Autumn in Queets Basin Trip

A friend and I went on a six day backpacking trip into Queets Basin, Olympic National Park.  This was my first trip into the Queets during the autumn months.  A few weeks previously I was just in this same area, photographing the landscape with smoke from a nearby wildfire.

Queets Basin has a three day approach with the route we chose.  Being that remote in the Olympic Mountains, really lets a person enjoy the glacier carved landscape that much more.  The steep and rocky terrain, really makes carrying professional camera gear a challenge.  I will forever cherish these adventures for a lifetime, though my own documented images.

The moonscape basin is a huge area with plenty of space for a motivated hiker to explore in solitude.  It was created by receding glaciers and erosion from once permanent snowfields in higher elevations.  The Olympic Peninsula is in a record setting drought, so this gave us a chance to walk the higher elevations snow-free and photograph things that are usually buried under feet of snow year around.

The only disappointing factor of this backpacking trip, was the low amounts of wildlife that were seen at higher elevations.  My guess, it was a direct affect of the record drought.  There was no food sources in the mountains, this late in the season.  I'm sure there are a lot of hungry animals in the valleys, trying to find a food source before winter.

Warning: Land navigation, map and compass reading skills are necessary for this hike. Previously, a backpacker could use the Elwha Snow Finger, which is described in the Olympic Mountain Climbers Guide. This is no longer possible because of the lack of permanent snowfields. The experienced hiker must go up and around the Snow Hump to stay safe. Being inside the narrow Elwha hallway, leaves the hiker exposed to rock fall; which could be fatal.

snow finger
Day 2 consisted of lots of this

Starting the third day in the mountains

Mount Seattle
Mount Seattle and Christie

Mount Queets
Mount Queets and I

Waterfalls of Mount Queets

Queets river
Drainage in the Queets. This should be flowing with water.

Queets Basin
Autumn in the Olympic Mountains

Humes Glacier
Human powered exploration

High tarn in the Olympic Mountains

Barnes Basin
Dramatic landscapes of the Olympic Mountains

Queets valley
Looking down the Queets River Valley to the ocean. Not visible smoke from the wildfire that sparked up this spring.

Starting day 4 with Mount Olympus

Queets Glacier morning

The final morning in the Queets, before starting the two day walk home

snow finger
Making our way back to the trailhead

Overall it was a great trip into the Queets river drainage. It was nice to document the high basin with zero snowpack, because of the drought in the Olympic Mountains this year. You may also enjoy reading about the low snowpack and viewing photographs, from winter through spring melt this season.

Updated by Barefoot Jake in July 2017