Spring sauntered into the Harbor last weekend. (Sure took her sweet time.) Now that temperatures are finally skimming fair to middlin’ again, there’s a lot in or near Grays Harbor that’s good. Like Elip Creek.
Never heard of Elip Creek? Well class, if you’re sprouting that deer-in-the-headlights look, it’s a dead giveaway that you need to lace up the ‘ole Redwings and spend some more time in the Great Outdoors. Like around Lake Quinault. And the North Fork of the Quinault River.
Ellip Creek is a classic day hike. The trail head is located about 12 miles northeast of Lake Quinault along North Fork Quinault River Road. The road is unpaved once you hit the cut-off. Mind the Manhattan-sized pot holes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Pass the parking spot for Irely Lake and drive as far as you can. The trail head is at the ranger station. The station is never, ever open, but that’s beside the point.
You’ll pass Wolf Bar at about 2.5 miles. Halfway House is about 5.2 miles in. You’re getting close to Elip Creek when you ford Wild Rose Creek. And boy, is that fun. There’s no bridge. Wild Rose Creek is a very hazardous crossing, especially in early spring when the water’s high and running fast. Sometimes discretion – and the ability to say ‘Not today, I’d rather live’ – is the better part of valor. Just sayin’.
If you clear Wild Rose Creek, keep going till you hit a clearing near another creek with a barely legible sign proclaiming your destination. It’s on your right. You can’t miss it. It’s out in the middle of pickin’ no where.
Don’t look for this hike on YouTube. I already did. Besides, that’s cheating.
Elip Creek is a true-blue, genuine, 100% DIY hike. About 13 miles RT. Longer if the creeks are high and you have to head downstream to cross or BYO bridge. Be sure to wear your waterproof Redwings.
Don’t let the mileage intimidate you. The trail is relatively easy. (Except for the rocks. Lots and lots of rocks.) It’s mostly level. You climb some, but the rise is gentle and it’s not hamstring-hollerin’ steep. Plus, you get to spend the day amid some Really Big Trees tucked beneath the crown of the Olympic Mountains. Besides. What could be better than springtime, fresh air, sunshine, miles of solitude and a landscape that looks like something out of the Emerald City? It’s also a great excuse to scarf down an almost endless supply of chocolate chip cookies.
Mom Tip: Although scenic and tranquil, the Elip Creek Trail probably won’t win any awards in the Best Maintained category. There are three new cedar foot logs across boggy portions of the trail early on. Beyond that, and it’s the old, decrepit stuff, which is slick as glass (we have the bruises to prove it). Expect to scramble over boulders and downed logs on this trail. Ford some bridge-less creeks. Negotiate a fair amount of tangle foot. Treacherous footing. Waterfalls at no extra charge.
Mom tip #2: Wear a hat. Dress in layers. Bring extra food. Ditto plenty of water cuz there isn’t any out in the middle of pickin’ no where. DO NOT DRINK out of area lakes or streams, no matter how tempting. Always carry the 10 essentials. Remember, the most essential essential (that’s not a typo) out in the back country is your brain. Don’t leave home without it.
So be sure to hit the trail early and enjoy some of that oh-so-rare Grays Harbor sun! (It’ll probably be raining again by the time this posts) Reward yourself with dinner at The Salmon House on the south shore.
See? I told you this was good!