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? Sol Duc Campground in Olympic National Park offers all this and more.
The name Sol Duc comes from a mispronunciation of the Quileute word for sparkling waters. Settles named the hot springs Sol Duc in the late 1800s, and built a hotel on the site in 1912. The original hotel burned to the ground in 1916 and was replaced in the 1920s.
An Overview of Sol Duc Campground
In the Sol Duc Valley, you will find hidden waterfalls, sparkling lakes, quiet, backcountry 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. Sol Duc Campground is a full-service RV park in the summer months, with 17 full hook-up sites and 82 tent sites. The campground is also maintained for primitive camping during the offseason.
Sol Duc Campground is right on the Sol Duc River. It’s a short walk from Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, where you can soak your cares away. The resort also has a small store where you can buy a bottle of local beer, stock up on provisions, or purchase souvenirs.
The campground has two tent-camping loops to choose from. Of the 82 tent sites, 62 of them can (and should) be reserved ahead of time. The other 20 tent sites are first-come, first-served, but you must visit Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort before checking in. At each campsite, you will find a picnic table and a fire ring. There are flush toilets and potable water nearby. All of the sites are situated under the canopy of old-growth trees, so don’t expect sunshine.
We visited Sol Duc Campground and Hot Springs in July. We did not make reservations for a weeknight stay. Apparently, we were lucky to score a site, and we’re very grateful. You can read reviews of Sol Duc Campground on TheDyrt’s website.
Day Hikes in the Sol Duc Valley
To truly make the most of Sol Duc Valley, you have to start by exploring. The following easy hiking trails in Sol Duc Valley can be accessed from Sol Duc Campground, taking you deep into the forest, and making you work a bit for the relaxing evening that awaits in Sol Duc Hot Springs.
Hiking to Sol Duc Falls
The hike to Sol Duc falls is relatively easy, making it a perfect choice for families with small children. At just under two miles, the loop is short and therefore fairly social. It is a popular hike for campers, as well as people staying at Sol Duc Resort. The trail leads through a lush, old-growth forest, which meanders along the creek. There is very little elevation change, but you will have to watch out for roots in the path.
Sol Duc falls can be viewed from several different vantage points, and put on an impressive display throughout the year. There are a few benches to relax on, and a small shelter if you’re in the mood for a picnic.
Hiking Lover’s Lane
Connecting the Sol Duc 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 in the hot springs when you’re through.
Hiking to Mink Lake
This moderate trail takes you through dense forest, and leads to a quiet, hidden lake, surrounded by wildflowers (and swarms of mosquitoes). The trail begins in the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort parking area at 1,650 feet and gains 1,450 feet in elevation. At 5.2 miles round-trip, it is best for intermediate hikers and older children. The trail travels 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.
Hiking Little Divide
If you’re looking for a more adventurous day hike and 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, the iconic peak of Olympic National Park. 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 you stick around long enough. After Mink Lake, you will gain another 1,000 feet in elevation. You can turn this into a loop by following the trail to Lover’s Lane and back to Sol Duc Resort. The Little Divide Loop is a total of 14 miles and is only recommended for experienced hikers.
Exploring 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.
Please note: We took full advantage of Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort on our camping trip, but we did not stay in the cabins or lodge. It’s definitely on our bucket list of places to stay, but we can’t vouch for the lodging or the three restaurants. If you have stayed there, please let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Planning Your Trip to Olympic National Park and Sol Duc Campground
Overview: Away from the Office has a great overview on visiting Olympic National Park, including what time of year to visit, where to stay, and some of the best attractions.
Transportation: The closest airport to Olympic National Park and Sol Duc Hot Springs 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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