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Appleton Pass

Olympic Peninsula

Location

Olympic Peninsula -- Northern Coast
View map below

Length

15.4 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 3230 ft.
Highest Point: 5050 ft.

Rating

3.67 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2021
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

National Park Pass
Road Washout: Trailhead inaccessible
 
 

The trail to Appleton Pass is only 7.7 miles, but it hikes longer. The route offers some rewarding diversions along the way, but much of the payoff is in the last 1.5 miles with sweeping views as one ascends the meadows and traverses the switchbacks to Appleton Pass. Plan for an early start to your day in order to enjoy lunch, and perhaps even a restorative nap, at Appleton Pass.

The trail starts at the end of the Olympic Hot Springs Road. For the next 2.2 miles you’ll hike on one of the better road to trail conversions. The asphalt was removed, the once hard packed roadbed was scarified and covered with shredded wood to encourage plant growth and hiker-friendly ramps were dug into and out of the culvert removal gulches.

Near the end of the road to trail conversion, the trail descends to cross Crystal Creek. While on your descent, stop and sniff the air. On a still day you can smell the distinct sulfur odor of nearby Olympic Hot Springs. A new (and rockslide-tested) suspension bridge spans Crystal Creek. Once across the creek and up the hill, you’ll reach the flats of a one time parking lot now growing over with alder. Veer right and head up the grade the 0.2 miles to the Boulder Creek campground. Or straight to head to the bridge across Boulder Creek to access the odiferous hot springs.

The campground is so large that it seems out of place. A generation ago this was a popular car camping destination. Amenities today include a privy and two sets of bear wires. This makes a good base camp for day hikes to Appleton Pass and Boulder Lake, but there is no water supply in the campgrounds. The most convenient water source is a five-minute walk up the Appleton Pass trail. Campfires are not allowed at the Boulder Creek Campground.

Once you step out of the campgrounds, it feels like a proper wilderness trail. The path winds for 0.7 miles through fir, hemlock and cedar and past a few step-over streams on the way to the intersection with the Boulder Lake Trail. From the intersection it is 4.6 miles to Appleton Pass. The foot log that spanned the North Fork of Boulder Creek has washed away, so you will need to either ford it or find some logs to cross on. Be extra careful when fording. The rocks here roll easily.

The route from the trailhead to just after fording the North Fork has a fairly moderate grade. That changes quickly here-the trail has turned on the "up".

Lower and Upper Boulder Falls have worn deeply into soft rock. You’ll hear them before you get to them. They are each worth the short side trips to see them– especially after heavy rains or during snowmelt. Shortly after the upper falls, you will cross the South Fork of Boulder Creek on a footlog bridge.

The trail climbs from here through alternating sets of switchbacks and long southward traverses that often run near the creek bank. At one of the first openings along the creek, take a look at the opposite bank to see a great fanned cone of rock that has poured down and through a cleft in the cliff band. The hills really are alive.

The trail emerges from forest and into a teaser meadow. While you can clearly see the alpine slopes and ridges, you still have a ways to go. There’s more forest and grassy wildflower meadows before you get on the set of switchbacks that end at Appleton Pass.

There are several good tents sites at the pass Water is available from Oyster Lake or, earlier in the summer, from even closer snowfields.

 

Appleton Pass

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.9868, -123.6519 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Olympic Peninsula -- Northern Coast

Appleton Pass (#56)

Olympic National Park

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Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Custom Correct Seven Lakes Basin-Hoh

Buy the Green Trails Seven Lakes Basin/Mt Olympus Climbing No. 133S map

Getting There

Take US 101 about 9 miles west of Port Angeles. Turn left (south) onto Olympic Hot Springs Road. Stay on this road into Olympic National Park and all the way to the end. Along the way you will pass the Ranger Station, pass the turn off to Whisky Bend, cross the Elwha, pass the entrance to Altair Campground and the best overlook by a dam site. The well-marked trailhead is at the end of the road.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

National Park Pass
Road Washout: Trailhead inaccessible
 

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Appleton Pass

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