Elwha Ranger Station, Hurricane Hill, Wolf Creek, Whiskey Bend, Elwha Ranger Station– Loop Trail Run

For several months I’d been thinking of tackling this arduous loop trail in the Olympic Mountains and Saturday 17th Oct 2015 seemed to work for Ingrid and I because of no other commitments. Ingrid loves to hike but leaves the long runs to me. We drove through occasional showers on the way to the trailhead. Weather forecast was mid to upper 50’s F, high cloud, high humidity 88-100%, possible showers.

Loop Trail

We started hiking at 10.00 am, Ingrid’s plan was to hike up to Hurricane Hill summit and return the same route whilst I would jog the loop once I got above the initial steep 4 or 5 miles of trail. We expected to meet back at the car in late afternoon.

AscentElwha Ranger Station to Hurricane Hill summit.

Trailhead: elevation 400 ft

Hurricane Hill: elevation 5757 ft

Distance: 6.3 miles

Lower Forest Trail

Lower Forest Trail

Lower Forest Trail

Lower Forest Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s about 4 miles of continuous hard hiking to get above the tree line then another 3/4 mile up a steep meadow before attaining an easier, open ridge which leads towards the summit. I took 1 hr 50 mins up through the forest plus 20-25 mins to reach the easier ridge.

 

Just above 1st meadow

Just above 1st meadow

Easier Ridge. Start of jogging.

Easier Ridge. Start of jogging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point I had first lunch and changed into minimalist running shoes before starting to jog. The ridge had a couple of steeper segments which reduced me to walking but I topped out on Hurricane Hill at 1.00 pm, exactly 3 hrs. [Note: Ingrid reached the summit at 2.02 pm]. I had second lunch and finished my first quart of water while enjoying the vast surroundings before starting my descent loop.

Hurricane Hill Summit with Mt. Angeles behind.

Me on Hurricane Hill Summit with Mt. Angeles behind.

DescentHurricane Hill Lookout Trail, Wolf Creek Trail, Whiskey Bend Road back to Elwha Ranger Station.

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Hurricane Hill Lookout Trail loosely follows the green ridge from right to center of photo.

Hurricane Hill to Wolf Creek turn-off, elevation loss 787 ft in a little over 2 miles.

Wolf Creek to Whisky Bend, elevation loss 3772 ft in 8 miles.

Whiskey Bend road to Elwha Ranger Station: elevation loss 798 ft in 5 miles.

Entering Wolf Creek Trail from Hurricane Ridge

Entering Wolf Creek Trail from Hurricane Ridge

Wolf Creek Trail

Wolf Creek Trail

Wolf Creek Trail

Wolf Creek Trail

I jogged down the blacktop lookout trail and access road leading towards Hurricane Hill visitor center until reaching the turn off for Wolf Creek trail at elevation 4970 ft, in 25 mins.

Wolf Creek was a road built by the Forest Service in the 1930’s that led to a lookout cabin atop Hurricane Hill with spectacular views to search for forest fires. The road fell out of service during the late 1950’s and has been slowly returning to nature ever since.  None of the road surface and cuts now show, just occasional electrical utility boxes on the lower half of the trail.

My jog down Wolf Creek trail was pleasant except for the last 2 miles known as “salal ridge”, due to fallen trees and encroaching undergrowth that obscured the trail and whipped my bare legs. Wet foliage from the morning shower made my feet wet. It took me 1hr 50 mins to cover the 8 miles including a few stops for more food and water and emptying crud out of my shoes. I took a break at Whiskey Bend’s picnic table for more food and water, elevation 1198 ft.

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Whiskey Bend dirt road

Whiskey Bend dirt road

Whiskey Bend dirt road connects the Elwha valley to Wolf Creek and is trailhead parking for the Elwha River Trail and through route to Lake Quinault via the Low Divide, a popular multi-day backpack trip. [Note: I jogged this through route in a day with my brother, opposite direction – click Here.]

Whiskey Bend road parallels what used to be Lake Mills, which has recently had the dam removed, and is allowing the Elwha River to recreate its natural course and reinstate elk, other wildlife and salmon runs to this area. Read more about this exciting project – Here.

Landslide road repair.

Landslide road repair.

Whisky Bend road was closed to vehicle traffic due to landslide. I jogged by the landslide area which was being worked on by a small group of contractors and overseen by a government official away from the noisy foundation activities of the construction crew.

Further down the dirt road I got glimpses through the trees of the Elwha river re-cutting its course now the dam holding Lake Mills has been removed.

No more Lake Mills.

No more Lake Mills.

Dam Wall removed.

Dam Wall removed.

Eventually I got to a lookout immediately above the dam wall removal to see the extent of the massive undertaking, and then completed my 21+ mile loop in a total of 6.5 hrs. Oddly enough Ingrid and I returned to the car at exactly the same time; to the second!!!

Wolf Creek had been an interesting and mostly enjoyable trail run on new terrain for me, but all the rest of the route I’d done many times before. Views had been extensive on the higher ground, about 5 miles worth, into the Olympic interior’s Bailey Range, Mount Olympus massif and looking North across the Straights of Juan De Fuca to Vancouver Island and beyond. Most of the loop was under tree cover otherwise. I would give it 3 out of 5 stars.