These five day hikes are for the rugged, the hearty and the slightly insane.
Each of us has a hike that we consider to be the hardest day hike we have ever attempted. These hikes have caused pain and agony, both physically and mentally. Tucked in the deepest recesses of our minds, we compare each and every trail we come across to the last treacherous trek we undertook. You always remember the trail that last kicked your ass and left you feeling exhausted, even if while you were hiking it, you cursed between panting breaths. For some of us, these often brutal day hikes become addicting, border lining a near masochistic relationship with Mother Nature. We look for trails that challenge our minds and bodies, pushing us out of our comfort zone. The sore legs, the small cuts and bruises, the nettles burning your skin; it all goes away with the view from panoramic wonderlands.
Those who don’t hike can’t understand why we do this to ourselves. On days off, while everyone else is relaxing, we are found on the trails, pushing ourselves in hopes for self-discovery and beauty. Non-hikers don’t understand the flood of endorphins as the exhaustion of the trek fades away. They haven’t smelled the melting snow on a warm summer day, watching mountain goats lick rocks as the entire PNW is showcased below. They haven’t experienced the high you get from climbing 3,000 feet up a hillside to look at views where you swear, with the light just right, you can see the curvature of the earth. In other words, they don’t know what they are missing.
We each have a hike that has challenged us at one time or another. For those of us who hike along the Hood Canal of the Olympic Peninsula, there are five main day hikes that are rites of passage. Sure, there are others, but these five are the most awesome, steep, challenging and rewarding day hikes on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula. There are dozens of other hikes in the region, and 912 miles of trails on the Olympic Peninsula, but these hikes are sure to challenge you both physically and mentally.
The four hikes we have listed total 18,788 feet. To put this in a better way, the elevation gained on these five hikes would be like climbing from sea level to the summit of Mount Rainier, then up another 4,379 feet. With 48.6 miles of trails (One hike is 20 miles), you can be sure your legs will be needing a bushel of bananas, a leg massage and a hot tub soak after completing these day hikes.
PLEASE NOTE: These trails are not for casual hikers. These hikes should only be attempted by experienced hikers, who are comfortable with route finding, scrambling over headwalls, loose footing and the possibility of having to spend a night or two if conditions get bad. Which these and all hikes, you need to follow all LNT Principles and bring the 10 Essentials.
THE FIVE HIKES THAT WILL KICK YOUR ASS
1. CUB PEAK
Miles from Seattle: 73.7
Distance Round Trip: 6.6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet
This is the easiest of the hikes listed. While steep, the location, as well as the usage to Wagonwheel Lake makes it a leg burner. Cub Peak is rugged, with exposed rocks teetering precariously at the top of a 3,000ft drop. Away from the danger, clay, shale and ballast mix together around breathtaking wildflowers and viewpoints of the Skokomish River Valley, the Hamma Hamma River Valley, The Brothers, Mount Constance, Mount Ellinor and Mount Washington. The highlight though might just be the aptly named Sawtooth Range, standing over the Skokomish River Valley and forest, standing up like jagged edges of a logging tool that was spared for this forest. The mountains are magnificent, the wildflowers are beautiful and the view is almost as breathtaking as the trail to get here.
2. LAKE OF THE ANGELS
Miles from Seattle: 84.6
Distance Round Trip: 8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 3,388 feet
Tucked in the remote hills of the Olympic Mountains, in the shadow of Mount Skokomish, Lake of the Angels is nearly 5,000 feet above the Hamma Hamma River, and sits against the prettiest mountain backdrop in the Olympic National Park. With smoothed-out boulders from glacial activity, rugged peaks, beautiful waterfalls and an abundant mountain goat and marmot population, this destination is going to be the next big thing for hikers in the State of Washington.
3. GLADYS DIVIDE
Miles from Seattle: 73.7
Distance Round Trip: 20 Miles
Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet
While long and difficult, the experiences one has while hiking to Gladys Divide give a better insight to just what the human body is capable of accomplishing. Starting along the Skokomish River and ending near the start of the Hamma Hamma River, this trail gives you forests, waterfalls, lakes, valleys, snowcapped, rugged mountains and panoramic views that will make you drool. Except for August and September, Gladys Divide is rarely hiked, making this trail one of the best hikes out of the Staircase Region of Olympic National Park.
4. LAKE CONSTANCE
Miles from Seattle: 70.6
Distance Round Trip: 10 Miles
Elevation Gain: 4,200 feet
The trail to Lake Constance is not for the weak. In fact, it isn’t for the strong either. Lake Constance is for the rugged, the hearty and the slightly insane. It is for those who enjoy a hard day’s work for a view of gorgeous lake surrounded by mountains that are timeless. High up above the Dosewallips River, Lake Constance sits, surrounded by craggy peaks, eagles, osprey and amazing views. Olympic National Park may have many jewels, but Lake Constance is an unpolished diamond, full of natural potential without the bells and whistles that more popular trails
5. MOUNT WASHINGTON
Miles from Seattle: 114
Distance Round Trip: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 3200 feet
Neighbors with the always stunning and popular Mount Ellinor, the craggy summit of Mount Washington is the perfect peak to enjoy relative solitude and panoramic splendor in the Olympic Mountains. At 6,255ft, Washington is a scramble at steep climb into alpine beauty. Narrow paths near the summit require concentration, while scree fields and headwalls must be crossed to even get close to the top. This trail is steep, often hard to follow and 1000% awesome. It will challenge you and make you dislike sections of the trail. It will push you and then reward you with views that lead to uncontrollable drooling. Again, it is not for average hikers.