- Southeast part of Olympic National FOREST (not Park, meaning you don’t have to pay the NP entrance fee!)
- ~28 miles total, ~1,700 feet elevation gain
- Bear canister required (see details below)
Although the elevation gain for this hike doesn’t seem like much for spanning roughly 14 miles each direction, the trail undulates up and down the entire way, making it more difficult than expected and the actual elevation “gain” much more.
The Olympic National Park / Forest is rich in wildlife — it is important to respect this fact and that this is the animals’ home and you’re a visitor. Bear safety and awareness is very important. If you don’t know anything about bear safety, call the ranger station and they’ll be happy to explain. Further, elk are just as dangerous — and vulnerable — as bears. Overall, make sure you know what to do if you encounter wildlife and steps to take to keep them away from the campsites (e.g., using bear canisters, cleaning up your mess, etc.).
This hike begins outside of Quinault at the Grave’s Creek Trailhead. If you plan on camping in the backcountry, you need to stop at the Quinault Ranger Station to register, pay, give them your car information, and pick up a FREE bear canister (which you have to return). There are also maps here and you can ask the rangers questions if needed.
We arrived on a Friday morning and got started around 11am. The trailhead was packed with cars, though we actually didn’t run into many other hikers while on the trail. This is because there are numerous places to camp along the trail, and many people hike out to the valley then continue on day hikes from there. So, everyone gets fairly spread out.
Hiking all of the way to the end of the Enchanted Valley is about 14 miles. The valley starts at about mile 13, where you get a glimpse of the famous Chalet and cross a bridge over the Quinault River. Here are the stops along the way…
At about 2.7 miles you reach Pony Bridge, which crosses a beautiful blue-green river running through gorge walls covered in ferns and moss. We stopped here to eat a snack and enjoy the view for a while, and we noted that some day-hikers stopped here and then turned around.
After this point, the trail winds up and down and around with various campsites scattered along the river until you reach the trail heading down to O’Neill Creek Camp at about 6.7 miles. We were originally going to camp down at O’Neill Creek, but it only took us about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Pony Bridge and we decided to continue onward. So we again stopped here for another snack before continuing onward.
The trail continues to the left, again winding up and down, through various meadows. At about 8.2 miles the trail crosses No Name Creek, then it’s another 1.3 miles to Pyrites Camp. We stayed at Pyrites Camp the first night with no other hikers/campers around (there were a few at campsites far from us).
The following morning was less than two hours of hiking to reach the valley. We first glimpsed the well-known Valley Chalet through the trees, then crossed a one-sided bridge and made our way into the valley.
We found a campsite a ways beyond the Chalet, then went for a short hike to the end of the valley. We hoped to see a bear, or even an elk, but there was no wildlife to be seen in the meadows while we were there.
The views in the valley were glorious, and the weather was perfect. I sat near the river reading as the sunset, and the following morning was warm enough to do some sandy stretching without any socks on (though I certainly had my down and other fleece layers on still).
We had originally planned to hike halfway out, camp, then hike the rest of the way. But we awoke with some energy and were content to hike all of the way out the third day (~13.5 miles). It was a long day of hiking out, but still fantastic weather and not too many other hikers.