Waterfalls, lakes, old growth forest, jumping salmon … the Sol Duc region in Olympic National Park has them all!
The best way to see these and much more is to get out on the trails. But what trails are there, what do you see on each of them, and which ones should you choose?
To make it easy, here are my picks for the eight best hikes near Sol Duc, Olympic National Park.
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Table of Contents
Before we look at each of the top Sol Duc hiking trails, here are a few practical things to know:
What to Pack for these Sol Duc Valley Hikes
There is a lot of variety in these hikes. For the short, easy ones, you won’t need anything special. However, for the longer hikes, you’ll need some gear to ensure you’re comfortable and adequately prepared.
- Good hiking boots or shoes. Some of these trails are rocky, uneven and/ or have roots across them. You’ll be much more comfortable if you have good quality hiking shoes or boots.
If you need to get some, take a look at my Guide to Buying the Best Hiking Shoes/ Boots to help you know what to look for and get some recommendations.
- Trekking poles. Some of the longer hikes have significant elevation change and using hiking poles will really help – especially your knees.
I have these Foxelli trekking poles – they are really lightweight, adjustable, and have shock absorbent tips and grippy cork handles. Get them here.
- A camera. I love the GoPro HERO 12. It is designed for travel. It’s water resistant and durable and takes photos, video and even does streaming (when there’s service). Check current prices on the GoPro HERO 12 here
- Water. I recommend always taking some water with you when you hike, even for shorter hikes. For the longer hikes, it’s essential – take more than you think you’ll need.
I love this hydroflask. It’s easy to carry, keeps temperatures well, and comes in multiple colors.
- Day Hike Essentials. Check my list of essential things to take and wear on a day hike to make sure you have everything you need.
- If you’re hiking in winter or spring, especially on the longer trails that head up into the mountains, you will need a good pair of microspikes to give you traction on snow and ice.
I’ve written a whole buying guide to the best microspikes for hiking, which I recommend reading if this is your first time to buy some. Or you can pick up the ones that I use – these Kahtoola Microspikes. They are very easy to put on and are really good quality.
- If you’re hiking in summer, you will appreciate having bug spray, as the mosquitoes can be an annoying distraction otherwise.
You can get some DEET-free bug spray here if you need some.
- On the longer trails, having a handheld GPS is a good idea for peace of mind and to follow your progress and show you where you’re going.
Read my Guide to the Best Handheld GPS for Hiking for tips on what to buy and recommendations if you’re looking to get one. My top pick is this Garmin model.
Tips for Hiking Sol Duc Hot Springs and Nearby
- Most of these hikes start from the main Sol Duc Trailhead, though some start from Sol Duc Hot Springs, which is a little further down the road, and a couple are found along the road from Highway 101 to the main trailhead. There is a picnic area at the parking area at the main trailhead. This is a surprisingly nice place to have lunch.
- You can visit Sol Duc Hot Springs as a day visitor – and soaking in hot mineral water is a great way to unwind after a hike or two.
- Get there early to avoid the crowds and get a parking spot, especially in summer, when the park gets extremely busy.
Sol Duc Trail Map
Use this Sol Duc map or get a detailed topographic trail map from National Geographic in advance (recommended).
Guided Hikes at Sol Duc
You’ll need to have your own vehicle If you want to do most of these hikes. But there are a couple of tours from Seattle that give you the opportunity to do one or two of them. And having an expert guide can add extra layers to your experience, as they can share information about the area, so you can appreciate it even more.
Private Full-Day Hiking Tour in Olympic National Park
An experienced guide will take you on hikes in three main parts of Olympic National Park: Hurricane Ridge (read Best Hikes in Hurricane Ridge to see options); Lake Crescent (read Best Hikes near Lake Crescent) and Sol Duc.
Guided Group Tour to Sol Duc Falls, Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent
This tour also goes to these three parts of the national park. You won’t have the same flexibility you would on a private tour, but the Sol Duc hike is to Sol Duc Falls, which is the most popular hike in the area. There are a maximum 14 people.
4-Day Epic Backpacking Hike to Seven Lakes Basin
If doing this 4-day, 3-night hike by yourself seems intimidating, then this guided hike is a great choice. An expert guide will escort you, camping equipment is included, and there are a maximum of five people in the group. It’s a strenuous hike and you’ll need to carry your gear, so you need to be fit, but this is an epic hike into an area of Olympic National park that few people visit.
Best Sol Duc Hikes, Olympic National Park
Ranging from a super short and easy stroll to an all-day (or overnight) trek up into the mountains, there are sensational hikes in the Sol Duc area for everyone.
1. Sol Duc Falls Trail, Olympic National Park
Length: 1.6 miles return out-and-back
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Trailhead: Sol Duc Trailhead, at end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road
This is the most popular Sol Duc trail. Hiking Sol Duc Falls is seldom a solitary experience, but there’s a reason it’s so popular. Sol Duc Falls are not the biggest falls you’ll ever see but they may also just be the most beautiful.
The Sol Duc River shifts just as it drops into a ravine, creating a 3- or 4-section waterfall that lies parallel to the main direction of the river, rather than across it like normal falls. Add in the narrow ravine at the bottom and the surrounding lush forest and it’s a picture-perfect place.
The hike to the falls takes about half an hour on a well-trodden, easy-to-follow trail through beautiful old growth forest, across several tiny streams, past huge ferns, and under towering trees. Near the falls is Canyon Creek Shelter, a rustic historic wooden shelter built in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC).
You can return the way you came or loop back on the Lovers Lane Trail or continue on to the Sol Duc River Trail, the Deer Lake Trail or the epic High Divide Trail loop.
Get there early to avoid the crowds and get a parking spot, especially in summer, when the park gets extremely busy.
There is a reasonably-sized parking lot at the trailhead. However, if it’s full and you’re up for a longer hike, you can combine this with the Lover’s Lane Trail by starting at the Sol Duc Hot Springs back down the road or start at the Sol Duc Campground and following a trail from there that connects just after the start of the main Sol Duc Trail. This creates a 6.0-mile loop trail that goes through the campground and down near the river.
If you’re a serious photographer, you’ll want special filters, lenses and a tripod to get a long exposure, which creates that soft flowing look. If you have an iphone, you can create the same look more easily. Take the photo with “live” on, then when you look at the photo, click on the small down arrow next to “live” in the top left corner and choose “long exposure” from the drop-down menu.
The best light for photos of the falls is early morning and late afternoon.
Highlights: Old growth forest; waterfall
READ MORE: Sol Duc Falls Trail Guide
2. Ancient Groves Trail, Olympic National Park
Length: 0.6 miles loop
Elevation Gain: 52 feet
Trailhead: On the side of the Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, about 9 miles from the entrance station. There is a sign and small parking lot/ pullout on the right side of the road.
This easy Sol Duc hike is a loop through a grove of ancient trees, many more than 750 years old! The undergrowth is covered in moss and the trail crosses several gullies filled with enormous ferns.
This is a great place to see nurse logs, fallen logs with a row of seedlings growing on them; snags, standing trunks of fallen trees that are homes to birds and small forest creatures; and some of the hundreds of varieties of moss that grow in Olympic National Park. You can also see glimpses of the Sol Duc River from the top of a canyon at the edge of the grove.
There are few better places to appreciate the grandeur of nature!
If you are driving into Sol Duc Valley from Highway 101, there is a sign. The parking is on your right. However, if you are driving from Sol Duc valley towards Highway 101, there is no sign and it is easy to miss. So, I recommend doing this hike on your way in.
There are two trailheads and two access paths to the main loop. When you come to the second sign that says “Loop”, this is NOT the path you entered in. It can be confusing if you don’t know this.
If the first parking lot you come to is full, drive a little further along the road and you’ll come to another pullout with some additional parking. There is a trail here that also connects to the loop, so you don’t need to walk back to the other parking lot.
Highlights: Old growth forest; view of Sol Duc River in small canyon
READ MORE: Ancient Groves Trail Guide
3. Salmon Cascades, Olympic National Park
Length: 190 feet each way, out and back
Elevation Gain: 0 feet
Trailhead: 5 miles up Sol Duc Hot Springs Road from Highway 101, on the right side.
At Salmon Cascades, you can experience a different, but no less incredible, slice of nature. Salmon spawn upriver, then swim to the Pacific Ocean where they spend most of their lives. After a couple of years, they find their way back to the exactly the same place they hatched in order to lay or fertilize their own eggs.
In order to do this, they need to jump up an 11-foot cascading waterfall! The multi-layered falls are beautiful at any time of year, but in spring and fall when the salmon or trout leap up the falls, they are especially amazing.
The trail itself is very short and ends at a viewing platform. You can also walk below the falls where you can often see schools of salmon gathering energy for their leaps of strength.
The falls are beautiful all the time, but to have the best chances of seeing the fish jumping, spring and fall are best. Chinook and coho salmon leap up the cascades in the fall (September – early November) and cutthroat trout and steelhead leap up the cascades in spring (March-May).
Take video. It’s very difficult to snap a phot exactly when a fish is mid-air. It’s much easier to take videos so you can catch them in action.
Highlights: Salmon jumping; beautiful waterfall
READ MORE: Salmon Cascades Guide
4. Sol Duc River Trail, Olympic National Park
Length: 17 miles round trip, out-and-back (but you don’t need to go the whole way)
Difficulty: Challenging (Moderate for if you turn back sooner)
Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet
Trailhead: Sol Duc Trailhead, at end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road
The first part of this hike is the same as the Sol Duc Falls Trail.
After enjoying the falls, continue along the trail at the rustic shelter rather than turning back. The trail ascends gradually as is passes through an ancient conifer forest. At eye level are ferns, huckleberry bushes and saplings.
Keep an eye out for bears, which are often seen feeding on the bushes here.
The trail has some elevation change as it follows the river climbing through the valley. There is a lovely twin waterfall and around the five-mile mark, a short way after the junction with the Appleton Pass Trail, you’ll cross the Sol Duc River on a foot log bridge. This is a popular turning back point, but you can continue on deeper into the Olympic Mountains.
The trail ascends more steeply as it moves up to the ridge separating the Sol Duc and Hoh River valleys. It crosses Bridge Creek as around the seven-mile park, reaches Sol Duc Park campground.
A mile further along is the delightful Heart Lake. If you’ve made is this far, you might consider continuing along and finishing the full loop along the High Divide Trail!
Highlights: River; waterfalls; old growth forest
5. Deer Lake Trail, Olympic National Park
Length: 8 miles round trip, out-and-back
Difficulty: Easy, Moderate – Difficult
Elevation Gain: 1,650 feet
Trailhead: Sol Duc Trailhead at end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road
The trail starts with the hike to Sol Duc Falls. At the falls, rather than returning back, follow the signs for Deer Lake.
The trail is steadily uphill, running parallel to Canyon Creek. There are several small waterfalls along the way to enjoy.
There are actually two lakes – the bigger Deer Lake and another much smaller one nearby. The lakes are surrounded by woods and are a beautiful spot to relax and enjoy the views. There’s a primitive campsite there, and, of course, you may see deer in the area.
You can either return the way you came or for a truly epic hike, continue up the High Divide Trail and loop back around the Sol Duc River Trail.
The lake can be buggy in summer, so if you’re hiking at that time of year, don’t forget the bug spray. You can get some DEET-free bug spray here if you need some.
The hike is uphill the entire way. I recommend using trekking poles, as they can really make life easier both going up and coming down. I have these Foxelli trekking poles – they are really lightweight, adjustable, and have shock absorbent tips, and grippy cork handles. Get them here.
The trail is rocky pretty much the whole way, so you will definitely want to have a very good pair of hiking shoes or boots, with adequate protection for the soles of your feet. If you need to get some, take a look at my Guide to Buying the Best Hiking Shoes/ Boots to help you know what to look for and get some recommendations.
If you’re hiking in spring or even into early summer, the trail is often covered in snow, so you will want microspikes. Otherwise, hiking on snow can be hairy/ scary and dangerous. I use these Kahtoola Microspikes. They are very easy to put on and are really good quality.
There is a vault toilet at the lake.
Highlights: Sol Duc Falls; lovely lake
6. Lovers Lane Trail, Olympic National Park
Length: 5.8 miles loop
Elevation Gain: 480 feet
Trailhead: Sol Duc Trailhead at end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road OR Sol Duc Hot Springs or Sol Duc Campground Loop B
If you’re staying or parking at the Hot Springs Resort, and are looking for hikes near Sol Duc Hot Springs, this loop is a great way to see Sol Duc Falls.
From the hot springs, the trail follows the Sol Duc River upstream. After about a mile, the trail moves away the river and heads uphill deeper into the forest. Ancient, moss-covered Douglas-fir, Sitka spruce and western hemlock trees tower above and gullies of oversized ferns are all around you.
After viewing the Sol Duc Falls, follow the main Sol Duc Trail back towards the main trailhead, branching off before the trailhead to loop back through Loop B of the Sol Duc Campground, with the river nearby.
End this Sol Duc natural hot springs hike with a soak in the warm waters!
Highlights: Waterfall; river; old growth forest
7. Mink Lake Trail, Olympic National Park
Length: 5.2 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1,450 feet
Trailhead: The northwest end of the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort parking area.
This is the other main Sol Duc Hot Springs trail. Rather than going left on the Lover’s Lane Trail, head right. After about half a mile, you’ll enter old growth forest and immediately notice the difference as the trees shoot up and you can start to feel the age and grandeur of the trees around you.
The trail climbs steadily, the Douglas-firs giving way to western hemlocks, and gullies of lush ferns giving way to subalpine meadows where beautiful wildflowers burst into bloom in early summer.
Mink Lake is not huge, but is surrounded by hemlock and silver fir trees and grassy marshes. Look for orchids, beargrass, and violets around the lake, in season.
You can return the way you came or, for a much longer Sol Duc Hot Springs hike, continue to the Little Divide Trail to Deer Lake, then follow the Deer Lake Trail back to Sol Duc Falls and loop back along the Lover’s Lane Trail to the trailhead.
The trail can be covered in snow through June. If you’re hiking that early in the season, wear microspikes to be safe on the snow/ ice. I use these Kahtoola Microspikes. They are very easy to put on and are really good quality.
Mosquitoes love a good lake as much as people do – wear plenty of bug spray in summer. You can get some DEET-free bug spray here if you need some.
Highlights: Lake; old growth forest
8. High Divide – Seven Lakes Basins – Heart Lake – Sol Duc River Loop, Olympic National Park
Length: 19 miles loop (6-7 hours)
Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet
Trailhead: Sol Duc Trailhead at end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road
If you are fit and like to hike, this is the granddaddy of Sol Duc trail hikes. It can be done in one day if you set out early, but can also be done as an overnight hike (see tips below).
The hike can be done clockwise or counterclockwise, but this is described counterclockwise.
It starts with the short hike to Sol Duc Falls. From there, follow the signs for Deer Lake, which is described above. The lake is surrounded by woods and – not surprisingly given its name – is a common place to see deer.
From there, the trail climbs up along the High Divide Trail through subalpine meadows of wildflowers that burst into bloom in the early summer. You may spot white mountain goats grazing on the meadows here.
About an hour and a half past Deer Lake, you’ll reach the junction with Lake Lunch. You can take a side trail to the lake or continue on. The views of the Mount Olympus looming 7,000 feet above the river and other surrounding mountains as you traverse the High Divide Trail are stunning.
You’ll reach Bogachiel Peak, then descend into the absolutely mind-blowing Seven Lakes Basin. There are actually eight small, serene subalpine lakes here, all surrounded by mountains. The view will literally take your breath away.
The main trail continues on to the aptly-named small Heart Lake, then loops back around and joins the Sol Duc River Trail.
Most of the remaining eight miles are flatter, as they go through gorgeous old growth forest alongside the river.
This is a long hike, but well worth every single step!
You can do this hike as a (very long) day hike or you can camp overnight. If you are doing this as a day hike, leave early – no later than 7:30AM.
If you camping overnight, there are several primitive backcountry campgrounds along the way. You will need a backcountry permit and to book a campsite on the NPS recreation.gov website. Check the NPS Wilderness Backpacking Reservations page for more details.
Also be aware that bear canisters are required when camping in this area to store your food. They’re available for loan on a first-come, first-served basis to anyone with a backpacking permit. The most popular camp sites are at Heart Lake, Lunch Lake, and Deer Lake.
If you’d like to do this hike, but it seems intimidating, consider doing a guided 4-day/ 3-night hike with an expert guide. You can book a guided backpacking hike to Seven Lakes Basin here.
There are vault toilets near most campsites that you can also use as a day hiker.
Trekking poles are definitely a good idea on this trail!
A handheld GPS for hiking is also a good idea. My top pick is this Garmin one.
Highlights: Old growth forest; Olympic Mountain views; several stunning lakes
Travel Insurance for Sol Duc, WA
You should definitely have travel insurance when you travel to Sol Duc Valley, Olympic National Park. Good travel insurance will cover you for trip cancellation, theft or damage of your property when traveling, medical help if you have an accident while hiking in Sol Duc Valley, WA, or medical repatriation if you need to get medi-vaced out.
A great insurance option is Travelex. It has coverage for all you’ll need. You can compare Travel Insurance plans here or get a quote right now:
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>> Best Tide Pools in Olympic National Park
>> Best Waterfalls in Olympic National Park
Do you have any other top picks for the best Sol Duc Hot Springs hiking trails? I’d love to hear about it. Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know (you can also pick up extra planning tips, share your photos and stories with other national park lovers and more).
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James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.
He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and all of the main national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks.
Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.
As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.
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