West Elwha Trail, West Elwha Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington
West Elwha Trail - 6.0 miles
West Elwha Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||6.0 miles (6.5 if Altair Campground gate is locked)|
|Start-End Elevation:||430' - 705' (710' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+275' net gain (+1,420' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
West Elwha Trail - 6.0 Miles Round-Trip
The West Elwha Trail offers year round access to a beautiful stretch of the lower Elwha River valley. The trail is easily accessible from the Altair Campground, located just 4.4 miles from the Elwha turnoff from Highway 101.
The trail officially leaves from campsite 21 within the Altair Campground. If the winter gate is closed, simply park on the access road and walk the easy .25 miles down the road to the trailhead.
From the West Elwha Trailhead, the path ascends quickly from the river, gaining almost 300' in the first 1/2 mile (0.5 miles - 710'). The trail then begins a long pleasant descent through a stunning old growth forest featuring impressive specimens of Douglas fir and Western cedar.
As the trail level out (1.0 miles : 450') the Elwha river's backchannels begin to emerge with the river itself diifficult to see due to dense foliage.
For the next half mile, the trail undulates though healthy stands of young Douglas fir and scenic vine maple.
The trail crosses Hughes Creek (1.5 miles : 455') as it continues its descent and as views of the Elwha river emerge (2.0 miles: 378').
Still high above the river, the trail narrows and continues to parallel the Elwha as it crosses *Freeman Creek (2.5 miles : 405').
At this point, the trail begins an aggressive ascent, gaining 300' in 1/2 mile as it crosses the NPS Boundary (2.9 miles : 690') and ends among private property at Herrick Road.
*For those not wanting to complete the final ascent, Freeman Creek is also a great turn-around point.
- N48 00.751 W123 35.606 — 0.0 miles: West Elwha Trailhead - 430
- N48 01.026 W123 36.000 — 0.5 miles: Crest of trail - begin descent - 710'
- N48 01.291 W123 35.820 — 1.0 miles: Elwha backchannels visible - 450'
- N48 01.549 W123 35.852 — 1.5 miles: Cross Hughes Creek - 455'
- N48 02.014 W123 35.802 — 2.0 miles: Elwha River becomes visible - 378'
- N48 02.321 W123 36.022 — 2.5 miles: Cross Freeman Creek - begin ascent - 405'
- N48 02.321 W123 36.022 — 3.0 miles: End Trail - Herrick Road - 710'
The Altair Campground is only open duing the summer. If the gate is closed, park on the side of the access road (don't block the gate) and walk through the gate for .25 miles to the trailhead.
It's not necessary to hike the entire 3 miles each way. A good turnaround point is at Freeman Creek (2.5 miles from the West Elwha Trailhead).
Camping and Backpacking Information
Nestled near the Elwha River, Altair Campground offers a combination of riverfront and forest campsites. Season: Closed for repairs.
Reservations:First come, first served.
Sites and Fees: Unknown number of sites due to flooding, $12 per night.
RVs: Most sites for 21 feet, a few for 35 feet.
Facilities: Flush toilets and potable water.
Handicap Accessible: Yes.
Fishing is prohibited on the Elwha River.
Rules and Regulations
- No dogs / pets / stock permitted on trail
- There is no fishing permitted in the Elwha River
- Please stay on designated trails - some trails pass through private property
- No motorized vehicles permitted
- Maximum # of consecutive camping days in Altair Campground is 14 days
Directions to Trailhead