Since my wife and I got married on the Olympic peninsula, the Olympic National Park has occupied a special spot in our hearts. We love the park. If you have ever driven by Lake Crescent and looked out on the gorgeous turquoise lake in awe, you probably don’t find it too surprising that it totally captured our imagination when we were looking for a wedding venue.
We have done a few hikes in Olympic National Park. I will write about our hike into the Enchanted Valley another day, but today I’ll introduce you to the High Divide Loop. This loop is located in the heart of this park (see the thumbnail inset on upper lefthand corner of this screen shot).
The trailhead to High Divide Loop is located at the end of the road to Sol Duc Hot Springs. It’s the same trailhead to go to Sol Duc Falls which is just short flat hike that many people take when they visit Olympic National Park.
Once we crossed the bridge at Sol Duc Falls, we made a right, heading to Deer Lake which was about 3 miles away. The climb was gentle. The weather was around 55 F and cloudy when started, but quickly got warmer and sunny.
Deer Lake is a popular spot for first night camping on this trail. We didn’t linger here but moved on to Lunch Lake, thinking that we’ll eat lunch there. Deer Lake basin area is also known to have some black bears munching on berries at this time of the year. We encountered our first black bear of the trip just past the lake. A fellow hiker warned us from a higher ground of his presence. We made a lot of noise and proceeded without any face to face encounter. By the time we looked back at him, he was already ducking behind some bushes.
Once we got to Lunch Lake, the road split. One trail goes down to the Seven Lakes basin, which is about 500 ft of elevation loss according to my GPS. The other trail continues on.
We didn’t see the need to go down to the lake and figured that Bogachiel Peak would be a better spot for lunch. We did not regret our decision. On top of the Bogachiel Peak, we had a 360 degree view that included both Seven Lakes Basin and Blue Glacier on top of Mt. Olympus.
After Bogachiel Peak, the rest of the hike was mostly descending. The terrain, however, was very open for the next couple hours. We spotted a few more black bears down in the basin. A mama and baby bear were playing in one of the ponds, according to a hiker going at the opposite direction. We found them chowing down berries later.
By about mile 11, we found ourselves next to this really cute little tarn called Heart Lake which, as the name implies, is heart shaped.
Once beyond Heart Lake, we are back in the woods. The rest of the hike was about 6 miles of descending into the belly of enchanted woods that are covered with moss and littered with a variety of mushrooms. This is the part a lot of fast hikers gloss over but if you take a moment and sit down next to a tree, it’s awe-inspiring to look up at this cathedral of massive trees exposing scattered rays of sunlight. It is a wonderful place to feel the power of the nature.
Other basics information about this hike:
Total Distance: 18.2miles
Elevation gain: 3,050 feet gain
Difficulty level: very well maintained trail, medium difficulty
How long did it take us: We did the loop in about 8 hours. That includes a 30 minutes lunch, bear watching and photos.
What would I do differently: Nothing really. But I would go on this hike again in early summer when there is still snow. I can only imagine how beautiful the views are with all the surrounding mountains still snow-capped.
Olympic National Park is extremely diverse in its ecosystems. From the sandy beaches to majestic glaciers on top of Mt. Olympus to the temperate rainforests, you can spend a lot of time on the miles and miles of wilderness trails and immerse yourself in this blissful paradise.
That was our through hike of High Divide Loop. What do you think? Any comments or questions? Feel free to leave a comment.