A visit to Olympic National Park would not be complete without seeing its most spectacular waterfall, Sol Duc Falls. The falls can only be seen by hiking for about a mile (along an easy trail) through stunning old growth forest. There are several other Sol Duc hikes you can connect the trail to for longer hikes, if you prefer.
Before you set out, you will want to read this comprehensive trail guide so you know exactly what to expect, and how to ensure you have the best time.
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What You Need To Take/ Wear on the hike to Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park, Washington
You won’t need a lot of special clothing or equipment for this easy hike; however, there are some basics that are always a good idea to have with you when you hike. These include:
- Good hiking boots or shoes. The trail is easy to follow, but it does have uneven sections with rocks and roots across the trail, and 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. These are not strictly necessary, but the trail does have some elevation change and I find using hiking poles makes the uneven terrain and ups and down much easier on my knees.
I have these Foxelli trekking poles – they are really lightweight, adjustable, and have several tips and comfortable 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 (if you have 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 likes this one. 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.
Guided Tours of The Sol Duc Falls Hike
There are plenty of tours into Olympic National Park from Seattle or Port Angeles. However, the national park is huge and has several distinct areas, and none of the tours go to all of them.
Two tours that include Sol Duc are listed here. You won’t have time to explore all the Sol Duc hiking trails, but both these tours include a guided hike to Sol Duc Falls!
If you like to hike, then this is for you. An experienced guide will take you on hikes at Hurricane Ridge (read Best Hikes in Hurricane Ridge to see options) and Lake Crescent (read Best Hikes in Lake Crescent) AND this hike to Sol Duc Falls. This is a private tour, so you get the guide all to yourself – and can choose the hikes you like (as long as you can fit them in the schedule, of course).
This tour also goes to these three parts of the national park. There are maximum 14 people, so it’s still a small group. It includes this hike to Sol Duc Falls, plus a 3-mile hike at Hurricane Ridge and time at Lake Crescent (with a possible hike to Marymere Falls, too).
Sol Duc Falls Trail Details
- Sol Duc Falls Trail Length: 1.6 miles roundtrip
- Type: Out and back
- Elevation change: 200 feet
- Time: 1 hour return (+ time at the falls)
- Difficulty: Easy
- Sol Duc Trailhead: Sol Duc Trailhead, at end of Sol Duc Road. You can also combine this with the Lover’s Lane Trail by starting at the Sol Duc Hot Springs or start at the Sol Duc Campground and follow a trail from there that connects just after the start of the main Sol Duc Trail.
Fun Fact: Between 1912 and 1920, the five-star Sol Duc Hotel and Resort stood where the current hot springs and resort are now. Like so many hotels of the day, it was destroyed by fire in 1920.
- Highlights: Old growth forest; waterfall
- Fee: There is no special trail fee but you do need to pay the Olympic National Park entrance fee
- Buy it online or, if you are planning to visit more than just Olympic National Park this year (Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park are both close), it can be great value to purchase an America The Beautiful pass.
- Open: The trail is open all year, but Sol Duc Road is not. It’s officially open year-round, but this is weather permitting and the reality is that it is often closed in winter due to snow and ice. The campground and hot springs are open late March to late October and this gives some indication of the period in which the road may be closed too. Check the NPS website for current road conditions.
Tips for Hiking the Sol Duc Trail
- There is a picnic area at the parking area. This is a surprisingly nice place to have lunch.
- Parking: Where do you park for Sol Duc Falls trail?
There are a couple of options. The most convenient is the main parking lot at the Sol Duc Trailhead, which is at the end of Sol Duc Road. If this is full, you could also park at the Hot Springs Resort further down the road and hike along the Lover’s Lane Trail. You can combine this with the trail through the campground for a 6.0-mile loop.
READ MORE: Best Hikes in Olympic National Park
- Get there early to avoid the crowds and get a parking spot, especially in summer, when the park gets extremely busy.
- The waterfall flows all year, but is most impressive March – July when the water volume is greatest.
- 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. That’s how this photo was taken:
The Sol Duc Trail Description
The trail is straight forward and easy to follow. There is a board with a map of the Sol Duc trails and some basic information at the trailhead.
There’s also a large sign indicating other trails in the area. Trails continue past the falls to Deer Lake, Lunch Lake, Heart Lake, Hoh Lake and Soleduck Park via the Sol Duc River Trail.
You’ll notice that the sign has the spelling “Soleduck”. This was the accepted spelling up until 1992 when the spelling was officially changed to “Sol Duc” by the State of Washington Board on Geographic Names.
The trail is wide and easy to follow. You’ll pass by enormous ferns and towering conifer trees. The lowland old growth forest has trees that are more than 200 years old!
0.1 miles into the hike, you’ll pass a junction with the B Loop trail that leads back towards the Sol Duc Campground. This is a way to complete a loop that includes the Lover’s Lane Trail (6.0 miles; recommended).
It also gives you access to the river where you can often see salmon spawning. Salmon, born here, swim down river to the Pacific Ocean, where they spend most of their lives. They swim back up river (jumping up Salmon Cascades) and spawn in the shallow river beds around the campgrounds. They then die, their nutrients added to the rich river ecosystem.
Continuing along the trail, as you gaze up and around, you’ll notice Douglas-fir, western hemlock, red cedar and Sitka spruce trees, frequently covered in moss.
At eye level are many downed trees – some forming nurse logs on which rows of trees have grown in the nourishment of the rotting wood. In fall especially, you’ll notice the colorful huckleberry, red elderberry, and Oregon grape bushes.
The National Park Service does a good job of keeping the trail clear, but you’ll frequently pass by logs that fell across the trail and had to be cut.
The trail climbs about 100 feet from 0.1 miles to 0.4 miles, and then flattens out.
You’ll cross several small creeks and brooks on small wooden footbridges. These run in spring especially and feed into the Sol Duc River. By late summer/ fall, all you might see is a dry creek bed.
After about half an hour, a small sign indicates a short trail off the left to an historic shelter. This is the Canyon Creek Shelter, sometimes also called the Sol Duc Falls Shelter.
In 1939, the year after Olympic became a National Park, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) built three rustic shelters for hikers – at Hoh Lake, Moose Lake, and Sol Duc Falls. This is the only one that has survived and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 13, 2007. Today, you can go up to it and shelter on the front porch.
Less than a minute later, you’ll arrive at Sol Duc Falls. You’ll first come to a large bridge that spans a small ravine that the Sol Duc River drops down into.
There is a great view of the falls from the bridge. The falls are 48 feet high.
You can see the ravine and fenced walkways off to the left after the bridge that are across from Sol Duc Falls.
There is a bench you can sit on to relax if needed.
The walkways provide various perspectives and angles from which to see the falls. Unlike most other waterfalls on the Peninsula, you can actually view it from various angles, including the brink as it falls into the narrow ravine below.
The falls are an interesting, unique shape. There is a sharp bend in the river just before the drop, so the falls are actually perpendicular to the river, rather than running across it, as is usual. Rocky formations divide the falls into three or four different channels, depending on the volume of water.
There are often enormous tree trunks jammed across the ravine.
In the other direction, you see the narrow ravine, which then opens up into a calmer river, where the salmon spawn.
When you’ve had your fill of the falls, you can return the way you came, or continue in a loop along Lover’s Lane or on to Deer Lake or the Sol Duc River Trail.
Sol Duc Falls Trail Map
Here is the part of the Sol Duc Trail map that includes the hike to Sol Duc Falls.
How to Get to Sol Duc Falls
Where is Sol Duc Falls?
Sol Duc Falls are located in the Sol Duc Valley region of Olympic National Park at the far end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road. Always check the road conditions or call the recorded Road & Weather line for updates at 360-565-3131.
Directions to Sol Duc Falls
Here are some basic directions from major areas to the Sol Duc Trailhead.
Port Angeles to Sol Duc Falls
Head west on Highway 101. Past Lake Crescent, after about 29 miles, you’ll see a sign for Sol Duc on your left. Take the Sol Duc Hot Springs Road for another 13.5 miles until you get to the end of the road. The entire trip takes a little over an hour.
Lake Crescent to Sol Duc Falls
It’s about 23 miles/ 40 minutes from Lake Crescent Lodge to Sol Duc Trailhead. Head west on Highway 101 and after 9 miles, turn left on to Sol Duc Hot Springs Road. The trailhead for this hike is at the end of the road.
Forks to Sol Duc Hot Springs and the Sold Falls Trailhead
From Forks, head east on Highway 101. After 27.5 miles/ 30 minutes, turn right on to Sol Duc Hot Springs Road and continue for another 13.5 miles until you arrive at the parking lot at the end of the road. This is the trailhead for the Sol Duc Trail.
Sol Duc to Hoh Rainforest
It takes almost two hours to drive between these two parts of Olympic National Park. From Sol Duc, head back to Highway 101, then turn left/ west. Keep driving through Forks. You’ll be on Highway 101 for 40 miles until you see the sign for the Hoh Rainforest. Turn left and follow the Hoh Valley Road for about 20 miles until the end of the line.
Sol Duc Lodging
There are several Sol Duc Falls lodging options, including a resort and campground nearby, and hotels, vacation rentals and campgrounds in nearby Port Angeles and Forks.
Sol Duc Cabins
If you want to stay right nearby and don’t want to camp, then Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is your only option. The Sol Duc Resort should probably be named “Sol Duc Hot Springs Cabins” because other than one large house, there are only rustic cabins here and it might not be exactly what you expect when you hear ‘resort’. Nonetheless, if you want to relax in the hot springs and do some hiking in the area, it makes a good base.
You can also visit the hot springs as a day visitor if you just want to spend a few hours relaxing in the natural hot water.
Sol Duc Camping
The hot springs resort also runs the nearby Sol Duc Campground and RV Park. There are 82 sites including an RV park and two loops for tent camping. It’s open late March to late October. Primitive camping (no water) is also available off season when the road is open.
Hotels near Sol Duc Falls
I personally find that staying in Port Angeles or Forks is more convenient because you can access other areas of the national park more easily from those towns as well as Sol Duc. Sol Duc is basically the same distance for Forks and Port Angeles (both are about an hour away), so either makes a good base.
Accommodations in Port Angeles
My top picks for places to stay in Port Angeles are:
BUDGET: Aircrest Motel
A nice motel with free WiFi, parking, and tea/ coffee-makers in all rooms. Rooms come with one or two Queen sized beds or a King-sized bed.
MID-RANGE: Olympic Lodge by Ayres
A lovely lodge with a landscaped garden with a waterfall, plus an outdoor swimming pool, whirlpool, and fitness center. Free WiFi and parking. Breakfast is included in the rates. Rooms have two Queens or one King sized bed.
LUXURY: Treehouse on the Water
Let’s call this ‘rustic luxury’. A rustic feel with all wood interiors, this tree house is a wonderfully unique place to stay – 20 feet high in the air. The two-bedroom options come with kitchen, air conditioning and have lovely views. Recommend as long as you are OK climbing stairs.
Accommodations in Forks
My top picks for places to stay in Forks are:
BUDGET: Pacific Inn Motel
A basic but clean motel with air conditioning, flat screen TVS, free WiFi, and free Parking. Some rooms have balconies. There is a variety of rooms including one Queen, one King, two Queen, and one Queen with a foldout sofa.
MID-RANGE: Woodland Inns
Cute, spacious cabins, each with a kitchen, private bathroom and patio. There are several rooms types including two Queens, a King with a sofa bed, a King with two bunk beds, and a King with two twin beds. This is a great option for families and couples who want to save a little money on eating out all the time. Free parking and WiFi.
LUXURY: Quillayute River Resort
A lovely property with suites that all have a porch with views of the nearby Quillayute River. There are one- and two-bedroom suites with several bed types available. Free parking and WiFi.
FAQS about Sol Duc Hike
What does Sol Duc mean in English?
Sol Duc means “sparkling waters” in English. It comes from the Quileute name for the area.
What’s special about Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park?
Sol Duc Falls are generally considered the most beautiful waterfalls in Olympic National Park. The waterfalls are just after a 90-degree bend in the river and fall sideways into a narrow ravine. They split into 3 or 4 channels. So, they are an unusual shape and can be seen from many more different angles than most waterfalls.
What else is there to do in Sol Duc, Olympic National Park?
Top things to do in Sol Duc Valley include:
1. There are several other wonderful hikes in Sol Duc Valley.
2. You can also soak in hot mineral springs or swim in the pool or get a massage at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. You can buy a Sol Duc Hot Springs day use pass without needing to stay at the resort.
3. Several times a year, you can see salmon jumping up a waterfall at Salmon Cascades.
How long is the trail to Sol Duc Falls, WA?
The Sol Duc Falls nature trail is 0.8 miles in each direction, out and back. It’s a total 1.6-mile hike.
Is Sol Duc Falls worth seeing?
Yes, the Sol Duc Falls are definitely worth seeing. They are widely considered the most beautiful waterfall in Olympic National Park.
Do you need a pass for Sol Duc Falls?
There no special pass needed to see Sol Duc Falls. However, you do need to pay the Olympic National Park entrance fee to get into Sol Duc, Washington, which is checked near the beginning of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road. You can get it at the park or buy it online in advance.
If you are planning to visit more than just Olympic National Park this year (Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park are both close), it can be great value to purchase an America The Beautiful Pass.
The one-year pass includes standard entrance at all sites managed by the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and Army Corps of Engineers. The pass covers the entrance fee for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle or up to 4 adults at sites that charge per person.
Get an America The Beautiful pass here.
Can you swim in Sol Duc Falls?
No, swimming is not permitted at SolDuck Falls. If you want to go swimming, the nearby Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort has a swimming pool.
How to see Sol Duc Hot Springs?
The only way to see the SoleDuck Falls is to hike there. It’s a fairly easy 1.6-mile round trip hike through old growth forest that is a highlight of any trip to Olympic National Park.
Travel Insurance for Sol Duc Falls, Washington State
You should definitely get travel insurance for your trip to Olympic National Park. This can protect you against medical and emergency repatriation, as well as things like trip cancellation, loss and/ or theft of property, etc.
A great insurance option is Travelex. It has coverage for all you’ll need. You can choose the best travel insurance plan for your trip here or get a quote right now:
Enjoy the hike to Sol Duc Fall!
You might also like:
>> Salmon Cascades
>> Ancient Groves Nature Trail Guide
>> Olympic National Park Guide
>> Best Hikes in Olympic National Park
>> Best Things to Do in Olympic National Park
>> Best Hikes Near Lake Crescent
>> Hurricane Ridge Visitors Guide
>> Best Hikes at Hurricane Ridge
>> Best Sol Duc Hikes
>> Best Hoh Rainforest Hikes
>> Best Lake Quinault Hikes
>> Best Beaches in Olympic National Park
>> Best Tide Pools in Olympic National Park
>> Best Waterfalls in Olympic National Park
Do you have any additional tips for hiking to Sol Duc Waterfall or questions about this or any other Sol Duc Valley hikes? I’d love to hear about them. 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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