Northern Olympics Loop

It’s been a couple of weeks since I have been out into the Olympics, so decided to do the big northern Olympics loop, starting at Obstruction Point, crossing through the Grand Valley, the upper Cameron, Lost Basin, the Upper Dosewallips, the Graywolf, and Obstruction Ridge. I have done this loop, or some variation of it, a couple of times, but it has been 9 years since the last time around. The plan is to spend 5 days on the trail, including a long stay a Cedar Lake. The last time I did it it took 6 days and kicked my tail. But then I carried 65 lbs. Today I left the truck carrying 35.

Sept. 3 2018 – Obstruction Point to Upper Cameron Basin

The parking lot at Obstruction Point was full, and I met a steady stream of people heading out of Grand Valley. But after crossing Grand Pass I didn’t see anyone else for the rest of the day. The weather was cool but sunny and was very pleasant to hike in. The trail through Grand Valley was in excellent shape. There is work being done on the trail as evidenced by the 1000 pound bags of rocks near all of the lakes (I know they were thousand pound bags because they were labeled as such). They must have been airlifted in. The trail down from Grand Pass is steep and difficult in places. The Cameron Creek trail was in good shape and had been brushed recently.

I got into the Cameron Basin just before 5, found a spot to hang from, cleaned up a bit and had dinner. Looks like the night will be cold since it’s in the 40’s at 6 PM. A cloud rolled through camp around 6 so I hung the tarp, but it was gone by 7. There are deer in camp, so I have to keep a close eye on everything. All-in-all it has been a beautiful day. The vistas have been breathtaking. Cameron Basin is very nice and there are a number of established camp sites, although nothing is marked. And, there have been no annoying bugs today.

Olympus Mountain as seen from along Lillian Ridge. Olympus is visible from a few place along the trip.
Gladys Lake is the smallest of the three lakes in the Grand Basin, and is the uppermost lake. If I stay in the Grand Valley, this is usually the place.
This is the final approach to Grand Pass. This was one of the easiest passes to get over, and is not as bad as it looks.
This little tarn right near the top of the Grand Valley is just below the pass. It has a little campsite near it and seems to be popular.
This is a tarn on the south side of Grand Pass. I did not see any place to camp, but did meet a couple of guys who had spent the previous night there. You can see the trail snaking down toward and then dropping down below the tarn.
This is looking back up to Grand Pass from the Cameron side. It is actually steeper than it looks.
This flower, Angelica I think, was covered with Yellow Jackets. They were very sluggish and hardly moved. Obviously they were getting something from the flower, but what is beyond me.
Home for the night in the Upper Camerson Basin. This is the only night I put up the tarp because the weather did not look to promising. It cleared up quickly though.
A cloud rolled in around 6 PM, lasted for about an hour, and then was gone.
This gal hung around part of the evening and then was back again in the morning. Or maybe there were a number of them that took turns passing through.

 

Sept. 4 2018 – Upper Cameron Basin to Bear Camp

I slept in this morning because I had a short day ahead of me. And because it was cold out. It dropped down to 30 degrees. Eventually I got up and had breakfast, broke camp and headed out. The ascent up Cameron Pass is a bit sketchy, but not too bad so long as you are careful. Once I got to the top I dropped my pack and walked to the high point to the east. Grand Pass was visible to the north, and Lost Pass, the 1000 Acre Meadow and Hayden Pass were visible to the south. Mt Olympus was also visible. It was a very scenic spot.

From Cameron Pass, the trail descends to the Lost Basin and then up to Lost Pass. Dropped the pack at the pass and had lunch, admiring the views. Even saw a bear grazing up on Lost Peak.

The descent from Lost Pass was challenging. It is steep and had a few logs across the trail. At one of these, there were several logs and I couldn’t see where the trail went. So I followed some steps up and around. Big mistake. They did not get me back to the trail. Instead I spent 15 minutes sliding around on a steep hillside. Twice I fell and my water bottles popped out. And the second time one of them disappeared down the slope. I followed it for a bit, but it got too steep and I had too leave it. Eventually I found the trail again without anything more serious than leaving a Gatorade bottle at the bottom of some cliff.

Once I got down to Dose Meadows the trail became pretty easy, other than a few logs, and I quickly made it to Bear Camp and hung at my favorite spot in camp, with a nice view down the drainage. The creek that normally flows by the camp was dry, so after setting up camp I went down to the river to bath and collect water. Now I have a few hours to read and think before bedtime. Not nearly as many people today, but they did include a solo hiker of the Pacific Northwest Trail. As I am writing this a group of 4 came into camp. Don’t yet know if they are staying, or just resting and getting water.

This is a little waterfall on the Cameron near where I was camped.
This is looking back at Grand Pass from the Upper Cameron Basin. The trail down crosses the top of the meadow to the left and then follows it down to the point at the bottom right. And then it got even more challenging when it descended through a gully for a while.
This is looking down on the Upper Cameron Basin from near the pass. The camping is mostly in the trees around the lower end of the big meadow.
This is looking up at the final ascent to Cameron Pass. You can see part of the trail. I always take it this direction because I don’t want to come down it. But plenty of folks do make it down.
From near Cameron Pass looking south. The low point in the near ridge is Lost Pass, with the 1000 Acre Meadow just beyond that.
This is a picture of Last Peak taken from Lost Pass while I was eating lunch. If I had a much better camera, you would be able to see a bear grazing on berries on the hillside. But alas I do not, so you will just have to use your imagination.
Lost Basin sits between Cameron Pass and Lost Pass. It looks very appealing and I may try to get back here to send some time someday. In the foreground is the trail descending from Cameron Pass. In the center is Lost Peak, with Lost Pass just to its right. The upper basin looks to be easy to explore. And there are at least a couple of nice campsites below Lost Peak.

Sept. 5 2018 – Bear Camp to Three Forks

I had a potentially long day planned so was up at 5:30 and on the trail about 6:30. I had originally planned on going to Cedar Lake today, but concerns about the weather, and the foot I had sprained a few months ago were causing me to reconsider. After about a mile and a half on the Dose trail, the Gray Wolf Pass trail branches off and heads up. It was about 2500 feet in 3.5 miles, so not terrible, but it was a pretty steady up. And, because the creek at Bear Camp was dry, I was afraid there would no water until I was down a bit on the Gray Wolf side. So I carried an extra liter and a half in my camp bag. Unnecessary as it turned out. There were a couple a flowing streams toward the top.

From one side of the pass there were good views of the Dose. From the other side of the pass you could see down the Gray Wolf drainage a ways. There is also a pretty tarn a mile or so down that marks the turn off to the way trail to Cedar Lake. Decision time. In the end I opted to pass it up for this trip and headed on down the trail.

Not much to note on the rest of the way to Three Forks other that meeting two older solo men who were making the way up to the pass. The second way had planned a loop similar to mine, but in reverse. But he was realizing he was not in good enough condition and was reworking his plan. I hope it works out for him. Got into Three Forks around 5 PM, set up camp, bathed, ate, and read until bedtime. All-in-all, a 16 mile day with little excitement, or much to see other than around the pass. But a pleasant day nonetheless.

The view from my hammock as the sky is lightning over Bear Camp. The moon is hiding in the trees at the top right.
Toward the top of Graywolf Pass looking up the Dosewallips drainage. Lost Pass is visible as the low point in the right valley wall, where I was about 20 hours previous.
Looking down the Graywolf drainage from the pass. Once you drop down below that tarn there is very little to see other than trees the rest of the way down.
This waterfall is fed by a small tarn just above it. The way trail to Cedar Lake goes past it.

Sept 6 2018 – Three Forks to Obstruction Point

After  lying in bed for several hours, I finally got up at 5 AM, ate, broke camp and headed up to Deer Park in the dark at 6. I used the headlamp for about 15 minutes until it was light enough to see the way ahead of me. Right after I started up I noticed some movement in the ground near my feet. I stopped to look and saw that it was a few yellow jackets swarming around a hole in the ground. About that time one of them made a beeline for my light and I decided it was time to move on up the trail. I listened to podcasts as I ascended the 3100 feet to Deer Park, and it seemed to help. I made it up with no stops in about 3.5 hours, a bit faster than expected.

Deer Park was crowded as I just walked across to the ranger station. He/she was out on patrol so I sat on the table out front and refilled my water bottle from the two liters I had carried up from Three Forks. Then, after eating a bit, I hit the trail over Obstruction Ridge. I quickly passed a couple of groups of day hikers heading my way, but once the trail started up one young couple caught and repassed me. Shortly after I passed them as she stopped to fix a boot. I kept waiting for them to blow past again, but they never did. Instead, every time I saw them they were further behind. I suspect they ultimately turned around.

The views from Obstruction Ridge are wonderful, although to the north the sky was brown and hazy, and to the southeast it was a little hazy early on. There are some sketchy spots on this trail were there tread is loose and heads straight up or down. And where a slip could well be fatal. But fortunately most of the trail is in good shape. The first 3 miles or so from Deer Park are in the trees, but the last 4.5 miles are treeless. It was great being able to see some of the valleys and passes I had crossed earlier in the week.

I had planned to stop for lunch along the way, but never did. I also had more water in the pack that I should have transferred to my water bottle, but I never did. As a result, by the time I was back to the truck I was pretty drained. I seem to be wired that way. Once I know I am getting close to done, I just keep pushing on, unwilling to stop.

I enjoyed the trip, about 42 miles over 4 days. It was strenuous in places, but I enjoy being out in the Olympics, and this is one of the most scenic trips I have found. Hopefully it won’t be another 9 years before I tackle it again. Not sure that I will be able to at 74.

Right after coming out of the last of the trees I saw a couple of grouse near the trail. Unlike most grouse you encounter on the trail, these did not fly away. The one in the picture even seemed to be posing. Too bad I couldn’t tip it.
You can see the trail snaking along the near hillside. It then hugs the top of the ridge in the center and climbs up near the top of the ridge in the background. I believe this is the highest trail in the park and is consistently over 6000 foot.
Mount Olympus is visible in the background, while Lillian Ridge is in the center. The Obstruction Point parking lot is just to the right, hidden by the foreground ridge. The Lillian Ridge walk was the first couple of miles on this trip.
It is a bit hard to see, but Grand Valley is the left part of this picture with Grand and Moose lakes just visible.
The Badger Valley trail intersects the Obstruction Ridge trail right near the end. It is visible in the picture as it climbs up out of the valley.
One last look at the end of Obstruction Ridge. It would be fun to go back on a day hike and spend some more time on the ridge.

2 thoughts on “Northern Olympics Loop”

  1. I did a version of this trip in 1955 with Troop 70, Seattle when I was twelve. Was my favorite trip. Deer Park to Upper Greywolf, over Graywolf Pass to Dose Meadows, then to Lost Basin, Cameron Pass and Cross country along the ridge to Lake Lillian. From Lillian we hiked to over to Moose Lake all cross country, then Badger Valley to Deer Park. I remember the Ranger drove an old pick up along what was a road and is not the first few miles of the Grand Ridge Trail. He picked up our packs. We saw no one for nine days.

    I really enjoyed you report, and I look forward to do doing that trip, probably taking longer then you.

    Reply
    • Wow! Sounds like a fun trip. I have looked at the traverse from Lillian Lake to Cameron Pass, but haven’t have the nerve to tackle it yet.

      Reply

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