We rolled into Quinault around 11pm, nabbed our backcountry permits from the ranger station, and shot over to the Quinault lodge to use the bathrooms. We meandered to the lodge checkin/gift shop to ask a few questions and that’s when Angelina realized she made the rookie mistake of forgetting her socks, so she got a pair of sasquatch socks and for the rest of the weekend she had sasquatch feet. The lodge employee told us there were no campsites available in Quinault, but a guy outside of town opened up his land, which has “NO shortage of space”, for people to use, free of charge. She gave us directions, “Drive down the road to mile marker 7, it’ll be on the left. If you hit gravel, you’ve gone too far, turn around and it’s the first driveway on the right”. She then handed us a crudely hand drawn map that the guy had dropped off earlier that day. It seemed like a sketchy setup, so our interest was piqued.
Mile marker 7, check. Gravel road, check. We pulled a U-ie and the first drive way on the right had the tell tale signs indicating it was our lot… 2 no parking signs lining the driveway, perfect. There were two cars parked in the driveway and two tents setup just in front of the cars. This had to be the spot, but there clearly wasn’t ample space. A lady got out of the tent asking if we were looking for the guy’s property and that she was also confused by how it didn’t meet the description at all. Another car rolled up, so we all debated over the exquisite map, the newcomer determined that the next driveway down, the one that had the No Trespassing sign was clearly the correct place, while the rest of us remained where we were to take our chances.
Only 2.7 miles into the hike you come to the Pony Bridge campground, which has quite a few available spots. It’s also a beautiful gorge. A large bridge spans the Quinault River which gives excellent views of the gorge that the turquoise blue has created over the years. This is a great opportunity to stop to take in the view…and possibly eat a Clif bar.
Later we stopped at a creek crossing to rest & re-hydrate. While we were sitting enjoying the breeze, about 5 pack-mules passed by carrying lots of gear so we assumed they were stocking the Chalet. We hiked to Pyrite’s campground about 9 miles into the trail. The campground was pretty crowded, but nicely spaced out. We stopped and talked with a man named Mike, and he offered us his prime spot saying he was moving closer to the water.
At the end of the day we were ravaged and ready to chow, but there was one problem, could Angelina outsmart the bear canister? We scarfed down a mountain house meal, looked at each other and instantly knew that another meal was about to be made, so we had dinner round 2.
Sunday morning we left our campsite still set up & hiked, with much less weight, into the Valley. When doing this be sure to put your permit on the outside of your tent in case a ranger comes by camp. This was about 3 miles from Pyrite’s campsite.
As you walk further and get closer to the valley the level of enchantment continues to rise. The dense, lush forest lines the trail with 5 foot ferns that eventually give way to open meadows with yellow and purple flowers scattered around.
The iconic chalet of the Enchanted Valley is nestled over 13 miles from the nearest road and has played many roles since being built in 1930. Once a WWII aircraft lookout, ranger station, and cabin for hikers, this icon now has an uncertain fate due to its location on an active flood plain. It’s tied up in a lawsuit and may not be there in the near future so we suggest going to see this piece of history before it’s too late!
Once we made it back to camp we packed everything up & headed closer to the trailhead, about 4 miles back to O’Neil’s Campground. There were about 8 trail workers staying there, plus all of the holiday traffic, so it made for a veeery crowded campsite. We noticed the big silver boxes the mules had been carrying all circled around the trail crew campsite, which had all sorts of goodies like avocados, salami, bananas, etc…they were living the high life! We snuggled in close to some other campers & got to know our neighbors a bit, we were even given some chocolate covered berries for dessert.
Walking along between Pyrites and O’Neils campsites we spotted an elk cow so we slowly and quietly made our way up the hill and made the perfect blind behind a fallen tree.
Soon we began hearing high pitched mewing so we knew their were some calves in the area! After half an hour we spotted another elk coming over the hill in the distance, perfectly spotlighted by a sun ray in between two trees with the velvet of his antlers glistening. On top of that, he was followed by a herd of 15! We quietly held tight and let them come to us, eventually getting to within 37 meters. You don’t realize how powerful a big bull is, weighing in at up to 1,100 pounds, until you’re within a stones throw and having a stare down for what feels like minutes without any blinking. It’s one of those experiences you don’t forget.
We needed to make it back to Seattle by 6pm so we got on the trail in good time on Monday. In a little over 4 miles we hit Pony Bridge again to bask in the view, as well as watch a girl repeatedly make her brother take pictures of her until she got the perfect one. About a mile later we came upon a funny old fella asking how far Pony Bridge was, if we had seen any bears, and told us that he was carrying lots of candy so the bears would be looking for him…he was quite the character. When we made it out to the trailhead around 1pm, the parking lot was full and both sides of the road were lined for a half mile!
On the way back we stopped by the Quinault Lodge for a coffee…of course they serve Starbucks. The food looked overpriced, but we definitely recommend stopping here just to check out the interior as well as the back porch that has a beautiful panoramic view of Lake Quinault.
Planning a hike here? (you should)
The Enchanted Valley is a non-quota area, meaning that no reservations are needed and you can self issue a permit at the ranger station with a fee of $8 per person per night, which can be mailed in later. This is convenient for last minute hiking plans, but can lead to crowded campsites. The ranger mentioned that because this is becoming so popular that they may move to a quota system where limited permits would be available. Check into this become embarking on the journey to the peninsula.
Until next time, happy hiking and please let us know if you have recommendations or places you’d like us to explore!