Appleton Pass, Sol Duc Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington
Appleton Pass - 14.6 miles
Sol Duc Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||14.6 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||1,882' - 5,114' (5,114' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+3,232' net elevation gain (+3,472' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Appleton Pass - 14.6 Miles Round-Trip
Appleton Pass is located 7.3 miles from the Sol Duc Trailhead in Olympic National Park. It spans a broad saddle between the South Fork Boulder Creek and Sol Duc River drainages. While Appleton Pass is the primary destination, the true highlight is a string of airy meadows that lay just beyond.
The hike runs moderately for 4.9 miles along the Sol Duc River to the Appleton Pass Trail, which breaks north and climbs 2030' in just 2.3 miles to the pass.
A well-defined boot track continues over one mile and 400' above through rolling alpine meadows framed by Mt Olympus and frequented by elk, bear and goat:
The trail runs level from the parking area to the Sol Duc River Trail split and veers left (.75 miles). It rises gently for the next two miles through old growth fir and hemlock that can reach dizzying heights. Huckleberry fills the understory, producing edible fruit through summer.
The trail moves steadily to Sol Duc River campsite #1 (2.3 miles : 2,170') and #2 (3.2 miles : 2,285'), past which grades steepen in rugged spurts to #3 (3.95 miles : 2,665') and #4 (4.35 miles : 2,785').
River access is limited, but a number of waterfalls are visible as you progress. Towering subalpine fir join the mix as you approach the Appleton Pass Trail split (4.9 miles : 3,082'). The Appleton Pass Trail switchbacks above the canopy with good perspective on these uniformly tall trees. It crosses Rocky Creek (5.25 miles : 3,425') and keeps a steep pace up the north valley wall.
You'll level by a pair of stagnant ponds (6.05 miles : 4,415'), past which grades moderate in a thinning forest with emerging views of High Divide. The trail cuts across a flower and berry-lined slope to a fork (7.0 miles : 5,005') that veers right to Appleton Pass (7.3 miles : 5,114').
Mount Appleton stands prominently over the pass, framing views west and north down the South Fork Boulder Creek valley. The main trail continues down into the valley, which is an alternate route to Appleton Pass that begins in Elwha.
Several campsites are located between the pass and Oyster Lake, some very exposed with views and others sheltered by trees. Follow the bear wire path past Oyster Lake into the upper meadows.
The meadows extend approximately one mile and 480' above the pass with panoramas that include the headwall of Sol Duc Valley, Mt Olympus, and the Schoeffel Creek drainage. These meadows are the true highlight of the hike, and warrant extended exploration if time permits.
- N47 57.299 W123 50.104 — 0.0 miles : Sol Duc Trailhead
- N47 57.130 W123 49.241 — .75 miles : Sol Duc River Trail split
- N47 57.010 W123 48.420 — 1.5 miles : Mild climb in old growth forest
- N47 56.781 W123 47.552 — 2.3 miles : Sol Duc River Campsite #1
- N47 56.402 W123 46.787 — 3.15 miles : Sol Duc River Campsite #2
- N47 56.094 W123 46.131 — 3.95 miles : Sol Duc River Campsite #3
- N47 56.095 W123 45.690 — 4.35 miles : Sol Duc River Campsite #4
- N47 55.934 W123 45.011 — 4.9 miles : Appleton Pass Trail split
- N47 56.028 W123 44.791 — 5.25 miles : Cross Rocky Creek
- N47 56.045 W123 44.564 — 5.45 miles : No fires beyond this point
- N47 56.156 W123 44.029 — 6.05 miles : Level by two murky ponds
- N47 56.320 W123 43.409 — 7.0 miles : Unmarked fork, bear right
- N47 56.331 W123 43.167 — 7.3 miles : Appleton Pass
- The term old growth typically refers to fir - hemlock forests with trees that exceed 200 years, have a multi-layer canopy, abundant downed wood and snags. The primary distinction between old growth and temperate rainforests is less rainfall, which can be attributed to valley positioning away from the coast.
- The Sol Duc River forms on the north side of High Divide, which separates the Sol Duc and Hoh drainages. The Bogachiel River joins Sol Duc near the coast to form the Quillayute River.
- Chinook and coho salmon return to the Sol Duc River in late summer and spawn in late fall, while cutthroat trout and steelhead run in the fall and winter and spawn into the spring. The Sol Duc River is one of only a few places in Olympic where salmon run in every season.
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 per night (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 in advance.
- Reservations may be made no more than 30 days in advance.
- Camping is permitted only in designated sites within quota areas. Deviation from your permit itinerary is not allowed, except in emergencies.
- Campsites are not individually assigned, and available to permit holders on a first come, first served basis. Groups of 7-12 people must camp in designated group sites.
- Water is available from Oyster Lake. It's relatively stagnant but serviceable.
- Campfires are not permitted above 3,500'. All four Sol Duc River campsites permit fires. Fires are not permitted at Appleton Pass sites.
- Food Storage: All food and scented items must be secured 24 hours a day. Park-approved bear canisters are required if traveling from Sol Duc. Bear wire is also available for Appleton Pass sites.
- A Washington State Fishing License is not required to fish in Olympic National Park except when fishing in the Pacific Ocean from shore.
- 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 Sol Duc Trailhead is located 40.2 miles from Port Angeles at the end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road.
From Port Angeles, head west on US 101 approximately 28 miles to Sol Duc Hot Springs Road (marked by large NPS sign along highway). Continue 12.2 miles to the trailhead.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Road is closed seasonally due to weather. Call ahead for road conditions and accessibility.
Olympic National Park
600 East Park Avenue
Port Angeles, WA 98362-6798
Visitor Information: 360.565.3130
Road & Weather Hotline: 360.565.3131
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort: 866.476.5382
Wilderness Information Center and Backcountry Permit Office (WIC)
Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center
Quinault Wilderness Information Office