“This loop is a superlative experience that you'll be eager to repeat.”
— Megan W
Birding · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This route has it all: rainforest, alpine meadows, spectacular views, wildflowers, and pristine lakes. It is understandably popular but amazingly, it's still possible to find solitude here.
Need to Know
Depending on the season and winter snow totals, you are likely to encounter snowfields. Snow crossings may be necessary and some people prefer to carry an ice axe. June to October is the best season.
Most people complete this loop in the counter clockwise direction, but either way works. From the Sol Duc trailhead, the wide Sol Duc River Trail
starts out nearly flat and soon intersects with the Deer Lake Trail
before reaching Sol Duc Falls
. Take the Deer Lake Trail
southwest across the Sol Duc River and past the eastern end of the Lover's Lane Trail
. Start the uphill switchbacking up the Canyon Creek drainage. Cross the creek at a bridge and continue the steady consistent uphill hike.
The trail proceeds along the western side of Canyon Creek, contouring up the steep hillside. Finally, the grade eases as you approach footbridge over the outlet of Deer Creek. There is often a lot of water rushing out here, and it is a nice spot to rest. The remainder of the path around the verdant lake is more level and goes past campsites and viewpoints. This is an intriguing place to explore- see if you can find "Fawn Lake," and the nearby network of pretty streams with "potholes" higher up (being careful to stay on established paths of course). The Deer Lake Trail
ends at a junction with the High Divide Trail
Take the High Divide Trail
south and climb out of the Deer Lake basin. Head up through subalpine vegetation, patches of fir and open meadows with increasingly beautiful views of the Olympics. Attain the ridge and head eastwards over more level but somewhat vertiginous terrain. After rounding a rocky bowl you arrive at the intersection with the Lunch Lake Trail
and will be tempted to descend into the spectacular Seven Lakes Basin. This is a fine activity, for those with time and camping permits. For those continuing on to the end of High Divide Trail
, resist the siren song and proceed along the ridge crest.
The Hoh Lake Trail
intersects the High Divide Trail
from the south below Bogachiel Peak. The detour up Bogachiel Peak Trail
to the summit is worth it for the views of Mt. Olympus, to the south, the Bailey Range, to the east, and the Sol Duc drainage, to the north. Regain the High Divide Trail
heading east downhill through open slopes to the junction with Y Lakes Way Trail
. Follow the spine ever eastwards enjoying the views of the sparkling lakes below. Pass the Lake #8 Route
trail and just as you begin a descent down the ridge the High Divide Trail
ends at a junction with Cat Basin Primitive Trail
and further on Sol Duc River Trail
at Heart Lake.
Stay on Sol Duc River Trail
around the east side of Heart Lake and envy the lucky folks who are camping in this idyllic spot. Pass a small waterfall at the outlet of romantic Heart Lake. Leave the wide open fields with expansive views of the surrounding mountains and enter dense forest. Descend steep switchbacks down the hillside next to Bridge Creek and enter the Sol Duc River valley. After the intersection with the Appleton Pass Trail
, continue along the valley bottom over a few miles of mellow terrain. You'll hike through old growth Douglas fir forest and hear the cascading, 3-tiered Sol Duc Falls
before you see it. Admire the falls and try to stay warm -the sun does not often penetrate the forest here and the spray can make it downright chilly. Pass the turnoff for the Deer Lake Trail
and continue on the Sol Duc River Trail
straight towards the trailhead and parking lot.