Nearest City: Hoquiam
Best Season: Year round
How Far: 5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 950ft
Pony Bridge is that perfect hike when you want to get away from it all. See waterfalls, old growth forests, deer, elk, eagles and maybe even a bear in the Lake Quinault area. This under-rated, under-used section of the Olympic national park is a local favorite. The area is so under developed that since it’s initial mapping in 1890, the trees and forests look pretty much the same.
The hike goes along a well maintained trail that, for the first mile and a half, used to be a road. Long since overgrown, the trail now meanders through meadows and dense forests full of cedar and ferns. The condition of the trail is usually pretty nice, though an occasional downed tree might be on the trail, forcing you to find a way around. Streams of runoff cascade down the rainforest covered hillsides, make this hike scenically gorgeous. The path continues to Pony Bridge, which is a picturesque wooden bridge over the South Fork of the Quinault River. Sit here, eat some lunch and explore up and down the gorge if you feel like an adventure. A great place for a picture is located down what looks like an animal trail to the right side after you cross the bridge.
While the Hoh rainforest gets all the glory, the Quinault Rainforest gets the beauty. To best explore the beauty on a quick day hike, Pony Bridge, located at the Graves Creek Trailhead, is a great destination. While this trail doesn’t offer the giant trees that you get a few more miles toward the Enchanted Valley, it does offer a view of a gorge that is so beautiful it will take your breath away.
From Hoquiam travel north on US 101 for 35 miles. Turn right onto the South Shore Road, located 1 mile south of Amanda Park. Proceed on this road for 13.5 miles, coming to a junction at the Quinault River Bridge. Continue right, proceeding 6.2 miles to the road’s end and the trailhead.
Pony Bridge is over the Quinault River, and while most bridge crossings in the Olympic National Park are decent, this one ranks among one of the most memorable. Twenty-five feet above a narrow gorge, greenish water is surrounded by moss-covered rock walls and towering trees. Opening up downstream, those more inclined to walk off trail can sit along the fast moving current for a unique lunch. In the early spring, the river is running high and rough; this is the time to see the area. In the late fall, salmon run up the narrow stream, struggling against the fast current. With deer, elk and an occasional black bear, this area is alive with natural beauty and life. Banana slugs, beetles and pileated woodpeckers are also common sights, so keep your eyes peeled! However, even if you don’t see any animals, this trail which used to be an old road is a perfect getaway year round.