The Elwha in Olympic National Park is Once Again Open!

In a simple and quick post to Olympic National Park’s Facebook page, the announcement we were all waiting for occurred on March 29th, 2017. It reads a follows: The Elwha (Olympic Hot Springs) Road is now OPEN to vehicle traffic, to just above the Glines Canyon Overlook. The Whiskey Bend Road is now OPEN all the way to the trailhead.

That means that you can now access the gems of the Elwha without having to bike or run on National Park Service Roads! The Elwha is open! The Elwha is open! Tell a friend! 

The Elwha roads in Olympic National Park have been mostly closed since late November 2015, when a series of severe storms brought heavy rain and flooding to the Elwha River. During that storm, approximately 90 feet of roadway washed out, with additional sections severely eroded and damaged by flood waters. While the campground are still closed because of the flooding, the area can now be accessed by all. To say that this news is exciting is an understatement!

The Elwha Region is best know for classic day hikes such as the trail to Goblins Gate, Humes and Michaels Cabins, Olympic Hot Springs and the Grand Canyon of the Elwha.

From Olympic National Park’s Facebook Page
Goblin’s Gate along the Elwha River in Olympic National Park.
The Elwha River, Olympic National Park
The Dodger Point Bridge over the Elwha River in Olympic National Park

Largely ignored by the throngs of tourists that visit more popular parts of the 5th most-visited National Park in America, the Elwha Region has historically been one of the most important areas on the Olympic Peninsula. The region first drew regional and national attention when it became the starting point for the Press Expedition of 1889, which was the first group of explorers to ever cross the Olympic Mountains. Amazingly, this 5-man group of reporters and pioneers completed their trek during the worst winter in Olympic National Park History. Remote and wild, Elwha later became the home to one of the premier hunting cabins in the region, and most recently, it became the location for the world’s largest dam removal project, freeing a salmon-rich river for the first time in over a century.

To hike the Elwha is like walking through a time machine that is running backwards. Each step upstream takes you further and further back in time to a place where time ironically ceases to exist. While many trails exist along the Elwha, there are two routes that offer some of the best views and most spectacular Pacific Northwest beauty. From the stunning panoramas at Hurricane Ridge to the mystical and aptly-named Goblin’s Gate, picking a trekking destination along the Elwha is always the right choice.

While all Elwha Region Hikes start in the same basic area, the destinations of trails are just as diverse as the ecosystems which you can hike. While some might choose to hike up to Hurricane Ridge, others may attempt to see the Olympic National Park from the amazing Bailey Range. No matter what Elwha destination you choose, you are sure to experience amazing views, serene beauty and the joys that only hiking in this region can bring.

Our favorite section to hike in the Elwha is the trail to the Dodger Point Bridge. Suspended nearly 100 feet about the surging greenish/blue Elwha River, the bridge offers stunning views upstream to a huge landslide and downstream to the magnificent Elwha River Valley. With awesome side-destinations ranging from the old Humes Ranch Cabin, to the jaw-dropping beauty of Goblin’s Gate, hiking the Elwha to the Dodger Point Bridge is something you nee to experience this weekend.

The trek will take you 7 miles, round trip, with an elevation gain that is minimal along the well-groomed and easy to follow trail. This trail can and should be hiked by explorers of all ages and hiking abilities. Timeless forests, impressive river views and historical cabins all make the walk to the bridge a perfect opportunity to reconnect with nature and fully appreciate the Olympic National Park. The trail to the Dodger Point Bridge weaves through a well-groomed trail, past homestead areas and through ridiculously magical forests. While the forests of the Elwha aren’t as grand in scale as the Hoh and Quinault regions, they are just as photogenic and visually pleasing. Once you reach the beautiful cable bridge, stand in the middle or along the banks of the Elwha River and take in the sheer power and scale. With a washout canyon area to the south and a fantastic river basin downstream to the north, the bridge is a perfect destination for a meal after a medium-day hike. On the return route, check out Goblin’s Gate.

The best route for the trail has you starting at Whiskey Bend, then working your way toward Goblin’s Gate. From here, follow the trail and signs upriver to the historical Humes Cabin, where you can have a snack and read up on the importance of this cabin for early trips to the region. From here, work your way down the hill and across a pretty meadow while still heading upstream. After a slight elevation gain, you will be walking along the river until you reach the bridge.

Starting at the Whiskey Bend Trailhead and heading south toward Dodger Point, the oddly-named Geyser Valley Trail immediately takes you uphill to a viewpoint of the Elwha River Valley. While there are no areas of thermal activity, as the name suggests, the region has more than enough attractions. One of my favorites is the view at Goblin’s Gate. Turning at a perfect right angle, the river is met by a menacing mouth of jagged rocks and steep canyons. This is Goblins Gate, so named by Charles Barnes of the Press Expedition because it looks like “the throat of a monster, silently sucking away the water.” To see the highlights of the Elwha, please follow this link, which I wrote for Roots Rated.


For more hiking ideas and destinations, consider getting our Definitive Guide to Olympic National Park. No trip to the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest is complete without Doug Scott’s definitive guidebook on this diverse and beautiful region. With over 400 pages of content, this book will help anyone visiting the region plan the perfect trip, and let those living in the area know more about the place they call home.

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Calendars for 2018, published with love by THE OUTDOOR SOCIETY.

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By Doug and Mathias on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State

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