Hike description: The North Fork Skokomish Trail is a great day hike that also serves as the gateway to some of the best backcountry sights that Olympic National Park has to offer. This hike could just whet your appetite for backpacking.
Although over-the-ankle boots are recommended, it’s a pleasant forest walk throughout, and you’re never out of earshot of the river and its streams.
The trail starts with a good uphill warm-up, reaching a spectacular viewing point of the river valley far below. About two miles in, you’ll see the devastating effects of the 1985 Beaver Fire, and the slow but steady pace of regrowth. In the spring be prepared for muddy sections of trail, for swollen stream crossings and the possibility of patches of snow. If your wandering along the path brings you to the intersection with the trail to Flapjack Lakes, you’ve gone too far. Turn back to lunch at Spike Camp.
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Before you leave home, check to be sure the road is open. Drive U.S. 101 north to Hoodsport. Turn west onto Highway 119, Lake Cushman Road. At 9.3 miles, you’ll come to a T intersection with Forest Road 24. Turn left onto Forest Road 24, the first two miles of which are paved before giving way to a good gravel road. In about three miles, you’ll come to the causeway/bridge (now closed) across Lake Cushman. Stay on Forest Road 24, following the signs to the Staircase Ranger Station and the entrance to Olympic National Park. Parking is on the right.
Difficulty rating: 2 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)
Elevation: 625 feet
Best time of year: May to September
Map: Green Trails No. 167 Mt. Steel or Custom Correct Mount Skokomish/Lake Cushman
Pass: Olympic National Park day or annual pass
Information: Olympic National Park, 360-565-3131 or www.nps.gov/olym; “Olympic Mountains Trail Guide,” by Robert Wood, Mountaineers Books
Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee. For other hikes, visit www.thenewstribune.com/hiking.