3 days/2 nights/19 miles
When Sarah and I first started dating one of the first backpacking destinations she talked to me about was Olympic National Park. She had gone there with our friends Nick and Jamie and backpacked Shi Shi Beach a couple years ago. Then she mentioned the 19 mile Seven Lakes Basin loop and how much she wanted to see it.
When we planned our Northern Loop trip we weren't 100% sure on how long we'd take for it, but we knew there could be some time at the end for a shorter trip. That is exactly what happened. We finished Mt. Rainier on a Thursday, returned to Nick and Jamie's house to regroup, and on Friday morning Sarah, Jamie and I (Nick decided to stay behind and tend to some house stuff) struck out for Port Angeles, WA and hoped to get walk up permits for Seven Lakes Basin.
We arrived at the Port Angeles Wilderness Info Center at 8:00 am after dropping into Olympic Bagel Company for some salmon breakfast bagels and coffee. Keeping our campsite options flexible landed us 2 nights on the loop and off we went.
Sol Duc Trailhead to Upper Sol Duc Falls Crossing Camp - 7 miles
The loop starts out at Sol Duck Falls, which is a very busy section of the park. The first mile of trail is a totally flat, touristy section of trail that leads you to the falls.
After departing the falls the next 6 miles went through fairly easy terrain. Mostly flat with some short ascents. Bright, lush greenery as far as you can see. Very much what you'd expect of the pacific northwest. The blueberries were plentiful here!
It wasn't long until we made camp at the Upper Sol Duc Falls Crossing campsite. While it allowed fires, we weren't able to find enough dry wood to get one started, so it was an evening of relaxing and crosswords.
Upper Sol Duc Falls Crossing Camp to Lunch Lake Camp - 7 miles + 0.8 mile descent to Lunch Lake
The sun woke us up on our 2nd day and we were back on the trail with great weather. From camp the trail started a long climb out of the shady sub-alpine area into the alpine zone where the seven lakes live.
Once we reached Heart Lake to stop for a bite to eat we noticed some clouds rolling in and we'd remain in the clouds for the next few hours.
The clouds didn't make the walk along the ridge overlooking the basin any less incredible though. Along with the 7 larger lakes, the basin is littered with dozens of ponds. It's a sight to behold, for sure.
When we finally reached Lunch Lake we were all really excited to camp at such a beautiful alpine lake. Sarah had to get in and cool off her feet and knees.
The clouds moved out and the view from our site was gorgeous despite having to battle with some mosquitoes. After some dinner and lounging we were sound asleep.
Lunch Lake Camp to Sol Duc Falls Trailhead - 5 miles + 0.8 mile ascent from Lunch Lake
I was awoken by a distinct thudding sound near our tent on our last morning at Seven Lakes Basin. For a moment I was scared until I looked out our tent and saw a deer walking around, munching on some grass. It was 5:15 am and I was up for what looked to be a great sunrise. I wasn't disappointed!
I walked around camp watching the alpenglow appear on the surrounding mountains and the sun coming over the ridge in front of camp.
After breakfast we were off for the 0.8 mile hike back out of the basin to the ridge so we could continue on to the trailhead. I snapped a photo to illustrate how clear the lake was. The views of the sun rising over Lunch Lake (right) and Round Lake (left) were awesome!
The hike back to the trailhead brought us through mostly nice trail with some rocky/rooty more technical stuff. We may have even seen a glimpse of a bit of Mt. Olympus in the distance before getting well below the tree line.
The end of this hike concluded our trip to beautiful Washington. By that evening we'd be back on an airplane to Michigan.
Looking back on it I don't think it could have gone any better. We got to experience 2 unique backpacking loops in 2 different national parks. For a trip where all the permits were obtained via walk-up I'd say it was a big success. Washington is a place that has more to offer backpackers than just about anywhere in the U.S. We're already talking to Nick and Jamie about potential destinations next summer!