Hiking Olympic National Park: Sol Duc Falls Trail
It has been two weeks since our visit to Olympic National Park. We’re still daydreaming about the trip. Giant trees and hanging moss. Beaches and mountain ranges. While we’re in the midst of planning upcoming visits to Glacier National Park and Alaska, we can’t help but reminisce about all the fun we had camping and hiking Olympic National Park. Especially the Sol Duc Falls Trail.
Waterfalls are one of the many reasons people visit the Olympic Peninsula. With many spots receiving more than 10 feet of rain annually, there’s no shortage of destinations. Sol Duc Falls is one of the more scenic waterfalls in the park. It is also one of the most accessible.
The 1.6 mile out and back trail is popular for families and day hikers. Many multi-day hikes through the Olympic Range also leave from this trailhead. We recommend adding it as a stop between destinations in the park. Hop out to stretch your legs on a hike through old growth forest right up to the 37 foot waterfall. And be sure to bring your camera. They just may be some of your best photos of the trip.
Planning Your Visit to The Sol Duc Falls Trail
The Sol Duc Falls Trail departs from the trailhead at the end of Sol Duc Falls Road. Visitors should travel on Highway 101 roughly 30 miles west of Port Angeles. Turn south onto Sol Duc Falls Road and pass through the entrance gate to the park. This is a fee area so visitors will need to purchase a 7 Day pass to Olympic or a National Park Service annual pass. Continue on Sol Duc Falls Road another 13.5 miles to the trailhead parking area.
The Sol Duc Falls trailhead includes multiple hikes but the park signage clearly designates the way to the falls. Depart from the end of the parking area through old growth forest until you reach the Sol Duc River. The Sol Duc is one of the few rivers in the park that continue to see Chinook and coho salmon return from the Pacific Ocean every year.
The trail drops roughly 200 feet in elevation, most of which is near the approach to the falls. On the left of the trail you will find a small wooden shelter if you are caught in one of Olympic’s famous downpours. When you arrive at the falls, stop for photos on the bridge and listen to the roughly 300 cubic feet per second of water tumble over the rocks. Cross the bridge and hike both up and downstream on the Sol Duc River or return back on the trail to the parking area.
- The Sol Duc Falls trail can also be extended into a 6 mile loop by taking the Lover’s Lane Trail. Instead of returning back to the trailhead, cross the bridge and hike downstream from Sol Duc Falls. The trail leads back to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and the Eagle Ranger station where you can cross the river again and hike back to the parking area.
- Hiking Olympic National Park almost definitely means hiking in the rain. Make sure you have proper rain gear and footwear as the Sol Duc Falls trail is muddy and slick. We saw too many visitors disappointed to find this is not a “do it in flip-flops” trail.
- If you arrive in the fall, make a stop at the Salmon Cascades along Sol Duc Falls Road. While fewer and fewer salmon make it back each year, there is still the chance to see the Chinook and coho run in this area.
- Stay on the trails. In May 2016, a man was hiking in the area and stepped out on the rocks above the falls to get a better view of the river. He slipped and was swept over the Sol Duc Falls. While he survived with minor injuries, it required a significant rescue effort from park staff and law enforcement.