12/26/16 - The Elwha River and a Bobcat

Like many, we have been waiting for Olympic Hot Springs Road to reopen so we can return to the trails out of Whiskey Bend and revisit the hot springs themselves. To see how things were going, we parked at the Madison Falls parking lot and walked along the road, now closed to motorized traffic. The river was winter beautiful with snow on the hills and a cold gray light. The new temporary one lane bridge is in place and a fair bit of work has been done on the road.

We had some wonderful views of the river itself, but then, on our way back, we saw something else, a bobcat in the open field not far from the parking lot. We had seen a bobcat here before, but only briefly as it bounded away in the distance. This bobcat was closer and calmer. We were barely 50 feet away, close enough for an excellent view. It was a real treat in the face of a snowy winter and with so many trails closed in the park.


The Elwha River

Another view of the river

The river and snowy mountains

Across the river

The new bridge

Yet another view of the Elwha

Across the bridge

Through the woods

The bobcat

A closer view

And an even closer view

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs, spring, trails, winter


06/14/16 - Elwha Update

Olympic Hot Springs Road is still closed at Madison Falls, but the wild river is still there. One rainy day, we went to take a brief look.

Even more river excitement

A view upriver

A view downriver

A view of the river bed

And another similar view

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs


05/16/16 - Elwha Update

The temporary bridge that would reopen the road to the Elwha and Olympic Hot Springs trail is still delayed. The last we heard is that there was a problem with the environmental impact statement, but this is just rumor. Meanwhile, the Olympic Hot Springs have been cut off due to structural problems with one of the bridges along the trail. Even if you had made your way to the trailhead, you would find your way blocked. We gather that Whiskey Bend Road is still open for hiking, so if you are heading out overnight there is still some access to the upstream Elwha.

The Elwha River

Another view of the river

Yet another view

We usually just drive by this view.

Berries

Click for a larger view. You can just see the snow covered mountains in the distance.

The trail closure notice

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs


11/04/15 - Return to Whiskey Bend

This has been a bad year for trails in the park. Whiskey Bend Road closed way back during the winter. The east end of the Spruce Railroad Trail closed back in July. Then this fall the whole Elwha area, including the recently reopened Olympic Hot Springs Trail, was closed due to flooding. The good news is that not only have the floods subsided and the hot springs trail reopened, but Whiskey Bend Road is open as well. They had to rebuild 90 feet of the road along one of the latter hairpins, but we drove out to Whiskey Bend the other day and found the road in great shape.

We took the main trail out past Michael's Cabin, then headed down towards the Elwha River. The winter sun was low and bright, but the forest was as pretty as we had remembered it. We made it down past Hume's Ranch to the river overlook. The river channel had moved farther across the flood plain to the far side, and there was a lot more plant life on the flat land. We spoke to a trail repair volunteer, and she told us that campers now had to walk farther to the river to get water. There had been some change in the watershed as well. A lot of the little streams that had run downhill to the river had dried up.

The little waterfall on our way down was running nicely, so the area isn't totally drought stricken. Still, it was sobering to hear about the changes. Now that the road is open again, we'll head out and explore a bit more. We're hoping to head towards Lilian Camp some time in the near future. Here's hoping for a wet and snowy winter, even if it crimps our plans a bit.


The trail was full of bright light and dark shadow.

The Elwha River looking towards Dodger Point in 2015

The Elwha River looking towards Dodger Point in 2013

The Elwha River looking downstream in 2015

The Elwha River looking downstream in 2013

The little waterfall

Light and shadow trail

The Elwha from a trailside lookout in 2015

The Elwha from a trailside lookout in 2013

One of our favorite views

The trail again

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs, spruce railroad, trails, waterfall


10/27/15 - Olympic Hot Springs

We've only taken the Olympic Hot Springs Trail three times, but there always seems to be something happening. Our first visit, a few days after the trail had reopened after a four year closure, was rather uneventful, but on our second visit, they closed the bridge right before the hot springs. It was being replaced with a new one. Our third time we made it over the new bridge to the hot springs, but while we were exploring, a ranger approached. She was closing the hot springs. There had been a fatality the day before, and the park service was being cautious.

The trail itself was as pretty as ever. It was like something out of a fairy tale, with bubbling springs, dark glens and a host of mushrooms lining the side of the trail. The hot springs themselves were shrouded with mist, and the flowing mineral water had precipitated a bluish white glaze along the channels. The new bridge was a great log with sturdy handrails and offered a great view of the stream below. It's a wonderful walk, an hour each way from the parking lot to the springs, but be prepared. Anything might happen.


The trail

Another view of the trail

One of the many little streams

Ferns by the trailside

Mineral deposits at the hot springs

Flowing water

A hot spring spool

The upstream below

The downstream below

Hot springs closed

Mushrooms

Keywords: olympic hot springs


06/03/15 - Olympic Hot Springs Trail

With Whiskey Bend Road still closed we took a hike out towards Olympic Hot Springs. Luck was not with us. The final bridge to the hot springs was closed, but we had a nice walk anyway.

Hot springs closed until the 10th

The suspension bridge was open.

Little button mushrooms, probably toxic

Pacific dogwood and tiarella

Lupines

The forest floor, a green spectacle

The trail itself

Keywords: olympic hot springs


11/19/14 - The Old Glines Canyon Dam

The road to the trailhead for Olympic Hot Springs heads past the Altair camp ground and heads along the west side of what was once Lake Mills, much as Whiskey Bend Road follows the east side. We noted the new observation area accessible from Whiskey Bend Road. On the west side of the lake we saw them building another access area on the western remains of the old dam. Further along the road there was a viewpoint with a little parking area that gave a great view of the dam, the old lake bed and the Elwha River. It's worth a stop if you are heading out that way.

The Glines Canyon Dam as it is today

Keywords: elwha, olympic hot springs


11/17/14 - The Trail To Olympic Hot Springs Is Open Again

The trail to Olympic Hot Springs is open again after three long years. We had never taken the old trail, so this was a double first for us. Apparently, the road used to end quite close to the hot springs. Now, it's a 2.4 mile walk along a trail which was obviously the old roadbed. It was easy to tell. The trail is as wide as a road, and there were several bridges we crossed that were clearly designed for automobiles, not hikers. It was an easy 300 odd foot ascent from the trailhead to the hot springs, but here and there they cut drainage ditches right across the old roadbed. Some of them were a bit deep, and there was some ice on the trail, so we had to watch our step.

After a ways we came to a rather pretty suspension bridge. This was a sturdy, well designed bridge with iron posts, handy handrails and a comfortably wide walkway. This was obviously new. It wasn't designed for cars. A bit further on we came to a wide area that was obviously the old parking lot. We made our way downhill and across another small bridge. We were tired and almost turned around here, but after some deliberation pressed on. The hot springs were not far. First we saw the steam. Then we saw the wet areas where the hot springs drained across the trail before running down to the creek below.

Exploring more, we found the catchments, collections of log and stone that held back the steaming sulfurous waters and formed inviting looking pools. We stopped to explore several of them, but we were too tired to soak. There was plenty of steam, and the whole area seemed warmer. There was some frost on the trail, but not where the hot springs ran.

There were a fair number of hikers out on the trail, especially considering that it was a weekday in the shoulder season. A lot of them had been to the springs back when they were a short stroll from the parking lot, but that was before our time. Round trip from the new parking lot to the hot springs was about two and a quarter hours. That included the time we spent exploring the hot springs.


The trailhead sign

The partly frozen ground

A small waterfall

The suspension bridge

Another view of the bridge - There was good traction despite its icy appearance.

Water down below

Water up above

Steam rising

A hot pool, one of many

More falling water

A fall crop of mushrooms

Keywords: olympic hot springs, waterfall


06/09/10 - Larkspur by the Roadside

We always think of larkspur as a high altitude plant, so it is surprising to see it growing along Olympic Hot Springs Road not far from the junction with 101. It's in full bloom right now, and a bit tricky to find. If nothing else, all eyes are on the Elwha River this time of year. This larkspur grows across the road. Look for a power line pole on the right as you are heading north if you care to find this patch.



Keywords: summer, flowers, elwha, olympic hot springs