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Hike of the week: Olympic Hot Springs

Hike description: Once a road to a hot-spring resort, this trail is now a pleasant walk to the abandoned springs. The pools frequently fail water quality standards for public bathing, so you should use them at your own risk. It also is important to note that while nudity is officially prohibited, it still is practiced by some devotees of the hot springs.

The Olympic Hot Springs consist of 21 seeps in a bank on Boulder Creek, a tributary of the Elwha River in Olympic National Park. Water temperatures vary from lukewarm to 138 degrees. Some of the pools have been rigged with tarps and other “amenities” by the bathers, altering what would otherwise be a pristine natural setting.

Having said all that, it still is a trail well worth exploring. You will hike along an abandoned road for the first two miles through lush Olympic forest. At 2.2 miles, you’ll reach what once was the parking lot to the hot springs and a fork in the road. Keep left to follow the Boulder Lake Trail. (The other trail takes you to Boulder Creek backcountry campsite.) Not far from the junction, you will cross Boulder Creek on a foot bridge and enter the site of the old resort and the pools. Ignoring the man-made modifications to the pools, take time to explore the area and wonder at the natural forces that created the series of cascading pools fed by natural hot springs. Find a spot with an amenable view and enjoy your lunch amid the sights, sounds and aromas of the hot springs.

Directions: Take U.S. 101 nine miles west from Port Angeles to the Elwha River Road. The signage has changed a couple of times so look for Olympic Hot Springs Road or Elwha River. If you cross the bridge over the Elwha, you just missed it. Take a left onto the Elwha River Road and drive 10 miles to the end.

Difficulty rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)

Miles round-trip: 5

Elevation: 240 feet

Best time of year: May to November

Map: Custom Correct Lake Crescent-Happy Lake Ridge or Green Trails 134-Mount Olympus

Pass: Weekly or annual Olympic or national park pass

Info: For trail and road conditions: www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/current-conditions.htm; “Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula,” Mountaineers Books.

Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee

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