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Where can a budget adventurer explore miles of secluded hiking trails, relax in the pools of world-famous hot springs, and then sleep under the canopy of an old-growth, temperate rainforest? The Sol Duc Valley in Olympic National Park offers all this and more. Here you will find hidden waterfalls, sparkling lakes, quiet, back country trails, and a full-service resort within walking distance of the Sol Duc campground, which is the perfect place to begin your Sol Duc experience. The campground is a full-service RV park in the summer months, with 17 full hook-up sites and 80 tent sites. Sol Duc campground is also maintained for primitive camping during the off season.
Day Hikes in the Sol Duc Valley
To truly make the most of the hot springs, you have to start by exploring the surrounding valley. These are our favorite Sol Duc day hikes – taking you deep into the forest, and making you work for the relaxing evening that awaits you.
- Sol Duc Falls – This easy hike is perfect for families with small children. At just under two miles, the loop is relatively short, and therefore fairly social. The old-growth forest here is full of surprises, and the falls, which are viewed from above, put on an impressive display throughout the year.
Sol Duc Falls after an easy hike
- Lover’s Lane – Connecting the campground trail to the Sol Duc Falls trail, Lover’s Lane becomes a 6 mile loop. The trail travels along the river, through peaceful clearings, and among old-growth cedars and hemlock for a glimpse of the diverse habitats found in the Sol Duc Valley. With only a 200 feet elevation gain, this is an easy hike through a beautiful forest, and while it might not leave you breathless, you will certainly be ready for a soak when you’re through.
- Mink Lake – This moderate trail takes you through dense forest, gaining 1500 feet and leading to a quiet, hidden lake, surrounded by wildflowers (and swarms of mosquitoes). You will travel through stands of old-growth fir and hemlock, followed by a lush subalpine forest, and then a marshy meadow. There are primitive campsites around Mink Lake for more adventurous backpackers.
- Little Divide – For total solitude, continue on the Mink Lake trail another two miles. Little Divide will give you a glimpse of the valley below and of Mount Olympus. While not the grandest of views, you are in the wildest part of Sol Duc Valley, and there’s a good chance of seeing deer, elk, and bear if stick around long enough.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort
The Sol Duc Hot Springs are privately run, and pretty busy during the summer months. True back-country aficionados might scoff at the idea of a full-service resort in the middle of such a pristine wilderness, and I had my doubts as well. I usually stay away from such spectacles, but really the thought of relaxing in thermal waters just steps from our campground was too tempting to pass up.
There are four separate pools in the resort area, each a different temperature for soaking, and although the pools can be crowded during the day, if you head over after a hike and a good camp dinner, you can relax in the healing waters as the sun sets and twilight envelopes the valley. Your aches and pains will disappear, and you will forget that there is anywhere else on earth but the fabulous Sol Duc Hot Springs and the valley that holds such a magical secret. If you are road tripping like we were, you will certainly change your plans and stay a few extra days, because really, there is no place on earth like Olympic National Park, and no place that will heal your troubles like Sol Duc Hot Springs.
Planning Your Trip to Olympic National Park and Sol Duc Valley
Transportation: The closest airport to Olympic National Park is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Reasonable flights can be found on Skyscanner throughout the year. From the airport, it’s a 3.5 to 4 hour drive, depending on the schedule of the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry. Public transportation is pretty much nonexistent within Olympic National Park. Renting a car will give you the freedom to explore the park.
Where to stay: The Sol Duc Campground is an easy walk from the Sol Duc Hot Springs, but you can also rent a cabin or stay in the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort if camping isn’t your thing.
Connectivity: There is no internet service available within the park, and cell service is quite spotty.
Fees: Entrance fees into Olympic National Park are $25 for a carload for seven consecutive days. Camping at Sol Duc Campground is $20 per night. You can reserve your site in advance at Recreation.gov.
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