This trip receives its rating not so much for the walk itself, but for what lies at its end. The trail is actually the remains of a gradually ascending paved road (with three or so gentle to moderate descents) and a total of 300 feet of elevation gain over 2.5 miles (according to the trailhead sign, though it feels like slightly less). There are two easy stream crossings, and a few points where either erosion or a landslide have constricted the road to foot-traffic only for up to 20 feet. Overall, however, this hike is a potential general access hike. Strollers, bikes, and possibly even wheelchairs can reach the springs if some problem-solving is expected. Scenery consists mainly of enclosing but quite pleasant old-growth coniferous forest and roadside undergrowth.
Near the hot springs, the trail passes an outhouse and a hitching post, then hooks around via a bridge to go back down the other side of the river. The heated water is sulphurous-smelling, and can sometimes be smelled before crossing the river. Over the next 100 yards or so, there are at least seven pools of varying size and temperature along either side of the trail, each accessible by a short (5 to 30 ft.), loose, often wet foot-trail. Locations can often be identified by the hot, algae- and mineral-coated drain-offs, as not all pools are visible from the trail. Constructed of stone semicircles that collect the heated flows, the pools are shallow (knee-deep on average) and silty, and clearly have a fair level of biological activity. They are large enough to accomodate two to several people.
Though traffic can be especially heavy on summer weekends at midday, there are enough pools to accommodate a fair number of people. Finding a private pool in which one can recline for several hours, in a pristine setting of old-growth forest against the backdrop of the roaring river, is an especially good bet on weekdays, or weekends if one chooses to go in the late afternoon, evening, or winter. Even better, a campsite on the opposite side of the river gives the option of lounging beneath the stars, rain, or snowfall all night long. A headlamp or candle lantern can allow pleasant reading and cooking; however, natural hot springs are a limited recreational resource, so remember to keep as much organic material as possible out of the water. In the winter, the lower gate at the reservoir is generally closed, which increases elevation gain by at least 500 feet, and distance to 7.5 miles, so bikes are an ideal option. The last mile or so sometimes becomes potentially skiable. Calling Olympic National Park about access issues will help to clarify options.