A GUIDE TO BACKPACKING WASHINGTON’S OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK – 7 LAKES BASIN HIGH DIVIDE
This guide to Backpacking Washington’s Olympic National Park for the 7 Lakes Basin is an absolutely amazing trek through wildflowers, in different terrains, with views of mountain ridgelines.
Not to mention the sounds of the trickling waterfalls and the tastes of the sweet berries that offer such a resetting perspective.
7 LAKES BASIN SPECS
The trail to the basin is 19 miles round trip with about 4,000 feet of elevation gain, and the highest point being about 5,000 ft
The trail is open from April until October. However, during July there are an abundance of wildflowers and spectacular colors that illuminate the trail,
Backpacking Washington’s Olympic National Park is most popular from mid-July till September, so going earlier in July would be best to beat the crowds.
As far as for water, there was plenty of water crossings for pumping water, so keeping a look-out for water designated spots was not necessary.
When it comes to planning out the locations you’d like to set up camp,
For safety purposes, I also recommend carrying a map on you for each area you’re backpacking, and this is a great waterproof map to reference here.
The map above shows all the campsites available and is great for referencing when booking the permits!
DAY 1: Jul 20th-21st Sol Duc Park
Starting from the Sol Duc Trailhead, quickly reaching the junction for the Seven Lakes Basin Loop within the first mile, alongside a roaring waterfall and a safety cabin. After passing the bridge to view the waterfall, take a left to reach Sol Duc Park
Starting to hike this direction allows for the first portion of the trip to be put towards using our body’s strength for the incline. Since this is a loop, what goes up must come down, and I personally prefer to descend once I’ve used up most of my strength. Plus, amping up the mileage for the first couple of days, and decreasing it for the last day helps tremendously.
This first day’s trek to Sol Duc Park is around 7.5 – 8 miles, but there is a steep incline that comes along with that. However, the first day is extremely peaceful, being accompanied by all the wildlife, wildflowers, and beautifully green trees. It was so nice seeing green trees again after coming back from the desert of Arizona!
DAY 2: Jul 21-22nd Deer Lake
This day was very similar to the first day, an incline with a paced trek, and another 7.5 – 8 mile trek.
However, the views really started to open up, and quickly becomes the mid-point and highest point of the loop is the High Divide trail.
The High Divide Trail provides incredible views of Bogachiel Peak, Mount Olympus, the Hoh River Valley, Bailey Range, Seven Lakes Basin, and Sol Duc Valley along the way.
DAY 3: Jul 22-23rd Mink Lake /or/ Cabin with hot springs
With only 4 miles out of the loop, to the trailhead, this last day was mostly just descending through the rain forest and passing many beautiful waterfalls along the way.
Fair warning, though, the descent became steep and would be best accompanied by trekking poles. The trekking poles I prefer are these Black Diamond ones, here. The trekking poles take some weight off the knees while adding extra support for your body.
For this very last day we decided to backpack out to the hot springs nearby, instead of camping out at Mink Lake.
Stay tuned for an article on that hot spring experience. Did you know that both of the
Hot Springs in Washingtons permitted?
HOW TO GET TO 7 LAKES BASIN
The 7 Lakes Basin sits on the very west side of Washington, sitting within the Olympic National Park and bordered by the Pacific Ocean.
If coming east; from downtown Seattle, drive onto the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry or the Seattle-Bremerton ferry; from the northern suburbs, the Edmonds-Kingston ferry is quickest.
If driving to this part of Washington from the north of the east, the easiest way to access it is by ferry.
However, for those that are south coming north, the easiest route is just driving straight up.
If you’re coming from Canada, Black Ball Ferry runs four times daily in summer between Victoria, BC, and Port Angeles.
When planning your trip make sure to take into consideration the ferry scheduled time, the boarding time, unload time, and the drive.
THE PERMITS & PASSES
Since the 7 Lakes Basin resides in the Olympic National Park, and requires a day pass, which is $30 per vehicle for 7 days, and can only be used in the Olympic National Park.
However, a better option is the America the Beautiful Pass, which is only $80 for all the National Parks and National Forests in the United States. Not to mention, this pass is great for an entire year! Whoop!
A permit also required for any overnight/backpacking trips, click here for more info on permits. Wilderness Camping Permits required for all overnight trips into the Olympic National Park backcountry. The fee for each Wilderness Camping Permit is $8 per person per night plus a $6 per permit fee. Maximum group size is 12 people in most places. There is no charge for youth 15 years and under, but they still count towards group size. Click here to get your permit.
Along with your permits, a bear canisters also required, while backpacking Washington’s Olympic National Park. This is for your safety and others’ safety, it’s always better to be preventative by keeping the animals at bay by reducing the scent, and protects your food.
Check out the bear canister I use here!
If you’re looking for more information on bear canisters, I’ve written about it briefly in the article here under the section ‘BEAR CANISTERS ARE A THING’.
RULES AND REGULATIONS
Each and every area differs for rules, depending upon the climate, park, wildlife, and preservation borders. While backpacking Washington’s Olympic National Park, these are the rules distributed with the permits.
- No campfires
- Must have a bear canister
- Cannot hang things
- Must Pee off-trail – This is necessary because the animals, especially deer and goats, like to dig at the base of the vegetation to get the salts.
- Avoid urinating or putting liquids in the toilets because they fly them out at the end of each season, and it makes them heavier.
- Bury poop 6″-8″ deep at least 200 feet from trails when toilets are not available
I know it can seem too much at first, but it really isn’t much different from some similar practices to camping without a restroom.
Have fun out on the trail, be safe, care for our beautiful planet, and love life! Also, don’t forget to share this article with a friend you’d love to backpack this trail with!
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