Washington Backpacking


Washington • $2,100 September 9-14, 2024

Mount OlympusRugged peaks that harbor some of the largest glaciers in the lower 48 states rise above lush Pacific forests of gigantic conifers with true rainforest in some valleys. Despite the high annual precipitation, late summer on the Olympic Peninsula usually produces great weather with abundant sunshine (most of the precipitation falls from mid-autumn through spring). This area forms the far northwest extremity of the contiguous 48 states, a million acre national park that’s almost entirely roadless and wild, with jaw-dropping scenery. The glacial mass on Mt. Olympus is visible from many vantage points, and the high ridges and meadows — sometimes teeming with black bears and huckleberries — are a true delight. There are views of the Pacific Ocean and Mt. Rainer from some vantage points. There are also plenty of ups and downs, so we rate this trek fairly strenuous and its base is Seattle.

Although the overall elevations above sea level are low compared with the Rockies, local vertical relief is huge, so there are always some big ups and downs. Our route varies from year to year, but always includes both forested valleys with huge trees, open meadows with big awesome views and glacier-clad peaks.

Trek Base: Seattle, Washington. Comfort Inn and Suites, 19333 International Blvd, SeaTac, WA , 98188; 206-878-1100. The motel is next to the Seattle airport; please make motel reservations as early as possible because all motels near the airport are busy.

Transportation: Fly to Seattle, call motel upon arrival for short shuttle (24 hour service).

Meeting Time: Pre-trip orientation including food and gear handout plus safety talk at 6 PM the evening prior to day one of the trip. Meet in motel lobby.

Trip Rating: This trip is fairly strenuous, and although most or the entire route is on well-maintained trails, the Olympic Mountains are rugged with big vertical rises, so there will be some big ups and downs.

Elevations: 1,000 to 6,500 feet above the nearby sea. Maximum one-day elevation gain with backpack will be about 2,500 feet.

Weather: The valleys on the west side of the range support true rainforest, so yes, when it rains it pours and seasonally it rains often. But the rainy season is generally mid-autumn through winter and into spring. By contrast, summer and early autumn are usually sun-drenched with mild temperatures. Unlike the Rocky Mountains, afternoon thunderstorms are rare here.

Fishing: Much of our route will be above the fish, but there are fishing opportunities in the lower stream valleys. Please inform us in advance if you plan to fish.

Special Features: True rainforests with gigantic trees, some of the largest on Earth! Wildflower (summer) and berry-filled (autumn) mountain meadows. Huge glaciers drape Mt. Olympus and other peaks. Big views. Mountain goats, Roosevelt elk, blacktail deer and spotted owls. This is a unique maritime mountain range, and despite its proximity to Seattle, it’s really wild.

Special Tips: Eschew unnecessary gear that will hamper you on the big up and downs. Make sure you have good rain-gear, just in case an unusual summer or early autumn storm sets in for a day or two.

Status: The Olympic back-country is designated Wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964. It’s over a million acres of road-less wilderness in one tract.

Itinerary: Our routes are either “point A” to “point B” or we do a loop, and the trail-heads are roughly 3 hours from the motel.

Note: Mileages and vertical foot estimates are approximate, because we vary the route from year to year, depending upon local conditions such as stream crossings, snow-filled passes and other dynamic natural factors.

*All trip prices include equipment (backpack, day-pack, tent, sleeping bag and pad, eating utensils), food and cooking (3 meals/day plus snacks), cooking gear, trip planning, comprehensive safety instruction, all user/permit fees, transportation from town to and from the trailheads, and our professional guide/naturalist staff. There is a $300 discount if you bring your own equipment.

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Have questions? Call (406) 823-0337

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Annual Trip Calendar


Capitan Lake - photo from one of our backpacking treks

List prices include our complete gear package and there is a $300 discount if you bring your own (see our Canoeing List, Backpacking List, and/or Questionnaire for details – found here). Also, we offer a $300 discount for the second trip in a calendar year. Scheduled trips are for persons ages 14 and over. Exceptions to the age requirement will be made by us on a case-by-case basis.

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