about an hour earlier. Avoiding all the slide alder above Cream Lake is quite the chore if you don't know where you're going. To avoid hours in thick brush, one must hit key navigation points to get through the area. I have read trip reports of hikers taking 3 days to get out of this basin. I was glad to have done my research beforehand with the locals and although I had also learned from my mistakes on a previous trip to Cream Lake, we still made a small error on this trip. Cream Lake is one of those areas you must go through several times, before unlocking its maze.

lake Billie Everett
An evening in the Olympic alpine is like living in a dream.

Day 4: Ferry Basin (High Steve Camp) Exploring

stephen peak
The next day, Steve studies the route we traversed across the previous afternoon.

hoh glacier
The next day would be spent out of base camp, exploring the remote Ferry Basin with our day packs. I love visiting this area, where you can monitor the retreat of the Hoh Glacier.

camp pan
Camp Pan (see Olympic Mountain Climbers Guide)

Ice art.

hoh glacier
The Hoh Glacier.

elkhorn glacier
Looking onward to the Elkhorn Glacier - our crossing tomorrow. I was concerned by the amount of snow coverage this year.

Just missed this guy cooling off in a pool of water. This black bear also tore up a nearby log that was full of bees.

Exploring various routes for the day.

Enjoying an late afternoon Ferry Basin snack in the shade above camp. Escaping the sun, after wandering the area all afternoon. This tradition is going on for 2 years now. Fresh picked berries, peanut butter and a sailor cracker. Nothing better than calories with a view of Stephen Peak in the background.

Day 5: Ferry Basin (High Steve Camp) to Queets Basin

Lake Pulitzer.

Pulitzer glacier
The next day we were moving south again. Most of this section is in the mountain zone of the Bailey Range. Not much life grows here - just rock, snow, ice and little bodies of water, left by glacial retreat.

Once we were on the main ridgeline, you could see forever across the Park. Almost a 360 view, with limited obstructions. It is on my list to come back and spend a few days exploring this area.

lone tree pass
One of my favorite sections of this traverse. Next obstacle in our route would be ascending the steep and icy snow field in the background.

Using an ice axe to safely ascend the snowfield to the south of Lone Tree Pass.

olympic mountains
The amazing landscape of the Olympic Mountains.

Elkhorn glacier
Enjoying a hot summer day on the Bailey Range under a hiking umbrella. We decided to wait for the snow to soften up a bit on the next glacier crossing.

elkhorn glacier
Hiking off trail definitely has its rewards.

Steve tests out firmness of the snow is on this glacier crossing.

elkhorn glacier
Ascending a glacier, on a hot afternoon. The upper Hoh Valley can be seen in the background, well as Mount Carrie and the High Divide area - which is a common backpacking destination.

Making it off the glacier, we scramble through a small col on the shoulder of Ragamuffin. Steve descends the steep scree to the snowfield below.

mount scott
Mount Scott is one of my personal favorites

mount barnes
No man’s land.

cameron pass

olympic mountains
The Olympic Mountain Ranges - one of the last wild places left on this planet.

bear pass
Approaching Bear Pass.

queets basin
After crossing the Bear Glacier, we officially left the Hoh watershed and moved into the next drainage by descending the steep slopes of Bear Pass. We would head towards the bottom of this basin for the night. This whole area now is the origin of the Queets River.

mount queets
Moonrise over Mount Queets from camp.

queets glacier
Evening view of the Queets Glacier from camp.


queets river valley
Relaxing after dinner and enjoying the calming views down the Queets Valley to the Pacific Ocean. Would this be the end of our good weather? This was the topic around camp that night.

Day 6: Queets Basin Wanderings

humes glacier
Morning reflections.

black bear
I was the first one up in camp, liking to wander with my camera at first light. Our shelters were pitched in the middle of a wild berry patch a few square miles in size. I didn't have to go far to find wildlife that morning. We were surrounded by three grazing black bears - probably feeding for hours in the moonlight. This one was hissing at the other one, when I snapped this picture.

queets basin
Spending a full day eating wild berries, all the while exploring the remote parts of Queets Basin. Keeping cool with several splash baths in the natural running water, which ran off the glaciers in the surrounding area. After I was complaining about the heat, Steve said, “This could very well be the last day of summer, enjoy it.” He was right, it was the last day of summer-like weather on the Olympic Peninsula.

humes glacier
We moved camp for the second night to get up higher in Queets Basin. Here is a view of the Humes Glacier, under the moonlight.

Day 7: Upper Queets Basin to Chicago Camp

Mount Olympus's Humes Glacier & Poseidon. Storm clouds move into the area.

snow finger
We start down the Elwha Snow Finger, source of the river. Rain drop starts to fall, as we are hoping we don't break through the snow bridge.

elwha snow finger
It is amazing what water can do to form dramatic landscapes - in this case ice. This hiker is thankful that she didn't fall through the snowbridge, into the rocky Elwha River below. Sorry Liz, the sketchiest section of the whole trip is still ahead; as she grips her microspikes.

elwha snow finger
Our hiking path for the afternoon. This is what happens to the Elwha Snow Finger as it melts into the river.

elwha snow finger
A path less traveled.

elwha snow finger
At a point where a waterfall rushes under the ice, the water has taken its toll on our snowbridge. A landslide has also merged into the same place to complicate things. The terrain has us bottlenecked into passing through this area or backtrack - hoping to find a high route option on bear and elk trails. This snow bridge is only inches thick in places and the sounds of falling rock can be heard in the canyon below as the landslide melts from the ice. This is the second sketchiest thing I've done in awhile.

Steve jumps this crack.

elwha basin trail
It is good to reach the start of a primitive trail again, after being in the alpine for the last 7 days. We started to get lightning and heavy rain during the last part of the snow finger - which added to the fun.

elwha basin
Elwha Basin can be a magical place. What person doesn't like waterfalls? We would pick up a primitive trail near this location that actually was on a map. Easy going for a bit, if the weather cooperates.

We decided to opt out of a high country camp, because of rain and lightning in the area. Instead, we stayed low and dry off next to a nice hot campfire in the rain.

Day 8: Chicago Camp to Lake Beauty

Chicago camp
Can’t get enough of these trees.

low divide
The next day we would have to regain all the elevation we lost on the Elwha Snow Finger. The stormy weather would not help that fact and temps dropped into the low 40's in the alpine. This was a far cry from our 80+ degree sunshine at the start of the trip. Welcome to the Olympic Mountains! Here we are leaving the Low Divide, about to ascend into Seattle Basin area. Which way Liz?

Day 9: Lake Beauty to Wolf Bar Camp

lake beauty
Lake Beauty camp after a 12 hour rain event.

The Valhallas from camp.

mount olympus
Saying goodbye to Lake Beauty, where views of Olympus can be seen.

lake beauty
First light above our previous camp.

moonscape skyline trail
Moonscape section on the Skyline Primitive Trail.

skyline trial
Reaching a more maintained place on the Skyline. Better trails from here on out.

north fork quinault trail
As darkness nears we near camp. It was a 20 mile day exiting the Skyline. I think Liz was trying to kill me. Saw a lot of Olympic Elk during the storm, but they evaded my camera.

Day 10: Wolf Bar to Bus Stop at Lake Quinault

north fork quinault river
Liz being nostalgic as we near the end of our 10 day Bailey Range Traverse.

Road walking the next 5 miles until we found a hitch down river to Amanda Park. There we caught a series of buses back to Port Angeles.

Making the final descent out of the high country, I could honestly say I did not want the trip to end. The body was tired, but my spirits wanted to keep going. The Bailey Range gave me a lot of good memories and always is a unique experience. I will always have love for the Olympic Mountains, but the Bailey's have the biggest piece of my heart.

Full Video of our Adventure into the Bailey Range:


Part of the 'Walking through the Seasons' Trail Series

Last updated in February 2016 by Barefoot Jake