Everything you need to know about backpacking in the Enchanted Valley, Olympic National Park

Of the many wonders Olympic National Park has to offer, the Enchanted Valley definitely shouldn’t be missed! This moderate 2 to 3 day out-and-back hike was possibly my favorite backpacking trip to date. Almost certain black bear and elk sightings, well-kept trails winding through the beautiful old-growth rainforest, picturesque wildflower meadows, and breathtaking waterfalls make this trail absolutely enchanting (see what I did there 😉 ) 

Beginning at Graves Creek, this trail will lead you through one of the three major temperate rainforest valleys of Olympic National Park, until you reach the Enchanted Valley. 

Once you reach the valley you’ll get the rare opportunity to see a glacier in the continental U.S. There is also a historic chalet built in the valley in 1931, and during the spring and summer months countless waterfalls can be seen across the cliffs of the valley. It’s truly awe–inspiring.

If you choose to trek past the Enchanted Valley, you’ll also get to witness the world’s largest recorded western hemlock tree. And if you’re an experienced backpacker and choose to continue on, you’ll reach Anderson Pass and O’Neil Pass. 

Enchanted Valley Backpacking Itinerary

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 25.3 miles (out and back)

Elevation gain: 1,700 feet

Cost: $8 per person, per night +$6 reservation fee for your group. Parking requires a $30 permit.

This out and back hike can be done in 2 days, however I recommend 3 days for a more leisurely experience. The total distance is about 25 miles with an elevation gain of 1,700 feet.

  • Day 1: Hike 10 miles from Graves Creek trailhead to Pyrites Creek Campground and set up camp.
  • Day 2: Leave camp set up at Pyrites creek, and explore the Enchanted Valley: hike 3.2 miles to the valley. If you choose, follow the trail an additional 2.1 miles to see the world’s largest western hemlock tree, then head back to Pyrites Creek for the night.
  • Day 3: Pack up camp and hike 10 miles to return to Graves Creek Trailhead.

Setting up our “base camp” at Pyrites Creek allowed us to spend an entire day exploring the Enchanted Valley unencumbered by our heavy backpacks, which I highly recommend! You can, however, choose to spread out your trip among any of the campsites along the route, over as many days as you like! Here are the other campsite options:

  1. Pony Bridge Camp (2.5 miles from Graves Creek)
  2. O’Neil Creek Camp (6.9 miles from Graves Creek)
  3. Pyrites Creek Camp (10 miles From Graves Creek)
  4. Enchanted Valley (13.2 miles from Graves Creek)

If you are looking for even more adventure, you can choose to continue on from the Enchanted Valley to Anderson Pass and Anderson Lake (an additional 5.2 miles from the Enchanted Valley). But beware, the trail above 3,500 feet is covered in snow between November-June and this leg of the hike will require you to ford White Creek which can be difficult and even dangerous during periods of heavy rain or snowmelt. This section of the trail is considered to be very challenging with an elevation gain of 2,500 feet.

Planning Your Trip to the Enchanted Valley

If you plan to make this an overnight trip (recommended) there are some special considerations that you will need to take into account.

Wilderness Permits

You will need to reserve wilderness permits for you and everyone in your group. Permits become available for advance reservations on April 15th. You can click this link to reserve your permit. Select Quinault as the starting area then select your desired dates and campgrounds. 

The cost is $8 per person per night, plus a $6 reservation fee. You will receive the permits by email before your trip. Be sure to print them out and carry them with you on the trail in case you encounter a park ranger.

Parking Permits

If you plan to leave a vehicle at the trailhead, you will need to purchase and print out a parking pass to display on your vehicle’s dashboard. 

The price is $30 for 7 days, or you can buy an annual pass for $55. Unlike your wilderness campsite permit, your parking pass is good for the entirety of Olympic National Park during the specified dates.

Food Storage 

Due to the abundance of black bears in this area, special handling of scented items is required. Backpackers must store all food, garbage, and scented items such as toiletries in a bear proof container, or in a bear hang: 12 feet off the ground and 10 feet away from the nearest tree trunk when not immediately in use. 

We chose to carry a park approved bear canister. However, you may choose to use the bear hangs provided by the park if you choose to camp at O’Neil Creek or Pyrites Creek. My partner and I have our own bear-proof canister for easy packing, but they are also available to borrow from the Quinault Ranger Station as long as you have purchased a wilderness permit.

Weather and trail conditions

Keep in mind that you’ll be hiking in a rainforest. Rain can come unexpectedly and the trail can be very wet and muddy in parts, but don’t let that deter you from the chance to experience this incredible wilderness! Pack your rain gear, including a pack cover, and wear appropriate footwear.

Fire and water

This trail follows a river most of the time, and there several creeks and streams along the way, so water is abundant. Just be sure to bring your water filter! 

Fires are allowed along this route as long as there is no burn ban in effect (click this link to check current alerts for burn bans). Please use an existing fire rings in accordance with Leave No Trace camping principles.

Getting To Graves Creek Trailhead

In order to hike into the Enchanted Valley, you will first need to find your way to the Graves Creek Trailhead. 

Navigate to Quinault, WA, where you can find the Quinault Office of the Pacific Ranger District located at 353 S Shore Rd. Here you can borrow a bear canister if you need one. This town also has a small general store and gas station if you need to pick up any last minute supplies. Be advised that there is no cell reception beyond this point.

From the ranger station, continue northeast on S Shore Rd. passing the lake and following the course of the Quinault River for about 10.7 miles. You will reach the junction with N Shore Rd at the Quinault River Bridge. Do not cross the bridge, but instead continue straight onto Graves Creek Rd. for an additional 6.2 miles, until you reach the Graves Creek Campground parking lot. This last stretch is a gravel road.

To find the trailhead, cross the high bridge over Graves Creek from the parking lot.

Enchanted Valley Trail Guide

Graves Creek to Pony Bridge 2.5 miles

The trail begins on an abandoned road at a relatively flat grade until it drops sharply to reach Pony Bridge. The bridge crosses the East Fork of the Quinault River with picturesque views of the steep river gorge. There are three primitive campsites on the north side of the bridge just off the trail.

Pony Bridge to O’Neil Creek 4.4 miles

This section of the trail traverses a series of ups and downs following the river. At the signed junction marking O’Neil Creek Camp you can find a side trail leading to the camp. There are six campsites and a privy located here.

O’Neil Creek to Pyrites Creek 3 miles

The trail continues with minor inclines and declines, and will cross several streams and creeks including No Name Creek (mile 8) and Pyrites Creek (mile 9.5). These two are traversed with log bridges, but many of the other creeks that you will pass can only be crossed by hopping from rock to rock. Use caution so you don’t end up with soggy boots! (if you are worried about losing your balance bring a pair of aqua socks to switch into for crossing the creeks)

The Pyrites Creek Camp is situated in a scenic Bigleaf Maple grove with campsites available on either side of the creek. We chose a secluded campsite on the far side of the creek. A bear wire is provided by the park if you have opted to hang your food rather than use a bear canister. There are no privy’s at this campground.

Pyrites Creek to Enchanted Valley 3.2 miles

The trail continues a gradual climb along the path of the river, through meadows and rainforest groves, until you reach a high bridge into the Enchanted Valley itself. 

Due to the frequency of bear activity in this area, hanging of food and garbage are not allowed, if you choose to camp here you must use a bear canister. There are several campsites to choose from and there are two privy’s available for use.

This was truly one of my favorite backpacking trips to date! I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. If you have any questions please send me an email: hi@beccathehungrynomad.com