There are places on America’s public lands that are often overlooked, skipped over for the more popular and well-known destinations. Each year, as millions explore the must-see spots around our National Parks, a handful of adventurers find themselves satiating their wanderlust on trails that are off the beaten path. For me, one of those favorite, underrated regions is the Bogachiel Rainforest region of the Olympic Peninsula. Here, where dense forests meet stunning river scenes, the wildness of the Olympics is impossible to ignore. While many overlooked areas are far from cities or roads, the Bogachiel is right off of Highway 101 by Forks, making it a perfect “secret” spot to explore for all who pass through the region.
I grew up on the Washington Coast, taking weekend trips to the Quinault Rainforest and the beaches of Kalaloch more times that I can remember. For me, those were my happy places, wandering for hours at a time in the forests and through the mess of driftwood along the coast. Returning to those spots as an adult, I longed for more, viewing these breathtaking regions through a lens of being spoiled by wilderness all my life. Searching for someplace new, I eventually found myself stumbling through the lush forests of the Bogachiel, blown away by the magnificence and newness.
Growing up, Forks was always viewed as a backwoods lumber town, a rough and tumble hamlet on the edge of wilderness. In the 1980s and 1990s, signs were in every shop window and on every home. The signs were painted in an obnoxious yellow or orange with black writing stenciled on, reading “This Home Supported by Timber Dollars.” Some homes in Forks also had signs saying to eat spotted owls and similar messages, highlighting the full scale war raging between the timber industry and the environmental movement. As the child of two left leaning teachers, the town of Forks was largely skipped over for more nature-friendly regions of the Olympic Peninsula.
It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I started to retrace my childhood adventures up the western edge of the Peninsula, discovering an entire world of trails and wilderness views. I had drifted away from nature, ignoring my soul and focusing on things that others told me were important. Then, one day, I snapped out of sleep walking though life and decided to reconnect with things that I once viewed as important. As a kid, I thought I had seen it all, as far as forests were concerned on the Olympic Peninsula, having hiked the Hoh, Queets and Quinault Rainforests, but then I saw the Bogachiel.
I have written about the Bogachiel before, detailing the history of the region and the best trails to hike. I also had to include one of my favorite trails in the region for my 52 Olympic Peninsula Hikes guidebook. The Bogachiel Rainforest’s wilderness beauty is powerful, intoxicating, and addicting. Every trip out to this often overlooked area inspires more plans to trek deeper into the lush setting, eventually inspiring your wanderlust enough to hike the entire trail. Even as a short day hike, the Bogachiel is pure and gorgeous, wonderful and soul nourishing. While the Hoh and Quinault get all the love, the Bogachiel is rainforest region that never fails to impress.
Just a few short miles from Highway 101, the Bogachiel Trailhead is like a portal to a forgotten land. Darting sharply east into a majestic valley full of ferns, mosses, towering trees and pristine, saturated wilderness, the trails receive a small fraction of the visitors that the rest of the region sees each year. Part of that is lack of signage and infrastructure, something the “keep trails secret” crowd of the PNW hiking community would like to see more of. The other reason the trail isn’t hiked much is that it is extremely wet, muddy and often has sections along the river get completely washed away. The first two miles of the trail have been rerouted due to the Bogachiel River wildly shifting through the valley and eroding the wetlands where the trail once traveled.
The most popular hikes along the Bogachiel River are the Rainforest River Trail and the Ira Spring Wetland Trail, both of which are considered to be part of the 1200 mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. For most who wander the Bogachiel, the trail to take is the Rainforest Trail, which is a two mile out and back trek that meanders through a forest that was logged out in the 1940s for WWII. Today, the region has returned to its natural beauty, following creeks and moseying along the Bogachiel River. After two miles of gorgeousness, the trail reaches the boundary of Olympic National Park, where hiking trails lead to Seven Lakes Basin and the Sol Duc Hot Springs and Waterfall.
For me, hiking this trail for the first time was an absolute game changer. It reminded me that despite my numerous adventures in and around Olympic National Park, there are still regions close to the access roads that I have yet to see. There is an entire lifetime of trails to hike, just waiting off the beaten path, for me to wander and nourish my soul. While others complain about crowding at popular regions, trails like the Bogachiel still remain mostly devoid of hiking traffic, demonstrating that the forests are not over crowded and that wilderness discovery can still occur.
This post was written in one hour for my #NatureWritingChallenge. The hike can be found in my new guidebook, 52 Hikes Olympic Peninsula.
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