Comprising nearly twenty percent of Olympic National Park’s landmass, the Elwha River is the largest watershed in the park. From its remote point of origin on the rugged southern slopes of Mount Barnes, the Elwha flows 45 miles to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, draining more than 300 square miles of surrounding wilderness and passing through one of the largest tracts of old growth forest remaining in America. Cutting a deep, green valley in a sea of rugged snow- and ice-capped peaks adorned in alpine meadows, the Elwha consists of some of the finest hiking country anywhere.
While backpackers can retrace the historic Press Expedition’s 1889–90 traverse across the Olympics, or access routes to remote Hayden Pass or the astonishing Bailey Range traverse, day hikers can reach plenty of spectacular Elwha country too. All along the river’s northern reaches, wildlife-rich meadows, remote alpine lakes, forests that have stood for centuries, and miles of stunning landscapes can be explored in a day or less.
Easy and moderate family-friendly hikes can be made in the Geyser Valley. You won’t find any geysers (it’s a misnomer); but you will stumble upon historic homesteads and ranches and some stunning natural landmarks. The Goblins Gate is one of them, a narrow chasm where the river thunders.