backpack: North Fork Skokomish River
Located in the Olympic National Park, the North Fork Skokomish River Trail is a great low elevation trip for the spring when water levels are running high in the cascading river and the lush forest is filled with many shades of green.
- day 1 – Staircase trailhead to Spike campsite: 4 miles, 790 ft. gain, 135 ft. loss
- day 2 – day hike: 3.7 miles roundtrip, 265 ft. gain/loss
- day 3 – day hike: 4.8 miles roundtrip, 520 ft. gain/loss
- day 4 – hike out to Staircase trailhead: 4 miles, 135 ft. gain, 790 ft. loss
- best months: May – June
- location: Olympic Peninsula; nearest town: Hoodsport
- land management: Olympic National Park
- trail conditions: Olympics: North Fork Skokomish River Trail
- hike description: Washington Trails Association
- permits: required in advance for all backcountry campsites
- trailhead pass: National Park Pass
Day 1 – hike in to Spike Camp
The theme of this year’s backpacking trips so far is rain. On this three night trip, it rained off and on for several days. I actually love the way the rain makes the forest look, brightening the green colors and adding lushness to the scene. If you have the gear to deal with the rain, it’s not a downer at all.
The hike in to Spike Camp was fairly easy… it’s just 4 miles without a lot of elevation gain. It was hot and muggy, and the mosquitoes found me but no one else (not uncommon!). The weather got cooler every day on this trip and the mosquitoes didn’t hang around.
We didn’t know how many campsites there were at Spike Camp, and with eight people and two permits, we were hoping we would have enough room for all of our tents. No one else was there when we arrived, so we had our pick of the four sites that we found. None have much by way of flat spots for tents, so it was a challenge but we all fit into two sites. On the first night, the other two sites filled up, but for the rest of the our trip we were the only ones at Spike Camp.
Water access is via a creek about 100 yards past the camp.
Day 2 – day hike
On the second day, my friends went up to Flapjack Lakes (which still had some snow), but I had a swollen ankle so I did an easier day hike along the river to Donahue Creek and back. The high bridge over Madeline Creek was a highlight that I planned to go back to the next day for more exploration.
Back at camp, I setup two tarps so we could cook out of the rain that we were expecting. All seven of us ended up cooking our dinners under it that night, and then breakfast the next morning as well.
Day 3 – day hike
5.4 miles, 550 ft gain
We hiked back to Madeline Creek and spent several hours taking photos on both sides of the creek, then we bushwacked to reach the river for more photos. While we were exploring off trail, we found a single campsite and bear wires for hanging food.
Continuing on the river trail, Donahue Creek has a bridge without rails that I didn’t want to cross. I always prefer to walk through the water versus teetering on logs and testing my fate, but the water was moving too fast and deep so I had to get over my apprehensions about it and get across with the help of my friend. This is a skill that I need to practice more! Before I had eye muscle surgery last year, my peripheral vision was “wonky” and made me feel unstable whenever I was on surfaces above the ground. Now my brain just needs to learn how to do it. 😉
After crossing Donahue Creek, we continued on the river trail to check out Big Log Camp and the next half mile of trail. The second bridge past Big Log is over a narrow rock canyon and is a scenic highlight of this trip.
Back at camp, we had one last campfire with a plan to be ready to hike out the next morning at 7am in order to (hopefully) beat the heavy rain in the forecast.
Day 4 – hike out to trailhead
4 miles, 800 ft loss
On the hike out, we crossed the suspension bridge so we could hike out on the super scenic Staircase Rapids trail. It did rain, but not the big downpour that we were expecting. I will definitely go back here for more backpacking trips!