Big Quilcene Trail, Olympic National Forest (WA)


One of the great hikes for wildflower viewing is in my own backyard, on the east side of the Olympic peninsula, part of Olympic National Forest. The Big Quilcene River Trail climbs 3,500 ft in a little over 5 miles, past old growth forest of hemlock and Western red cedar, yellow cedar and subalpine fir. The scenery changes from dense, old-growth forest, alpine meadows and scree-littered hillsides as you ascend to tree-less Marmot Pass where spectacular views of the Hood Canal, Puget Sound and the Cascades will be the reward. While the hike is supremely worthwhile for these alone, it’s when the wildflowers bloom in July after snowmelt that the hike takes on a more splendid character. But, be forewarned that the trail at this time of year is muddy for much of the way and negotiating the exposed tree roots and slick soil will be a challenge. You’ll expend more energy just trying to stay on drier ground. We were glad we took along hiking poles.

Those who enjoy photographing flowers (like I do) will find many subjects. There seems to be a convergence of late spring and early summer flowers because of the delayed thaw. It was an all-day hike. We started at around 10:30am and didn’t get back to the parking lot until 7:30pm. By then, we had probably hyperextended our out-of-condition muscles. But, what a unforgettable time we had.

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