6 Stunning Hikes in the Quinault Rainforest

Lake Quinault lake

The beauty of the Quinault rainforest is something you need to see for yourself. It is breathtaking! The good news is, there are a lot of excellent choices for hikes around Lake Quinault, no matter your skill level. Whether you have younger kids or are just a beginner hiker, these Lake Quinault hikes offer you gorgeous displays of the area’s natural beauty with minimal effort. 

Additionally, the drive around Lake Quinault is a beautiful adventure on its own. So, if you are unable to do any hiking at all, consider making the drive around the lake instead. In this post, I go over some of the easiest and most accessible hikes around Lake Quinault. The scenic drive around the lake combined with a hike in the Quinault rainforest will be a day you’ll never forget! 

Quick Overview of Rainforests

We are very fortunate here in Washington state to have a part of the largest temperate rainforest ecosystems in the world, right in our own Olympic National Park. According to National Geographic, rainforests are Earth’s oldest ecosystems and home to over half of the Earth’s plant and animal population! 

The Olympic National Park covers almost 1 million acres and includes some of the most well-preserved temperate rainforests in North America. For those of us living in Seattle, we have something truly unique in our own backyard–we shouldn’t take that for granted. Instead, we should explore it and protect it.

6 Easy Beautiful Hikes in the Quinault Rainforest

Map of Lake Quinault rainforest hikes
Click on the map for further details as well as driving directions.

1) Maple Glade Rainforest Trail

This short 0.5  mile loop trail is probably my favorite out of all of the Quinault rainforest hikes I list in this post.  I felt like I entered another world. It was as if I was on the set of Avatar or Endor, the forest moon inhabited by Ewoks. The wonder and beauty of the rainforest all in this short 1/2 mile walk.

Walking the Trail

You’ll start by the Maple Glade Rainforest sign and walk across the wooden bridge to begin. Follow the trail as it curves left and winds its way past giant Western hemlocks and redcedar trees.  Soon the path meanders around and then curves left where it opens up alongside a small body of water.  This bog or pond, or whatever it is called, most likely connects to the Kestner Creek.  

This is the area of the Quinault rainforest, where I feel as though I’ve entered another planet. There are mossy trees everywhere, forming an emerald canopy overhead, and small green plants that live under the water make it appear as a bright green pool of liquid.  I really can’t describe it justly, you’ve got to see it for yourself.  It is one hike I’d do on any day, rain or shine. It is stunning.

Quinault rainforest green plants

The trail loops around to the left and circles back to the trailhead. However, you can fork to the left and hike to the Kestner Homestead if you’re up for it.  See my notes on this hike below.  Make sure to stop and sit on the trail bench as you make your way back to the parking lot. The Maple Glade Rainforest trail deserves a slow meandering pace, filled with a lot of gazing upward in awe at the staggering beauty surrounding you.

Accessibility

This trail is marked as an accessible trail, although not fully meeting ADA accessibility guidelines. It is a flat trail with no real elevation change.  However, when I hiked it, the path was not wide enough to push a wheelchair through it, plus it gets muddy due to all the rain. So, it’s certainly a flat, easy trail, that one can take very slowly, perhaps with a cane, but probably not with a wheelchair.

Getting Here

Turn onto N Shore Rd from US-101. There is a small grocery store on the corner where you turn. Then stay on N Shore Road for about 5.5 miles. You’ll see the turn for the Quinault Rainforest Ranger Station and trailhead parking on the left. The Maple Glade Rainforest Trailhead is also shared by the Kestner Homestead Trail, which I discuss below.

Facilities

There are accessible toilets by the Quinault Rainforest Ranger Station as well as picnic tables. The ranger station is only open part-time during the summer when it is; I recommend you go in and speak with the rangers on staff to learn more about the area.

Maple Glade Rainforest trail

2) Kestner Homestead Trail

The Kestner Homestead Trail is a 1.5-mile loop trail that starts from the parking lot at the Quinault Rainforest Ranger Station. The trailhead parallels Kestner Creek to the right, with the Maple Glade Rainforest Trail on the left. Look for salmon in the creek before starting the trail. I saw two huge salmon here when I visited in February. If you combine this hike with the Maple Glade Rainforest trail, it is about 2.0 miles roundtrip.

The Kestner family moved here in the late 1800s, and the homestead has a variety of structures left behind from these early homesteading days. There is also a large picnic area underneath one of the large barn-like structures—lots of space for kids to run around and explore.

Tip: If you don’t want to hike the 1.5 miles loop to the Kestner Homestead, you can also make a left out of the Quinault Rainforest Ranger station parking lot and follow the road about 0.5 miles. 

You’ll see a small parking area on the left-hand side of the road near a gate. You can park here and then walk to the Kestner homestead from here. This option is wheelchair friendly as you have a wide dirt road and open paths that will easily accommodate a wheelchair.

Getting Here

Turn onto N Shore Rd from US-101. There is a small grocery store on the corner where you turn. Then stay on N Shore Road for about 5.5 miles. You’ll see the turn for the Quinault Rainforest Ranger Station and trailhead parking on the left.

Facilities

There are accessible toilets by the Quinault Rainforest Ranger Station as well as picnic tables. The Kestner Homestead does not have any toilet facilities, but it does have a picnic area.

Kestner Homestead

3) July Creek Trail

This loop trail is at the July Creek Picnic Area about 3.5 miles down the North Shore Road when coming from US-101. You will see the parking area for this day-use picnic area on your right. It’s a very short “hike,” but I feel that the giant trees you find here make it well worth your time!  You also have access to Lake Quinault from the picnic area.

It is a great place to enjoy a picnic by the lake or to take the short hike past towering Douglas firs and cedar trees. As you continue down the trail, past the main picnic area, you’ll cross July Creek and pass a few more picnic areas with views of the lake before the trail connects with the road.  

You can walk up the road back to the parking lot from here, or, turn around and loop back up the side trail you passed earlier when crossing the creek bridge, and this will connect you back to the parking lot as well.

The picture below is of me standing by a fallen tree that is probably about 6’0 in diameter, and someone wrote the number of rings, the last marking I could read was “800” so I guess that means the tree was 800 years old? Either way, these are massive trees and so beautiful to admire.

Getting Here

Turn on to North Shore Rd from US-101. There is a small grocery store on the corner. Then drive about 3.5 miles east on North Shore Rd before you see the parking area for the July Creek picnic area.  

Facilities

There are vault toilets here and lots of picnic tables scattered along the trail.

July creek trees Lake Quinault

4) Quinault Rainforest Nature Loop

This 0.5 mile interpretive trail is on South Shore Rd about a mile from the Lake Quinault Lodge. The Quinault Rainforest Nature trail gives you a great sample of the rainforest ecosystem. You’ll gaze up at the towering giants around you and listen to the roar of the creek while admiring some waterfalls along the way.  

This short hike packs a lot in! Stop and read the signs along the trail, explaining more about this unique area. There are some connecting trails you can choose from should you decide to extend your hike, look at the trail map before you begin to plan out the best route that loops you back to your car.

Getting Here

Turn on to the South Shore Rd from US-101 and drive about 1.5 miles to the trailhead parking lot, it will be on the right side of the road.

Facilities

There are restroom facilities here and a few picnic tables near the parking area.

mossy trees Quinault rainforest

5) World's Largest Sitka Spruce

Be on the lookout for the trailhead to the Largest Spruce Tree. There is a small sign on the left side of the road when heading east on South Shore Rd. A large dirt parking lot is on the right side of the road. There are no toilet facilities here, so plan ahead. 

This is a 0.3 mile trail, and it’s a beautiful walk down a path with moss-lined trees on each side before reaching a beautiful crystal clear creek where you’ll gaze across at the towering spruce.  It gets even more impressive close-up!

Getting Here

Turn on to the South Shore Rd from US-101 and drive about 1.5 miles to the trailhead parking lot, it will be on the right side of the road.

Facilities

There are restroom facilities here and a few picnic tables near the parking area.

world's largest sitka spruce

6) Quinault Lodge and Cascade Falls Loop Trail

This trail goes by a few different names. You might see the trail name as the  Lodge Trail to Cascade Falls Loop or as the Quinault Lodge Trail. The trailhead begins across the street from the Lake Quinault Lodge. If you want more information about the trails in the area, go inside the lodge to the front desk, and they will be happy to answer your questions.  

The hike is about a 2.0-mile loop that returns you to the lower side of the Lake Quinault Lodge. It is an easy and mostly level trail with only small elevation changes. The path rewards you with views of the Cascade waterfalls as well as some time walking along Lake Quinault. 

Getting Here

Turn on to the South Shore Rd from US-101 and drive about 2.0 miles where you’ll see the Lake Quinault Lodge on the left-hand side. There is a dirt parking area on the right side of the road. Look for the trailhead sign to begin your hike. (You can also refer to the Google Map I linked at the top of the post.)

This trail is one of the trails I mentioned under the Quinault Rainforest Nature Loop that connects with that .5 mile trail. For an optional longer hike, from the Rainforest Nature Trail parking lot, you can take the Quinault Loop Trail #854, which connects the trail systems to create a 4.0-mile loop trail.

Facilities

There are restroom facilities at Lake Quinault Lodge and also at Falls Creek Campground. Also, the Lake Quinault Lodge front desk has trail maps and useful information regarding things to do in the area.

Lake Quinault with logs

Quinault Rainforest Loop Drive

If you choose to drive the approximate 31 miles around Lake Quinault, here are a few things you should know. It takes almost 2 hours to complete the entire loop, and only half of the loop is paved.  The pavement ends a little past the Quinault Rainforest Ranger Station on the North Shore Rd. 

The pavement ends shortly past the Colonel Bob Trailhead turn off on the South Shore Road. The rest of the loop is a graveled dirt road with large potholes scattered here and there. It is doable in a car, but you will need to take it slow.

Where to Stay at Lake Quinault

There are several campgrounds scattered around Lake Quinault. However, these are closed during the winter months. You can also choose to stay at the Lake Quinault Lodge on the South Shore or Locharie Resort on the North Shore. There are also some RV park options on the South Shore Rd, one of them, the Rain Forest Resort Village RV Campground is next to the World’s Largest Sitka Spruce. 

Additionally, you can drive about 30 minutes north on US-101 to Kalaloch and either camp at the Kalaloch campground or stay at Kalaloch Lodge. Both are excellent choices for ocean views.

rainforest reflections in the water

Tips for Hiking at Lake Quinault

What to Pack

Make sure to pack rain gear (rain jacket, layers for warmth). The Quinault rainforest reportedly gets between 10-15 feet of rain each year! Also make sure to pack sturdy hiking shoes, preferably waterproof or water-resistant, although not required, your feet will appreciate this.  

It’s always a good idea to pack extra water and snacks. Even though these are shorter hikes, if you combine a few of these or even a drive around the lake, you’ll appreciate having a little extra food for the journey.  I like to pack peanut butter and jam sandwich fixings to make in the car.

Also, don’t forget to bring your camera gear and tripod if you wish to photograph some of the waterfalls, capture the sunset, or take group shots. A tripod is a handy thing to have!  Plus, none of these trails are that long, so the extra weight shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.

Wildlife

Be prepared to see Roosevelt elk during your drive and hikes in the Quinault rainforest. This area is a popular feeding area for the elk, so your chances of seeing one are pretty good. I saw the one below while driving on South Shore Road. 

You’ll also have excellent opportunities to see eagles, bears, coyote, salmon, and other wildlife that calls the area home.  As always, remember these are wild animals, give them a safe distance and do your best not to disturb them.

Roosevelt Elk

Technology Needs

In addition to packing your camera and any extra batteries and chargers you’ll need, it’s also important to know how to prepare your cell phone. There is no cell service around Lake Quinault, so plan for this by downloading your Google Maps ahead of time, and if you use a hiking app (such as BackCountry Navigator), download the topography maps ahead of time too. 

Related Articles

Here are more articles related to this post and the area around Lake Quinault.

If you’ve never visited the Olympic rainforest before, then take the opportunity to do it this year.  It’s only a 3-hour drive from Seattle, and there are lots of great places to camp as well as lodges and private resorts, and even a few Air BnB options around the lake. 

This area of US-101 and the Olympic National Park is someplace you need to visit at least once.  Consider making a week of it and stop at a few of the park areas along the way, such as Lake Quinault, Kalaloch, Lake Crescent, and Sol Duc Hotsprings.  You’ll be amazed at the natural beauty of this area.

Go Explore!

Quinault Rainforest

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