Welcome to the ultimate Enchanted Valley Backpacking Guide! Are you ready to embark on an extraordinary adventure in Olympic National Park? In this guide, I will unveil the enchanting beauty of the Enchanted Valley and provide you with all the information you need to make the most of your backpacking journey to this hidden gem.
Olympic National Park, with its vast wilderness and breathtaking landscapes, is a nature lover’s paradise. However, nestled within this magnificent park lies a secret waiting to be explored – the Enchanted Valley. I’ve completed Enchanted Valley twice now and can see myself returning time and time again.
Now, you might be wondering what makes the Enchanted Valley so special. Picture yourself surrounded by towering mountains, lush green forests, and the soothing sounds of cascading waterfalls. Imagine encountering wildlife in their natural habitat and capturing stunning nature photography. That’s what awaits you in this hidden gem.
To help you plan your adventure, I’ll cover everything from the best time to visit and trail options to essential backpacking gear and tips. I’ll provide insights into camping spots, permits, and regulations to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or new to backpacking looking to explore the wild side, this guide has got you covered.
Completed: June 2-4th, 2023
Table of Contents
Just a heads up! This post contains some affiliate links, which means I might earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks in advanced for your support!
Map of Enchanted Valley Trailhead
Enchanted Valley is located on the ancestral lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Quinault, and S’Klallam tribes. We are grateful for the stewards of this land past and present. We are honored to be and recognize that we are guests on this land.
Overview of Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is nestled in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. This natural wonderland beckons adventurers from around the world. With its diverse ecosystems and stunning landscapes, Olympic National Park offers an unforgettable experience for all nature lovers.
Significance of Olympic
Designated as a national park in 1938, Olympic National Park is renowned for its exceptional biodiversity and awe-inspiring landscapes. It encompasses nearly one million acres of diverse ecosystems, ranging from snow-capped mountains to ancient forests and rugged coastline.
Recognized as both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve, Olympic National Park holds immense ecological significance. It serves as a sanctuary for numerous endangered species, preserving their habitats and ensuring their survival for future generations.
From snow-capped mountains to lush rainforests and pristine coastline, Olympic National Park is a haven of natural beauty. It is a place where you can witness the wonders of nature in their purest form.
Are you a hiking enthusiast? Lace up your boots and embark on the numerous hiking trails that wind their way through this majestic park. Summit the towering peaks of the Olympic Mountains, taking in panoramic views that will leave you breathless. Feel the thrill of conquering rugged terrains and marvel at the abundance of wildlife that calls this place home.
If you’re a fan of captivating flora and fauna, then the enchanting rainforests of Olympic National Park will be a treat for your senses. Wander through moss-draped trees, fern-covered trails, and listen to the melodious songs of birds echoing through the canopy. Discover unique plant species that thrive in this temperate rainforest, creating a lush green paradise.
And let’s not forget the pristine coastline that stretches along the park’s western edge. Picture miles of sandy beaches, dramatic sea stacks rising from the surf, and the rhythmic crashing of waves against the shore. Explore tide pools teeming with fascinating marine life, and if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of migrating whales making their way through the deep blue waters.
The East Fork Quinault River Trail is a popular hiking route that leads to the Enchanted Valley Chalet. Hiking through lush rainforest and towering mountains, you’ll eventually find yourself in a sweeping valley with the picturesque Enchanted Valley Chalet at the center.
Lesser Known Destination
Unlike some of the other well-known destinations in the park the Enchanted Valley is off-the-beaten-path that requires significant hiking to access. In this hidden valley, wildlife thrives undisturbed. In both of my backpacking trips I saw countless elk and black bears, further demonstrating what a wildlife haven this area really was.
The Enchanted Valley Chalet
Arriving in the heart of the Enchanted Valley, you’ll be surrounded by towering peaks dusted with snow. Waterfalls cascade down the cliffs joining with the beautiful crystal blue waters of the Quinault river.
In the 1920’s the Olson brothers developed five acres of land in the upper East Fork Quinault with the purpose of promoting outdoor adventures and activities. They developed the Enchanted Valley Chalet by hauling materials down the 13miles of trail leading to the valley, the same trail you take to hike to get there!
The chalet operated as a stopping point for hikers offering baths, beds, shelter, and food. Meals cost $1, single beds $1.50 and double beds $2.00.
Unfortunately with WW2, operations of the chalet became increasingly difficult and it eventually closed in 1943. It was reopened as a shelter in 1953 but with weathering, vandalism and inadequate maintenance, the Chalet was closed again in 1980.
The Olympian Hiking Club took on the project of restoring the Chalet. The Chalet is currently used for seasonal ranger quarters and as ranger station. One corner of the first floor is open to public as an emergency shelter.
Seeing the Enchanted Valley Chalet is a heartwarming and joyous experience.
Planning Your Enchanted Valley Backpacking Trip
In this section, I will guide you through the essential steps of planning your unforgettable journey. From determining the ebay time to visit to obtaining permits, to picking a route. Whether you’re an experienced backpacker seeking a new challenge or new to the backpacking game, all trips require planning. If you’re eager to explore Olympic National Park’s hidden gem, careful planning is key to ensuring a smooth and rewarding experience.
Best Time to Visit
Both times I completed the trail, I completed them in late Spring turning into Summer.
The best time to visit Enchanted Valley depends on your preferences and the type of experience you’re seeking. Here’s a breakdown of the different seasons and weather considerations to help you plan your visit:
- Summer (June to August): This is the peak season for visiting Enchanted Valley. The weather is generally mild, with average temperatures ranging from the 60s to 70s Fahrenheit (15-25 degrees Celsius). The days are longer, allowing for more time to explore and enjoy the scenic beauty. However, be prepared for occasional rainfall as the Pacific Northwest is known for its wet climate.
- Fall (September to November): Fall brings cooler temperatures and stunning foliage colors to Enchanted Valley. The crowds tend to thin out, offering a more serene experience. Average temperatures range from the 50s to 60s Fahrenheit (10-20 degrees Celsius), but be prepared for cooler nights. Rainfall increases during this season, so pack appropriate rain gear and be aware of changing trail conditions.
- Spring (March to May): Spring brings the return of milder temperatures and blooming wildflowers to Enchanted Valley. However, it is important to note that this season can also be wet, with increased rainfall and potential snowmelt. Average temperatures range from the 40s to 60s Fahrenheit (4-15 degrees Celsius). Trails may be muddy and slippery, so proper footwear is essential. Spring offers a quieter experience, with fewer visitors compared to the peak summer season.
When planning your visit to Enchanted Valley, consider the weather conditions and your personal preferences. Be sure to check the latest weather forecasts and trail conditions before setting out. Remember to pack appropriate clothing and gear to ensure your safety and comfort throughout your backpacking adventure in Enchanted Valley.
You can find more information about the weather and trail conditions at the Olympic National Park Website.
To ensure access to the trail in Enchanted Valley, you will need to obtain the necessary permits and reservations.
Backpackers are required to obtain a wilderness permit for overnight stays on the trail to Enchanted Valley. These permits help manage the number of visitors and preserve the park’s delicate ecosystem.
Permits for backpacking this trail can be purchased at Recreation.gov and are released in spring. Wilderness camping fees are $8 per person per night plus a $6 processing fee.
Since you will be camping and parking in Olympic National Park, you will need a park pass. You can purchase an Annual Pass, America the Beautiful Pass, for $85 which offers you unlimited access to National Parks and Forests, or you can purchase day & weekly access passes.
For completing the hike to Enchanted Valley, there are a number of campsites and route options for getting to the valley.
Details About Routes
The entire length of the hike, in and out, is a combined total of 26.5 miles. While this hike is possible to do as a single overnight, I would highly recommend completing the trip in three days and two nights. The starting point of this trail is Graves Creek. This is where you will park and begin your journey to Enchanted Valley.
For my route, I stayed at Pyrites Creek each night so that I could leave my gear at camp when I hiked into Enchanted Valley.
- Camp in Enchanted Valley
I would NOT recommend this option, because there is not enough time to truly enjoy the valley.
- Graves Creek to O’Neil Creek to Enchanted Valley
This requires a long trek out on the last day, but it provides the option to stay in Enchanted Valley.
- Graves Creek to Enchanted Valley to O’Neail Creek
This requires a long trek on the first day, but provides the option to stay in Enchanted Valley.
- Graves Creek to O’Neil Creek to Pyrites Creek
This route allows you to have an easier first day. You can stop in Pyrites Creek on the way to Enchanted Valley to drop your heavy packs and set up camp. Spend some time in Enchanted Valley before making your way back to camp.
- Graves Creek to O’Neil Creek to Enchanted Valley to O’Neil Creek
If you have the time, this is a great option. O’Neil Creek is more private than Pyrites Creek and has plenty of campsites along the river. Having the ability to camp in Enchanted Valley should not be passed up if possible!
Campsite Options & Amenities
When choosing your route, always pay attention to the amenities that are offered such as pit toilets, food storage, and relative number of people allowed.
Backpacking the Enchanted Valley
The following section is a detailed account of my three day, two night trip into the Enchanted Valley. I stayed at Pyrite Creek both nights and day hiked into Enchanted Valley on Day 2.
Day 1: Trailhead to Pyrite Camp
Stats: 11.2 miles – 1910 ft – 5 hours 15 minutes
The drive to Enchanted Valley took about 3 hours from where we stayed the previous night. Anticipating a busy trailhead since the Enchanted Valley just reopened from being closed to the public, my partner and I headed out EARLY. There are only 35 parking spaces and when we arrived at 9:15am there were probably only 5 spaces left.
We gathered our things and in no time we were on our way to enchanted valley. Excitement was high and there were a number of larger groups ahead of us. The trail began with a bridge crossing of Graves Creek. The forest was a vibrant green with rays of golden sunshine peeking through.
There is an initial incline of about 600ft in the first two miles. After the ascent, there was a steep decline. I tried not to think about what that meant for the hike back out.
After 2.5 miles we reached Pony Bridge. The bridge was recently redone and it’s AMAZING! The water under the bridge was a vibrant blue and the cavern was gorgeous.
Following the trail there was a lot of elevation gain and loss as we meandered along the Quinault river.The total elevation gain for the entire trail is a little over 3300ft. The difference in elevation between the beginning of the trail and enchanted valley is under 1000.
Along the trail between pony bridge and O’Neil creek, there are a number of blown down trees on the trail that require some finesse to get over. 7.5 miles in we got to O’Neil campground and decided to head down for lunch. This side quest added an additional mile and 200 gain to today’s hike.
From O’Neil to Pyrite, the trail continued to have consistent elevation gain and loss for the remaining 3.0 miles. At this point, two different people indicated that they had seen a number of bears on the trail. We kept a look out but failed to see any.
Reaching Pyrite felt amazing! There are a number of campsites at Pyrite with fire pits. We chose a spot close to the river, gathered some firewood, and set up camp. This would be our campsite for the next two nights.
Once settled into our new home, we went down to the river to collect water for filtering and soaked our feet.
Day 2: To Enchanted Valley
Stats – 8.6 miles – 938 ft gain – 3hrs 30minutes
There is no better word to describe this day than divine. We were in no rush to get up but as educators still managed to wake up around 5:30am. I began packing our day pack for our hike into the well anticipated enchanted valley while my partner made us my favorite instant coffee, Alpine Start.
Since we were day hiking, I brought my hyper light day pack, the REI Flash 18. It’s great for trips like this and for loaning to your non-hiker friend when you want to get them out on the trail.
Addison read a little of his book and I put the rain fly on our tent to conceal the items we were leaving behind. I threw some food in the day pack, hid the bear can, and then we were off!
The best way to describe the trail this early in the morning is majestic. It felt like walking through a fairytale. While I thought about fairies, my partner thought it looked like walking through the Shire.
The push to Enchanted Valley has long stretches of flat trail through seas of ferns, graves of enormous elder trees and follows along the flowing Quinault river. The river gets increasingly colder as you near its starting point in the mountains that surround the valley.
Unlike the previous day, the incline is steady with little decline. There are a couple of pushes for tired legs from the previous day, but it’s otherwise tame.
We finally reached the gate to Enchanted Valley. The towering mountains were peaking above the trees. Crossing one last bridge, we had finally made it. We walked another 0.4 miles to get to the chalet. There was a ranger stationed in the valley and plenty of people camping there.
We laid out towels and spent our morning and most of the afternoon reading, playing hive(a great 2-player game), snacking, and napping.
After a wonderful, relaxing afternoon in the valley, we quickly followed the trail back across the 4.2 miles to our campsite at Pyrite. Hiking this section in reverse was much easier and just as beautiful in the afternoon sun. There was plenty of firewood so we relaxed around another fire and ate dinner before bed.
Day 3: Pyrite Camp to Trailhead
Stats: 10.8 miles – 1086 ft gain – 4 hours 45 minutes
In anticipation of a long drive back to Seattle, we got an early start the next morning and to our surprise, there were bear prints and fresh scat in the empty campsite next to ours. We packed up our gear and were off on the trail within the hour.
The air was cool and the sky was overcast. While I was anticipating sore legs, the hike came easy. We gained 900ft less than when we hiked in which made it relatively easier.
It was not until we reached that tough incline at the end that it finally happened… we saw a black bear. He was perched on a large log. It was obvious that he knew we were coming because he was staring right at us. We yelled out “hey bear ” and he moseyed away.
We continued on with our hike and were hit again with the potent smell of bear, but the bear was nowhere to be seen. After about 5 minutes of quietly waiting, two ravens gave away the hiding place of a large black bear. Larger than the previous bear, it wanted nothing to do with us and got up and walked off.
We reached the highest point for the remainder of the hike and then it was all downhill from there. The trail was wide and we passed some day hikers and backpackers headed into the valley.
Reaching the trailhead we felt accomplished. Another fantastic backpacking trip in the books.
Overnight Camping Tips
- Bring a book and/or game to enjoy in the valley.
- You’ll be in bear country so be sure to bring a bear safe food canister and bear spray.
- If you’re day hiking into the valley, pack a lightweight day pack! I brought the REI Flash 18!
- Bring a pair of sandals so you can soak your feet in the river. Nothing feels more relaxing after a long day of hiking with a heavy pack than a cold soak.
Essential Backpacking Gear and Tips
List of Essential Backpacking Gear
Read Next: Essential Backpacking Gear: Save vs Splurge
Backpack (+ rainfly)
3L Water Reservoir
Ultralight and Packable Day Pack [Depends on the backpacking trip]
Athletic Shorts, Leggings, or Pants
Pairs of Socks
Camera (+ Extra Battery)
Toothbrush + Toothpaste
Trowel + TP
Offline Map or Paper Map
Bear Can – Needed for this Backpacking Trip!
Safety Tips for Wildlife Encounters
When backpacking in Enchanted Valley, it’s important to be aware of potential wildlife encounters and take precautions to ensure both your safety and the well-being of the animals. It is more likely than not that you will see wildlife like Elk and Black bears on this hike so here are some safety tips for wildlife encounters:
- Maintain Distance: Keep a safe distance from all wildlife, including large mammals like black bears and elk. Respect their space and NEVER approach or feed them.
- Make Noise: While hiking, especially in areas with dense vegetation or limited visibility, make noise to alert wildlife of your presence. Clap your hands, talk, or sing to reduce the chances of surprising animals, which can lead to defensive or aggressive behavior.
- Store Food Properly: Properly store food, garbage, and scented items in bear-resistant containers or hang them at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet away from a tree trunk. This helps prevent attracting wildlife to your campsite.
- Keep a Clean Campsite: Maintain a clean campsite by cleaning up food scraps, spills, and trash immediately. Wash dishes and utensils away from your sleeping area. A clean campsite reduces the risk of attracting wildlife.
- Store Smelly Items Securely: In addition to food, store other smelly items like toothpaste, deodorant, and sunscreen in bear-resistant containers. Wildlife can be attracted to the scent of these items, so it’s crucial to keep them securely stored.
- Know How to React: If you encounter a wild animal, remain calm and try to assess the situation. Never run away, as it may trigger a chase response. Back away slowly while facing the animal and give it space to retreat. If necessary, raise your arms to appear larger and make loud noises to deter the animal.
- Carry Bear Spray: Consider carrying bear spray, a specialized deterrent designed to ward off bears in case of an aggressive encounter. Make sure you know how to properly use it and keep it easily accessible.
- Follow Park Guidelines: Familiarize yourself with the specific wildlife guidelines and regulations of Olympic National Park.
By following these safety tips and being respectful of wildlife, you can have a safe and enjoyable backpacking experience while appreciating the beauty of the natural world in Enchanted Valley.
Tips for Backpacking
Here is a list of tips for ensuring you have a safe and enjoyable time on the trail!
- Plan and Prepare: Research the trail, weather conditions, and terrain before your trip. Create a detailed itinerary, including camping locations and estimated hiking times. Familiarize yourself with the park’s regulations and guidelines.
- Obtain the Necessary Permits: Ensure you have the required wilderness permit for backpacking in Enchanted Valley. Make reservations well in advance, especially during peak seasons. Carry a physical or electronic copy of your permit during your hike. Every time I’ve completed a backpacking trip in Olympic National Park, I have had my permits checked!
- Pack Light and Essential Gear: Keep your backpack lightweight by packing only essential items. Carry weather-appropriate clothing, sturdy footwear, a reliable map, compass or GPS device, first aid kit, water filter or purification system, and enough food and water for your trip. Don’t forget to pack bear-resistant containers for food storage. You can rent a bear can from the Wilderness Center in the park if you do not own one!
- Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment. Pack out all trash, dispose of human waste properly, and avoid damaging plants or wildlife. Respect the fragile ecosystems and leave nature as you found it for future generations to enjoy.
- Be Bear Aware: Enchanted Valley is home to black bears, so take precautions to prevent bear encounters. Store food and scented items in bear-resistant containers and keep a clean campsite. Make noise while hiking to alert bears of your presence. Educate yourself on bear safety and know how to respond in case of an encounter. You should carry bear spray with you on this trail as a precaution.
- Check Weather Conditions: Stay updated on weather forecasts and trail conditions before your trip. Be prepared for changing weather patterns, including rain and fog. Adjust your plans accordingly and pack appropriate rain gear and extra layers to stay warm and dry. The weather for both of my trips at the same time of the year was wildly different.
- Hiking Safety: Stay on designated trails. Wandering off-trail can harm fragile ecosystems and increase the risk of getting lost. Pace yourself and take breaks as needed to avoid overexertion. Be cautious while crossing streams and rivers – use trekking poles for stability! While the park has done significant work to rebuild and secure the bridges along the trail, there are still a number of stream crossings that will be challenging in high flow seasons.
- Navigation and Communication: Carry a map, compass, or GPS device and know how to use them. Familiarize yourself with the trail and trail markers. Inform someone reliable about your itinerary, expected return time, and emergency contact information. Be aware that cell phone coverage may be limited or nonexistent in certain areas of the park.
- Water Safety: Treat all water from all natural sources before drinking or cooking to prevent waterborne illnesses. Use a water filter, purification tablets, or boiling methods to ensure safe drinking water.
- Emergency Preparedness: Carry a well-stocked first aid kit and know basic first aid procedures. In case of an emergency, stay calm and assess the situation. If needed, signal for help using a whistle, mirror, or other signaling devices. Familiarize yourself with emergency protocols and contact information for park rangers or emergency services in the area.
Remember, safety should always be your top priority when backpacking in Enchanted Valley. By following these tips and being prepared, you can have a safe and memorable adventure in the stunning wilderness of Olympic National Park.
Should Enchanted Valley be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?
As soon as I stepped off of the trail the first time I backpacked to Enchanted Valley in 2019, I knew I would be back. After completing the trail again for a second time, I was already thinking of the people I wanted to show this beautiful place to for a third trip.
Enchanted Valley should absolutely be a “100 Classic Hike of Washington”. It is a beautiful trail from start to finish. The history of the Chalet further demonstrates peoples desire to preserve and protect this area. I fully believe everyone who completes this trail will agree, that it is a Washington Classic.
Other Hikes in Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is filled with spectacular hikes and backpacking routes. Here is a condensed list of a few of my favorites:
Hit the Trail!
As we conclude this ultimate Enchanted Valley backpacking guide, I hope you’ve been inspired to embark on your own adventure in this hidden gem of Olympic National Park. Enchanted Valley offers a captivating blend of pristine wilderness, towering old-growth forests, meandering rivers, and breathtaking vistas. From the rugged trails to the awe-inspiring wildlife encounters, every step you take will be filled with wonder and discovery. So, pack your gear, lace up your boots, and immerse yourself in the enchantment that awaits. Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker seeking a new challenge or a nature lover yearning for a tranquil escape, Enchanted Valley promises an unforgettable experience. So, what are you waiting for?
Come and explore this magical corner of Olympic National Park. Your Enchanted Valley adventure awaits!