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West Elwha

Olympic Peninsula > Pacific Coast
48.0468, -123.6025 Map & Directions
7.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
1,400 feet
Highest Point
650 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
West Elwha. Photo by Bob and Barb. Full-size image
  • Wildflowers/Meadows
  • Wildlife
  • Good for kids
  • Dogs not allowed
  • Rivers
Saved to My Backpack

Take a short but very scenic hike starting from the Altair campground in Olympic National Park. Traverse along the edge of the Elwha River, recently free-flowing thanks to the removal of the Glines Canyon Dam. Continue reading

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Hiking West Elwha

When you hike the West Elwha trail you can almost, if you listen very closely, hear the clip-clops of horses and mules and voices of the past. This was one of the two main pack train routes for getting people and supplies up to the historic Olympic Hot Springs Resort before the days of the automobile.

Up the trail came the sawmill in sections, cast iron cooking stoves, mattresses, furniture and everything else necessary to stock the popular resort. Bert Herrick charged 2 cents per pound, and did this business for 10 years before the road finally went in. Today, hiking the West Elwha Trail is a delightful way to spend an afternoon. It is also one of the ways to get yourself into the Elwha Valley with the Olympic Hot Springs road closed until an undetermined date. The Elwha River has reclaimed the road. Until the Park Service gets a section of the road moved up, we will need to hike farther to get into the valley. This is a lovely way to go.

It is rather unusual how this trail starts out off of Herrick Road, as you are walking along the edge of private property. Soon enough though, you’ll pass the national park boundary sign and immediately settle into all this trail has to offer. Like all of the west-side Olympics, it is lush and deeply green. Occasionally you get sweeping views of the newly freed Elwha River, and the quintessential side creeks pouring over moss-covered boulders await your admiration.

At the end of the trail is the site of the former Altair Campground. Taken by the meandering river several years ago, one can still easily imagine the campfires of the past. It’s a nice spot for lunch before you head on into the valley, or return the way you came.

Toilet Information

  • No toilet at trailhead

More information about toilets

Hike Description Written by
Rebecca Wanagel, WTA Community

West Elwha

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.0468, -123.6025 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

See weather forecast

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

From the junction of Highway 101 and 112, continue west on 101 for 3.9 miles and turn left on Herrick Road. Trailhead is at the end of this road. There is only room for about 3 cars to park here. 

More Hike Details


Olympic Peninsula > Pacific Coast

West Elwha (#54)

Olympic National Park

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula 2nd Ed. (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Buy the Green Trails Olympic Mountains East No. 168S map

Buy the Green Trails Hurricane Ridge/Elwha North No. 134S map

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West Elwha

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