North Fork Quinault River Trail, North Fork Quinault River Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington

North Fork Quinault River Trail - 32.2 miles

North Fork Quinault River Trailhead

The North Fork Quinault River Trail

The North Fork Quinault River Trail

Round-Trip Length: 32.2 miles
Start-End Elevation: 519' - 3,602' (3,602' max elevation on Low Divide)
Elevation Change: +3,083' net elevation gain (+5,090' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

North Fork Quinault River Trail - 32.2 Miles Round-Trip

The North Fork Quinault River Trail runs 16.1 miles from North Fork Road to Low Divide in Olympic National Park. This long but generally moderate trail passes through temperate rainforest, montane forest and open meadows up to the divide (3,602'). The Elwha River Trail picks up here and continues 27.7 miles to Whiskey Bend Road on a 43.8 mile route across the park.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

This trail runs many miles above deep canyons and has less contact with the river than hikes in the Hoh, Enchanted Valley and Queets. Still the old growth is equally impressive, and you'll likely have more of the valley to yourself. The meadows at Low Divide have compelling campsites and active resident bears.

Grades are generally moderate to Trapper Shelter, past which the valley narrows and travel steepens up and down high slopes to the river ford at 16 Mile Camp. This ford may be impassable during the thaw and periods of heavy rain. The trail continues on steep switchbacks with many down trees before leveling in meadows up to Low Divide:

The trail heads north through dense salmonberry to a high bank with good views (.75 miles : 600'). It crosses two ravines into a bottomland with large trees to Wolf Bar Camp (2.6 miles : 680'). Travel steepens across a bridge (3.45 miles) and creek (4.1 miles) to Wild Rose Creek (4.95 miles : 845'). Locate the trail on the far side for the most efficient route across this wide, rocky ravine.

Once across the trail levels right along the river to Halfway House Camp (5.1 miles : 825'). This is the last easy river access for some time, and fine turnaround point for day hikers. The trail edges away in big timber to a bridge (5.7 miles) and down to Elip Creek (6.4 miles : 945').

Cross this wide ravine and pick up a vague path through the campsite to a steep switchback up to the Skyline Trail split (6.5 miles : 1,035'). Keep right through a nice stretch of forest to high bridges over Stalding Creek (7.4 miles : 1,080') and Kimta Creek (7.75 miles : 1,090'). The trail moves fast to a large down tree, which you'll circle (right) to Trapper Shelter (8.15 miles : 1,210').

The shelter is serviceable but fairly confined by brush. The valley narrows past the shelter on business-like intervals up and down steep slopes - you'll feel this uphill on the return.

The trail hops an exposed slide (9.55 miles : 1,530'), crosses the mid-section of a cascade (10.0 miles) and drops to a bank from which you can access the river with some deft scrambling (10.6 miles : 1,650'). It stays high over the river to Geoduck Creek, then climbs and drops steeply to 12 Mile Camp (11.45 miles : 1,830').

Follow a vague path through this skeletal bottom up and down to the river ford at 16 Mile Camp (12.1 miles : 2,060'). Pass through camp and cross a ravine to begin the long, steep push to Low Divide. Expect many down trees on this section, some of which have fallen length-wise and are difficult to pass.

The trail pitches up through big old growth and a wider valley with emerging views. Tread carefully across an exposed slide (13.05 miles : 2,735') to a bridge over a gorge (13.85 miles : 2,870'). It negotiates several down trees to successive streams that may wash over the trail (14.75 miles).

The trail passes through a wood gate into a big meadow under Mt Seattle (15.35 miles : 3,485'). It levels into a second meadow past the Skyline Trail split 15.6 miles 3,560') to a third meadow at the Low Divide Ranger Station and Campsite (15.8 miles : 3,532').  

Weave through willow patches on the far side back into the forest up to Low Divide (16.1 miles : 3,602'). The trail continues a short distance to Lake Margaret and down into the Elwha Valley.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N47 34.550 W123 38.877 — 0.0 miles : North Fork Trailhead
  • N47 35.151 W123 38.705 — .75 miles : Mild-moderate travel along river bottom
  • N47 35.645 W123 38.257 — 1.5 miles : Mild-moderate travel along river bottom
  • N47 35.858 W123 37.521 — 2.25 miles : Fast travel in diverse old growth forest
  • N47 35.979 W123 37.154 — 2.6 miles : Wolf Bar Camp (695')
  • N47 36.507 W123 37.075 — 3.25 miles : Steeper grades past Wolf Bar
  • N47 36.701 W123 37.106 — 3.45 miles : Cross bridge across small cascade
  • N47 37.221 W123 37.479 — 4.1 miles : Cross wide, rocky creek ravine
  • N47 37.610 W123 37.828 — 4.9 miles : Cross rocky ravine of Wild Rose Creek
  • N47 37.694 W123 37.994 — 5.05 miles : Halfway House Camp (830')
  • N47 38.037 W123 38.782 — 5.7 miles : Cross bridge over deep gorge
  • N47 38.355 W123 39.110 — 6.4 miles : Cross Elip Creek
  • N47 38.418 W123 39.098 — 6.5 miles : Skyline Trail split (1,040')
  • N47 39.051 W123 39.053 — 7.4 miles : Cross Stalding Creek on long bridge
  • N47 39.258 W123 38.867 — 7.75 miles : Cross Kimta Creek on long bridge
  • N47 39.474 W123 38.555 — 8.2 miles : Trapper Shelter
  • N47 39.853 W123 37.699 — 8.9 miles : Steep travel above narrow river canyon
  • N47 40.029 W123 37.656 — 9.55 miles : Cross exposed slide
  • N47 40.191 W123 37.160 — 10.0 miles : Cross mid section of long cascade
  • N47 40.342 W123 36.328 — 10.6 miles : Nice views from bank over river
  • N47 40.663 W123 35.813 — 11.2 miles : Cross Geoduck Creek
  • N47 40.788 W123 35.731 — 11.45 miles : Drop to 12 mile camp on river bottom
  • N47 41.297 W123 35.450 — 12.1 miles : Ford River to 16 Mile Camp (2,065')
  • N47 41.724 W123 35.397 — 12.6 miles : Steep, winding climb in old growth forest
  • N47 41.992 W123 35.221 — 13.05 miles : Cross exposed slide
  • N47 42.341 W123 35.015 — 11.5 miles : Variously steep climb in transitional forest
  • N47 42.504 W123 34.809 — 13.85 miles : Cross high bridge over gorge
  • N47 42.830 W123 34.441 — 14.75 miles : Negotiate down trees
  • N47 43.151 W123 34.003 — 15.15 miles : Cross stream leading to meadow
  • N47 43.305 W123 33.731 — 15.6 miles : Skyline Trail split
  • N47 43.406 W123 33.531 — 15.8 miles : Low Divide Camp (3,530')
  • N47 43.470 W123 33.253 — 16.1 miles : Low Divide (3,602')

Worth Noting

  • The river crossing at 16 Mile can be difficult (if not impassable) during periods of snow melt and heavy rain. Call ahead for the latest conditions.
  • Many large trees have fallen on this trail, particularly on the steepest section between the river ford at 16 Mile and the meadows at Low Divide. Some have fallen lengthwise and can take considerable effort to pass with a heavy pack.

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.

  • There's an $8 per person - per night fee to backcountry camp in Olympic National Park (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.
  • Camp only in established sites. There are multiple, well-developed sites at Wolf Bar, Halfway House, Elip Creek, Trapper Shelter, 16 Mile and Low Divide.
  • Food Storage: Bear canisters are not required, but are strongly recommended.
  • Fires: Campfires are permitted up to 3500'.

Fishing Information

  • 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. Always contact the Park before setting out for the latest guidelines.
  • 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 $25 entrance fee to Olympic National Park.

  • Pets are not permitted on trails. Pets are permitted in campgrounds and must be leashed at all times.
  • Stock is permitted. Call ahead for stock-travel conditions.

Directions to Trailhead

The North Fork Quinault River Trailhead is located 17.2 miles from Highway 101 on North Fork Road (134.1 miles from Port Angeles).

From Port Angeles, head west on US 101 for 117 miles to Lake Quinault - North Shore Road. Follow North Shore Road 13.8 miles to the North Fork Road - Graves Creek Road split. Turn left on North Fork Road for 3.3 miles to the trailhead.

Portions of North Shore Road and all of North Fork Road are improved dirt roads passable to 2WD vehicles in good condition, but subject to closures from flooding, down-trees and mudslides. There are many large potholes on North Fork Road.

Contact Information

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)

Staircase Ranger Station: 360.877.5569
Seasonal Hours: June 24 - September 2: Open 8:30 - 5, Friday - Sunday

Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center

Forks Information Station
360.374.7566 or 360.374.5877

Quinault Wilderness Information Office

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