Hiking Hot Springs in the Pacific Northwest
by Evie Litton (Falcon Guides)
© Evie Litton/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
There is nothing exceptional about the trail. In fact it is paved almost the entire way. The hiking is very easy with not too much elevation gain. There are a couple of creeks to ford which is kind of fun and the view along the way is gorgeous. Especially if it is clear out. The whole purpose of this hike is the destination. However, there are a few things to be aware of.
1. The signs at the trail-head warning of nudity and even though we have only hiked this trail once we did see nude people in the springs and on the rocks along the river.
2. The NFS warns against getting into the springs during the summer months because the water is somewhat stagnant and there is lots of bacteria present. This didn't seem to deter a lot of people because all of the pools we saw were full of people.
3. It cost $15 for a 1-7 day permit to hike up the Elwha River. The drive up/down and the hike was definitely worth the money.
4. To be honest, even if it was safe, I'm not sure how soothing a hot spring would be on a 75F day after hiking 2.5 miles?
Overall our experience was adequate and the view of the lake on the drive down was breath taking although we were given literature concerning the removal of the dams along the Elwha River to restore salmon runs up the Elwha. I'm not sure of the timetable but at that point the beautiful lake will only be a memory or a picture.
Getting into the hot springs? You have got to be kidding. They were at most 12 inches deep, and the area smelled of sulfur. It was quite anti-climatic, except for the guy who thought naked hiking was a good idea.
The road from the lake to the trailhead got washed out and has not been repaired yet. You can park at the lake and hike the extra 4 miles. A lot of people were doing the 12 mile round trip as a day hike, but a few also stayed overnight at the campground by the springs. Winter/spring is definitely the best time to go and have the pools to yourself.
The hot springs were pretty cool. The seven of them were spread out so that if you wanted some privacy with your friends, you could get it. But there were an awful lot of people up there (on a sunday when it was raining). If you were looking for a romantic time alone with a partner, this does not seem the best place to do it. But it was definately worth the visit since i had never been to a hot springs before. It is a new experience that i highly reccomend trying.
Arrived in late afternoon and biked to the pools. This is a very accessible trail for everyone of all ages. The pools were very hot and even though there were cars in the parking lot we had a pool all to ourselves. Very romantic in the evening. Bring your headlamps if you plan to bike out becaue you'll end up staying longer than you expected.
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