The Main Fork Dosewallips Trail is a major artery in the Olympic National Park trail system and offers access to remote areas deep within the park. As such, this route is most often traveled by through-hikers or multi-night backpackers on a loop tour of flowery meadows and high passes.
The trailhead, at the west end of the abandoned Dosewallips Campground and derelict ranger station, feels unceremonious after the long road walk to reach it. The trail climbs gradually at first, passing the Terrace Loop Trail on the left, through beautiful forest where creeks and foot logs abound.
The tread is wide and graded gently, a testament to the fact that horses once influenced trail design throughout the parks. Big firs and hemlocks dominate the forest structure, with devils club, ferns, and mossy rocks making up the understory. You'll find Rhododendrons and a splash of pink in late spring.
At 1.4 miles stay right at the Dose Forks Junction. Shortly after, at 2.5 miles, is a junction with the Constance Pass Trail. Stay left here, skirting the foot of the mountain on tread now high above the roaring Dosewallips River. After a short time, Upper Twin Creek provides a lovely view of Calypso Falls.
Now the forest is more open, with Silver firs towering above and salal making up the understory. A few Pacific yew can be seen. At 5.5 miles is Burdick Creek with its single site for one small tent, unfortunately set right next to the trail, although a bear wire is handy. Better sites lie ahead.
At 7.8 miles is the largest camp area along the route: Deception Creek. Being nearly halfway to Hayden Pass, this site is popular and has ample space for larger parties. A horse camp lies just a short distance beyond. It should be noted that Deception Creek drains Mystery Basin, and its water is thus silty from glacial flour, which can clog filters.
Back on the trail, the grade now steepens as the hiker works toward Gray Wolf Junction at 9.2 miles. Here the trail breaks out of the forest and into meadows full of waist-high parsnip and many other plants that wet the legs of passersby after a rain or cold morning dew. Frequent rodent holes pose an added threat to weary ankles.
The meadows continue as the trail presses westward. Mounts Mystery and Deception now loom dramatically behind the hiker. At 10.9 miles is the lonely Bear Camp with its breathtaking views. The few spacious sites here share a bear wire and privy. A shelter stands near the edge of the meadow in a profusion of fireweed.
The trail moves in and out of forest and meadow now, with clumpy Alaska cedar crowding the margins. At 12.6 miles sits Dose Meadow, a camp similar to Bear Camp, but noticeably buggier, and without a shelter. Many parties opt to stay here due to its strategic location at the popular trail junction to Lost and Cameron Passes.
Now the climb to Hayden Pass truly begins. Cross a lovely bridge over the source of the Dosewallips River, and briefly back into forest, before switchbacking toward the upper basin where the last water source meanders lazily beneath steep slopes beloved by foraging black bears.
The final push to Hayden Pass steepens and narrows a bit, with the most exciting moment coming where a winter cornice often lingers as a stubborn snow patch on the eastern rim of the ridge. This obstacle usually disappears by August, but poses a potential risk to early season hikers.
Hayden Pass and its sublime views are finally reached at 15.0 miles. Mount Olympus and the Bailey Range, along with Mount Anderson, dominate the horizon to the west and south. The pass begs the hiker with extra energy to explore the ridge in either direction, although the only official trail beyond here continues west and downhill 8.3 miles to the Elwha River.