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Smokey Bottom (West Lake Mills)

Olympic Peninsula > Northern Coast
48.0409, -123.5901 Map & Directions
11.04 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
1,016 feet
Highest Point
686 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
The free-flowing Elwha in the basin of former Lake Mills. Photo by Olygrywlf. Full-size image
  • Mountain views
  • Wildlife
  • Good for kids
  • Dogs allowed on leash
  • Fall foliage
  • Rivers

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

National Park Pass
Saved to My Backpack

Formerly a trail that bordered Lake Mills, the Smokey Bottom trail winds through the second-growth forest along the now free-flowing Elwha River. Continue reading

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Hiking Smokey Bottom (West Lake Mills)

Overgrown, lined by enormous trees and encroaching ferns, with peek-a-boo views of the former Elwha Dam site, Smokey Bottom is a good way to get in a mysterious-feeling 4 miles of walking after visiting the interpretive area near the former dam site.

First though, you need to hike about 4.3 miles from the Madison Falls trailhead, since that's the closest trailhead that accesses this route after the Elwha River washed out the Hot Springs road.

Once you arrive at the overlook, be sure and enjoy the view and marvel at the dam, then look for the trailhead. Its behind a sign that reads: 
Boulder River 2.0
End of Trail 1.9

Despite the potentially confusing signage, never fear. You'll be rewarded by a view of Boulder River at the end. The trail immediately climbs, switchbacking away from the trailhead only to drop suddenly to cross a washout of the drainage of Stokey Creek.

The rolling pace set in the first few hundred yards is the theme of this trail's entire length. Elevation gains and losses increase, making for a surprisingly good workout. After a long climb about a mile in, look out to your left for a nice view upriver of the mysterious Elwha valley.

Dive back into forest, where the trail continues meandering up, down and all around, through open forest set far back from the river. Notice how quiet it is. The mosses, ferns and other foliage no doubt dampen the river noise, but you're also quite far away from the river. Now free-flowing, it's cutting back and forth through the former lakebed, and is now quite far away from the Smokey Bottom trail. 

After two miles of forest wandering, arrive abruptly at a dropoff, where Boulder River cascades down from its origin at Boulder Lake, five and a half miles away as the crow flies, but unreachable on trails from there.

The missing tenth of a mile on the sign at the trailhead is a mystery. A footpath heads off uphill from here, but it's certainly not 0.1 miles further to the river; you can see it right in front of you. On your way back, take time to enjoy the views of the valley and former dam site, which are arguably better on the return trip, since you're walking towards it.

WTA Pro Tip: Add on the two-mile roundtrip Glines Canyon Overlook Trail. It takes off from the same parking area, though you can also access it from the interpretive site.

Toilet Information

  • Toilet at trailhead
  • Accessible toilet

More information about toilets

Wheelchair Accessibility

The trail to the Glines Canyon Overlook at West Lake Mills is accessed via the now-washed-out Olympic Hot Springs road. This road is navigable by wheelchair 0.8 miles past the Madison Falls trailhead, at which point the route leaves the former roadbed and heads into the woods on an uneven, narrow route.

WTA worked here in 2017!

Hike Description Written by
Anna Roth, WTA Staff

Smokey Bottom (West Lake Mills)

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.0409, -123.5901 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

Road Closed: The Olympic Hot Springs Road is inaccessible to vehicles due to a washout. Data for this route reflect a hike starting at the Madison Falls trailhead which is the last accessible trailhead before the washout

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

National Park Pass

WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

Headed west on Highway 101 from Port Angeles, turn left onto Olympic Hot Springs Road (just before the bridge over the Elwha River). Continue down Olympic Hot Springs Road, until you reach the park entrance gate.

Buy a pass, (or flash one if you already have one) and park in the Madison Falls parking area. Your hike begins on the Olympic Hot Springs road.

More Hike Details


Olympic Peninsula > Northern Coast

Olympic National Park

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Smokey Bottom (West Lake Mills)

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