North Fork Sol Duc Trail, Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, Olympic National Park, Washington
North Fork Sol Duc Trail - 12.1 miles
Sol Duc Hot Springs Road
|Round-Trip Length:||12.1 miles (to second major ford)|
|Start-End Elevation:||1,527' - 2,472' (2,540' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+945' net elevation gain (+1,754' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
North Fork Sol Duc Trail - 12.1 Miles Round-Trip
The North Fork Sol Duc Trail is located 8.1 miles south of US 101 on Sol Duc Hot Springs Road in Olympic National Park. This minimally maintained but easy to follow trail fords the North Fork Sol Duc River and continues upstream through an archetypal old growth forest.
The challenging ford at .75 miles and a trail that goes nowhere in particular - it simply fades after 9 miles on an unmaintained route - keep crowds light on this highly compelling river trek.
Trail maintenance in the summer-fall of 2013 has greatly improved travel conditions leading to the North Fork Sol Duc backcountry shelter (9 miles). Potentially precarious fords notwithstanding, these improvements enable exploration of seldom seen backcountry areas.
Hikers will enjoy ancient forests, abundant wildlife and a remote setting on the North Fork Sol Duc Trail:
The trail climbs steadily through uniformly tall fir and hemlock to a crest (.5 miles : 1,804'), where it drops sharply through a gulch to the south bank of the river (.75 miles : 1,585').
A fork just before the bank leads (right) to a view of upstream rapids, but these are not passable; veer left to the cross point. The trail is not immediately visible on the far side, but apparent once over.
Study the river closely before entering. Once across, follow the bank upstream - a footpath will soon emerge. The trail enters a maple-studded bottomland and edges back to an open bank along the river (1.0 miles : 1,638'). Red columbine dot this level stretch on the water's edge.
The trail oscillates between the river and enveloping intervals of vine maple and brush (1.4 miles). It's faint and oft-obstructed, but intuitively followed with the river offering preeminent guidance.
At 1.75 miles (1,720') the trail climbs away from the river into a luxuriant old growth forest, where conditions improve along higher, drier slopes (2.0 miles : 1,805').
Immense fir and hemlock line the undulating, soft-surface trail. Well-spaced trees and a sparse understory create good viewing lanes for wildlife.
The forest floor is a spongy mat of moss, liverworts and decaying matter that facilitates off-trail exploration. Frequent river access points offer good views of the far bank.
The trail passes a backcountry campsite on the river (3.05 miles : 1,827') before switchbacks lead away and straighten out through towering rows of fir (3.5 miles : 1,885').
A faint path switchbacks up and left around a fallen log at 5.35 miles (2,325'), perhaps the only navigational curve ball in the upper forest (the trail lies just behind it but is veiled by debris).
Travel moderates back to a rapid on the river, a sensible turnaround point for day hikers (6.05 miles : 2,472'). This point marks the first of several consecutive, potentially challenging fords required to reach the backcountry shelter.
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84
- N48 00.644 W123 54.670 — 0.0 miles : North Fork Sol Duc Trailhead
- N48 00.547 W123 53.629 — .75 miles : Reach river and ford
- N48 00.416 W123 53.458 — 1.0 miles : Uneven travel up river bank
- N48 00.222 W123 53.031 — 1.5 miles : Oscillating path between bank and forest
- N48 00.122 W123 52.399 — 2.0 miles : Edging higher into drier forest
- N48 00.059 W123 51.914 — 2.5 miles : Trail improves in forest over river
- N48 00.085 W123 51.351 — 3.05 miles : Backcountry campsite
- N48 00.169 W123 50.920 — 3.5 miles : Switchback away from river
- N48 00.401 W123 50.382 — 4.05 miles : Clearer trail through large fir forest
- N48 00.472 W123 49.948 — 4.5 miles : Cross creek
- N48 00.397 W123 49.276 — 5.0 miles : Undulating grade in tall forest
- N48 00.418 W123 48.818 — 5.35 miles : Switchback left around fallen tree
- N48 00.523 W123 48.561 — 5.5 miles : River comes back into view
- N48 00.804 W123 48.088 — 6.05 miles : Maintained trail ends at major ford
- The river ford is swift and may not be passable through the spring, or after heavy rain. Expect thigh - lower chest high water, depending on season and point of cross. Dry bags and extra clothing are recommended.
- The trail is faint in many places, but generally - if not surprisingly - easy to follow. Still, vigilance is critical. Always take note of any departure point from the trail - it can be difficult to immediately reclaim.
- Anticipate several downed trees, branches, overgrown areas, and minor stream crossings along the way.
- The trail seamlessly forks north off the main river and up a major tributary just after the 5 mile mark. This point is difficult to see in the heavy forest through which you're passing at the time (see map for details).
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Permits are required for all overnight stays in Olympic National Park. Contact the Wilderness Information Center (360.565.3100) for backcountry camping reservations, permits, and trail conditions. Visit the WIC: 600 East Park Avenue, Port Angeles, WA 98362.
- Quotas and Reservations are in effect May 1 - September 30 for the Sol Duc - Seven Lakes Basin area. 50% of sites can be reserved in advance. The other 50% is available first come, first served from the WIC during business hours up to 24 hours in advance.
- Permits for quota areas must be picked up at the WIC, or a staffed ranger station during business hours.
- There's a $5 registration fee per group, plus $2 per person (children under 15 excluded). If you don't have access to a WIC, or plan to arrive early or late, call the WIC to arrange your permit ahead of time. Self-registration trailheads have forms, permits, and submission boxes.
- Reservations may be made no more than 30 days in advance. Groups of 7-12 people must camp in designated group sites within quota areas.
- Camping is permitted only in designated sites within quota areas. Deviation from your permit itinerary is not allowed in quota areas, except in emergencies. In other areas, permits are not limited.
- Campsites are not individually assigned, but are available to permit holders on a first come, first served basis. Campfires are allowed below 3,500'.
- Food Storage and Bear Canisters: All food and scented items must be secured 24 hours a day. Park- approved bear canisters are required in the Sol Duc - Seven Lakes Basin, Royal Basin, and all along the coast. Other areas may require bear canisters at any time based on wildlife activity, or elevation (e.g. not enough tree cover to hang food safely).
- A Washington State Fishing License is not required to fish in Olympic National Park except when fishing in the Pacific Ocean from shore. No license is required to harvest surf smelt.
- A Washington State catch record card is required to fish for salmon or steelhead and they must be accounted for as if caught in state waters. Fishing regulations are specific to site, species, and season. Contact the Park before setting out.
- Recreational fishing in freshwater areas of Olympic National Park is restricted to artificial lures with single, barbless hooks (exceptions may apply).
- The use of seines, traps, drugs, explosives, and nets (except to land a legally hooked fish or dip-net smelt) are prohibited.
Rules and Regulations
- There's a $15 fee to enter Olympic National Park ($30 annual pass).
- Pets are not permitted on trails. Pets are permitted in campgrounds and must be leashed at all times.
Directions to Trailhead
The North Fork Sol Duc Trailhead is located 8.1 miles south of US 101 on Sol Duc Hot Springs Road in Olympic National Park.
From Port Angeles, drive 28 miles west on US 101 to Sol Duc Hot Springs Road. Turn left (south) and drive 8.1 miles to trailhead parking on the right. The trail begins across the road.
Olympic National Park
600 East Park Avenue
Port Angeles, WA 98362-6798
Visitor Information: 360.565.3130
Road & Weather Hotline: 360.565.3131
Wilderness Information Center and Backcountry Permit Office (WIC)
Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center
Forks Information Station
360.374.7566 or 360.374.5877
Quinault Wilderness Information Office