Above: Mt Olympus in Olympic National Park. Photo by Jeff Kish.
Olympic Mountains, Section 9
On the Olympic Peninsula, the Pacific Northwest Trail crosses the largest wilderness in Washington, and the rugged Olympic Mountains. Although the Olympics are lower in elevation than the Cascades, they should not be underestimated. This diverse landscape is as formidable as hikers will find anywhere on the PNT, and weather conditions can change quickly.
In the National Park, visitors share berry-filled meadows with black bears beneath glacier-clad Mt. Olympus, and follow roaring rivers through ancient forests dripping with moss. The Park serves as a refuge of biodiversity, with many endemic plants and animals, like the Olympic marmot, exclusive to this unique mountain environment.
On the western end, the PNT explores the less-traveled trails along the Bogachiel River, where jungle-like, temperate rain forests, fueled by 12 feet of annual rainfall, are home to massive Sitka spruce, mountain hemlock, and herds of Roosevelt Elk.
Coupeville, WA to Forks, WA
162 mi (261 km)
Highest Point: 6500’ Primary
Highest Point: 6700’ Alternate
Est. Elevation Gain/ Loss: +20,100’ / -19,870’
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Permits are required for backcountry camping in Olympic NP
- Bear canisters are required in Seven Lakes Basin and proper food storage for black bear habitat is required in all areas
- On private property and county parks the PNT is day-use only
- Follow WA DNR rules for dispersed camping on State Forests
- Notable wildlife: Roosevelt elk, Olympic Marmot, Black Bear
- Keystone Ferry between Coupeville and Port Townsend
- Mt Zion trail
- Buckhorn Wilderness
- Olympic National Park
- Elwha River trail
- Grand Valley Trail
- Hurricane ridge
- Olympic Hot Springs
- Seven lakes Basin
The PNT travels through some of our wildest public lands. These special places are home to animals iconic of wilderness, and species found nowhere else. By following the regulations of our National Parks and National Forests, you can help keep wildlife wild and the backcountry safe on the PNT.
Getting to and from the Pacific Northwest Trail is part of the adventure – America’s wildest National Scenic trail is located in some of the most remote mountain ranges of the Northwest and logistics are part of the challenge.
A visit to the undiscovered communities of the Northwest is a fun part of any trip on the PNT. From rugged mountain towns, to historic seaside cities, the diverse communities visited by the trail provide a peek into the lifestyles unique to the Northwest.
The weather and climate across the trail corridor can vary greatly by geographic area, elevation, and season. The major mountain ranges of the PNT create rain shadows. This effect creates drier and warmer east sides, that can approach desert-like climates, and much cooler and wetter west sides that include rain forests.
“Against the Grain” is the unofficial slogan of the PNT, with good reason. This rugged, 1,200 mile route climbs over seven mountain ranges and it presents some unique challenges along the way. For those uncomfortable with hazardous situations, there are many trails on the PNT that are accessible to a wide range of visitors.
The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail travels through many different public and private lands. You can help to protect our natural resources, and the quality of the experience. Respect private property and learn the regulations of the area you are visiting.
Today, the PNT offers an experience that may be more challenging and rugged than it will be a generation from now. Until then, making the effort to be fully prepared for an adventure on the PNT is key to having a safe and enjoyable trip.