backpack: Olympic Peninsula – Enchanted Valley… almost
The Enchanted Valley is located in the Quinault rainforest on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. This was a three night backpacking trip, with plans to camp near Pony Bridge and Pyrites Creek.
- distance & elevation gain to Fire Creek Camp: 3.8 miles, 1,125 ft. gain
- day hike option: continue on the Quinault River Trail to Enchanted Valley
- best months: May to June
- location: Olympic Peninsula; nearest town: Port Angeles
- land management: Olympic National Park
- trail conditions: Olympics: East Fork Quinault River Trail
- hike description: Washington Trails Association – Enchanted Valley
- permits: required in advance for all backcountry campsites
- trailhead pass: none required
- regulations: dogs are not allowed; bear wires are available at some of the camps; bear canisters are required for food storage in the Enchanted Valley
I was looking forward to seeing the Enchanted Valley and maybe a couple of bears on this trip, but I woke up on day three with the flu and wasn’t able to hike the full distance to the valley.
From Portland, it takes about four hours to reach the Graves Creek trailhead, including a stop at the ranger station at Lake Quinault to pick up required backcountry permits. The Enchanted Valley area is known for a heavy concentration of bears, so bear canisters are highly recommended for storing food.
Beginning our hike in on a bridge over Graves Creek
Our original plan was to camp near Pony Bridge, but the ranger recommended we stay farther in at Fire Creek Camp since it’s larger and could accommodate our group of seven. We checked out the campsites at Pony Bridge, and none of them had enough space or good views, so we continued on to find the next camp near Fire Creek.
All of the bridges here were built using natural materials found in the area. Each one was unique and beautiful. Pictured below is the bridge over Fire Creek.
After crossing Fire Creek bridge, we arrived at Fire Creek camp. The setting is gorgeous, in a forest of old-growth trees next to the Quinault River.
Fire Creek Camp
View of the river from our campsite
In the morning we packed up and hiked what was supposed to be another 5.5 miles to Pyrites Creek but instead it was 7.5 miles. We discovered that the info about mileage and elevation gain for this trail is incorrectly listed due to a trail reroute in 2013 after flood damage. According to a ranger on duty, the trail was lengthened by 2 miles or more, and the elevation gain to the valley is closer to 4,000 feet overall instead of 1,700 feet.
We basecamped here for two nights with plans to day hike to the Enchanted Valley. This meant that we’d have an 11 mile hike out on our last day instead of the 9 miles we were planning on.
Mr. Fungus Face
No Name Creek bridge
Pyrites Creek bridge
I woke up with a fever from a flu virus, so I stayed at camp while my friends hiked to the Enchanted Valley. : (
On the last day, we packed up to hike out and my (awesome) friends split my gear amongst them so I would be able to hike out while sick. We stopped every hour for a break, and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to do 11 miles. The flu was a bad one – it lasted for three more weeks once I got home. I hope to return to this area someday to see what I missed out on.