Staircase Rapids is a “used to be” trail. It used to be a loop trail and it used to be a year-round trail and there really used to be a staircase in this area. But, before you start blaming the Olympic National Park employees for not keeping the trail and road open as they used to be, look to Mother Nature. And thank park staff for building the Shady Lane Trail in 1911 to replace the cedar staircase built in 1890.
The bridge that made the loop possible perished in the mid 1990s, with the winter storms of the mid-2000s causing severe enough road damage to force closure of the access road during the winter months.
Having said all that, this is still the hike to get your nonhiking family hooked. It’s short, it’s easy and it’s beautiful. The hike starts off crossing a large concrete bridge over the North Fork Skokomish. The trail leads gently into moss-covered forest. A short side trail leads you to the Giant Cedar. This is a must-stop for pictures. Continue back on the trail and you soon will be strolling along the raging, turbulent river. More photos needed here. The rapids and boulders are great backdrops. You shortly come to a junction in the trail. The right leads you to the end of the now-destroyed bridge that completed the loop trail. Take the left fork and continue on to Four Stream. Find a spot for lunch.
Directions: 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 Road 24. Turn left onto Forest Road 24, the first 2 miles of which are paved before giving way to a good gravel road. In about 3 miles you will come to the causeway/bridge (now closed) across Lake Cushman. Stay on Forest Road 24, following the signs to the Staircase Ranger Station and entrance to Olympic National Park. Parking is on the right
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Difficulty rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)
Miles round-trip: 4
: 150 feet
Best time of year
: May to September
: Green Trails 167 Mount Steel or Custom Correct Mount Skokomish-Lake Cushman
: Olympic or National Park Day or Annual Pass
: Olympic National Park, 360-565-3131 or www.nps.gov/olym; “Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula,” Mountaineers Books
Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee. For other hikes, visit www.thenewstribune.com/hiking.