If you’re looking for an old-growth adventure in the Hood Canal area, you should give this hike a try. The Shady Lane Trail in Olympic National Parks is many things – a great family hiking opportunity and the gateway to longer hikes for the more adventurous.
The trail crosses the North Fork of the Skokomish River and then Elk Creek on some sturdy bridges. It then takes you along the river for a bit before turning inland. You will find huge old trees in this area with plenty of moss. There is an old mine along the way, speaking to the history that predated designation of the area as a park.
For a family trip, hike to the park boundary and out to Forest Service Road 2451. After exploring the road washout to the left, return the way you came, looking at the old-growth forest from a different perspective – you’ll see bits and pieces of moss and stumps in the shapes of animals that you missed on the way in.
Shady Lane is indeed shady – a dark, lush trail through primeval forest. It would make a wonderfully eerie nighttime hike with flashlights. Back at the trailhead you can go down to the river bank for your picnic lunch while the kids pitch rocks back into the river. If you are up for a longer hike you can use the Shady Lane Trail to get to the Dry Creek Trail and the Cooper Creek Trail.
: Drive U.S. 101 north to Hoodsport, about 15 miles north of Shelton. Turn west onto Highway 119, Lake Cushman Road. At 9.3 miles you’ll come to a T intersection with Forest Service Road 24. Turn left onto FS 24, the first two miles of which are paved before giving way to a good gravel road. In about three miles you will come to the causeway/bridge (now closed) across Lake Cushman. Stay on FS 24, following the signs to the Staircase Ranger Station and entrance to Olympic National Park. Parking is on the right. Walk across the bridge over the North Fork Skokomish River and find the trail head on the left.
Difficulty rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)
Miles round-trip: Two
Best time of year: May to September
Map: Green Trails #167 Mount Steel
Pass: Olympic National Park day or annual pass
Also: Toilets are located at the trailhead. Always check for current road and trail information before leaving home. Forest Service Road 24 can be closed in the winter due to hazardous driving conditions. Info: Olympic National Park, 360-565-3131; www.nps.gov/olym; “Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula,” Mountaineers Books (See the Staircase Trail listing.)
Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee. For other hikes, visit www.thenewstribune.com/hiking.