Discovering the Lower South Fork Skokomish River Trail

Discovering the Lower South Fork Skokomish River Trail

By: Shelby May 27, 2013 4:28 pm 1 comment

We set out on this Memorial Day weekend unsure about what we wanted in our adventure. We had contemplated the Mount Walker viewpoint trail, but as the forecast got grayer and grayer, we decided a mountain viewpoint on a cloudy day might be kind of a bust. So, I found the perfect river trail: the Lower Gray Wolf River! Perfect, right? It had also been on my list for a while now, so we decided on that. Saturday morning, we headed to the Edmonds ferry terminal, and unfortunately, it appeared that everybody had the same idea to head to the peninsula that we had. The 90-minute wait was something we’d never encountered there! So, we reevaluated and headed south around the sound. By the time we were through Olympia, I decided it was too late in the day to get back to the north end up to the Lower Gray Wolf River, so now it was time for Plan C. With 3G connection fading fast, I found ourselves a new destination: The Lower South Skokomish River Trail.

skokomish

The trail starts way off of the beaten path of Hwy 101, deep in the Olympic National Forest on NF 23. The pavement ends as you drive through clear-cut forest and bald hills but continues on after about a mile and a half. Soon, you’re past the national forest boundary. There were very few cars out there, which wasn’t too surprising considering the weather. At the end of the long, winding road was the trailhead. The rain was falling steadily as we got out of the car and wondered what we were getting ourselves into. Because of course, we forgot our rain jackets. Who thought it would actually rain when the forecast calls for light rain? Also, because of the rain, we left the camera in the car, so we were stuck with our phones to document the trip.

We charged up the trail before our legs could realize how long it’d been since our last long hike. The trail climbs quickly up the bluff and soon you are high over the parking area and can barely see the cars through the thick foliage. We rested shortly after our triumphant climb to the top, and were pleased to find that the trail then descends easily down to the river. The rain was hardly noticeable now.

One of the bridges along the trail

One of the bridges along the trail

The trail passes through second-growth forest and into old-growth forest of ancient Douglas firs that tower above, some 500 to 700 years old, and below, the forest floor is carpeted in sword ferns, vanilla leaf, and vine maple.

This bridge was pretty beat up

This bridge was pretty beat up

The trail is smooth and fairly well-maintained, though there were lots of fallen trees and debris that had to be scrambled over, under, and around. There were a few wet spots where creeks cross the trail, but also some beautiful, new looking bridges across the larger cascades. The trail skirts close to the river in a few spots, but overall along the 5 miles we hiked out to, it could merely be heard off in the distance. There was one dramatic moment where we came over a small rise and down into the wide gorge of a stream. Huge trees had fallen, and an old bridge was washed downstream a bit. It felt very much like we had come into a secret valley lost in time. Beyond that, the trail is mostly flat until about mile 4, when it climbs and falls in little bits. This was a beautiful and easy hike.
I love the trail signage

I love the trail signage

I wouldn’t call it the most spectacularly scenic hike we’ve done, but we still enjoyed greatly it nonetheless. This trail is popular with mountain bikers and equestrian riders (the LeBar equestrian camp starts just a half a mile or so up the road), so I can imagine the more beaten up bridges and fallen trees will be taken care of before too long.

I love quiet hikes like this. Sometimes the really popular hikes sometimes seem like going to the gym. Yes, they’re an awesome experience and I love that people get out to enjoy nature, but it can be hard to feel like you’ve really gotten away from it all. The lonely hikes allow you to enjoy the silence and find your zen. In our incredibly connected world, I love going to a place where I am forced to disconnect and listen only to the river rushing in the distance and the rain falling softly on the vanilla leaf.

Northwest Forest Pass required

Directions: From US Highway 101, turn west at milepost 340 onto the Skokomish Valley Road (6 miles north of Shelton or 7 miles south of Hoodsport). Follow this good paved road for 5.5 miles, bearing right at a V intersection onto Forest Road 23. In 1 mile the pavement ends; in another 1.5 miles it resumes; and in another mile enter Olympic National Forest. Continue for 6 miles on FR 23 to a signed junction and turn right onto FR 2353. In 0.5 mile cross the South Fork Skokomish River, coming to a four-way intersection. Turn left, continuing on FR 2353 for 0.3 mile to the trailhead. 

Google Directions

1 Comment

Leave a reply