North Fork Skokomish River Trail to First Divide, Staircase - North Fork Skokomish River Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington
North Fork Skokomish River Trail to First Divide - 26.2 miles
Staircase - North Fork Skokomish River Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||26.2 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||853' - 4,688' (4,688' max elevation on First Divide)|
|Elevation Change:||+3,835' net elevation gain|
North Fork Skokomish River Trail to First Divide - 26.2 Miles Round-Trip
The North Fork Skokomish River Trail runs 13.1 miles from Staircase Trailhead to First Divide (4,688') in Olympic National Park. The Home Sweet Home Trail continues 2.6 miles miles from First Divide into the Duckabush Valley, where backpackers can access O'Neil Pass, La Crosse basin and La Crosse Pass.
This long but generally moderate trail follows the river through long sections of impressive old growth to Nine Stream Camp, then bends away on a steep climb into the subalpine for the pass.
While the river itself doesn't have quite the aesthetic of a Hoh or Quinault, this attractive valley supports notably large trees and concentrations of berries. Higher elevations open to flower-studded meadows with terrific views.
Visitors will enjoy deep backcountry access with multiple campsites to choose from en route to First Divide. Lengthy sections with mild grades enable day hikers and runners to cover long distances and enjoy the heart of the valley without having to camp:
The trail heads north on level grades through an old growth bottomland to the Rapids Loop Trail split (.98 miles : 950'), whose connecting bridge over the North Fork washed away in the mid-2000s and has since been replaced.
It continues with a few nice views over wide bends in the river into the Beaver Burn area of August 1985 (1.75 miles : 985'), where swathes of forest are noticeably young and tightly packed. Mild, nondescript travel continues to the Flapjack Lakes Trail split (3.75 miles : 1,515'), past which the forest regains its healthy, old growth character.
The trail undulates to a high bridge over Madeline Creek (4.75 miles : 1,520'), which originates from Flapjack Lakes. Ford the creek if uncomfortable with heights, especially when slick. It rises and drops to a footbridge over Donahue Creek (5.25 miles : 1,570'), and on to the Big Log Campsite and split for Black and White Lakes (5.4 miles : 1,550').
The trail crosses a scenic gorge to the Six Ridge Trail split (5.8 miles : 1,540'), past which it weaves through some really big trees into a bottomland at Camp Pleasant (6.6 miles : 1,630'). Look for elk on these banks, which show obvious signs of browsing.
It rises steadily to Eight Stream Bridge (7.9 miles : 1,860'), and crosses a high (somewhat unnerving) slide above the river (8.2 miles) back down to a level bank. Travel quickens under sprawling bigleaf maple to a wide creek ford at Nine Stream Camp (9.6 miles : 2,040').
Here the North Fork bends SE, and the trail aims NE up to a cairn-marked path across a stream at the base of a deep, washed-out gulch (10.1 miles : 2,310'). Once over travel steepens considerably on a 1.7 mile, 1360' climb to Two Bear Camp (11.8 miles : 3,670').
There's no suitable camping on this tough section, which winds tightly through a drier montane forest into the subalpine. The forest opens with views across brushy slopes leading to Two Bear. It continues on variously steep grades across rolling meadows which expand on the final push up to First Divide (13.1 miles : 4,688').
Exceptional views reach down the Duckabush and Skokomish valleys, and across their defining peaks and ridges. The trail continues north on a steep drop past Home Sweet Home Campsite to the Duckabush River Trail junction.
- N47 30.959 W123 19.685 — 0.0 miles : North Fork Skokomish River Trailhead
- N47 31.493 W123 20.472 — .98 miles : Rapids Loop Trail split
- N47 31.690 W123 21.009 — 1.55 miles : Slide Camp spur
- N47 31.834 W123 21.487 — 2.1 miles : Pass through Beaver Fire area
- N47 32.326 W123 22.090 — 3.7 miles : Flapjack Lakes Trail split
- N47 32.326 W123 22.090 — 3.7 miles : Flapjack Lakes Trail split
- N47 33.218 W123 22.623 — 4.25 miles : Fast travel in healthy old growth
- N47 33.625 W123 22.500 — 4.75 miles : Cross Madeline Creek
- N47 33.980 W123 22.527 — 5.25 miles : Cross Donahue Creek
- N47 34.349 W123 22.562 — 5.8 miles : Cross bridge to Six ridge Trail split
- N47 34.792 W123 22.009 — 6.6 miles : Camp Pleasant
- N47 35.384 W123 21.561 — 7.5 miles : Fast travel through old growth bottomlands
- N47 35.619 W123 21.559 — 7.9 miles : Cross bridge over Eight Stream
- N47 35.892 W123 21.451 — 8.25 miles : Level travel past slide over river
- N47 36.404 W123 20.993 — 9.0 miles : Scenic bottomlands
- N47 36.780 W123 20.592 — 9.6 miles : Ford creek to Nine Stream Camp
- N47 37.011 W123 20.243 — 10.1 miles : Follow cairns across creek at bottom of gulch
- N47 37.223 W123 20.046 — 10.6 miles : Very steep, winding trail above gulch
- N47 37.332 W123 19.896 — 11.1 miles : Transition into subalpine forest
- N47 37.571 W123 19.294 — 11.8 miles : Two Bear Camp
- N47 37.909 W123 19.009 — 12.3 miles : Forest thins above Two Bear Camp
- N47 38.126 W123 18.574 — 13.1 miles : First Divide (4,688')
- The trail climbs 1630' in just 2.2 miles from Nine Stream Camp to Two Bear Camp. There is little (if no) suitable camping terrain on this stretch. Factor this in when planning your trip.
- The Staircase was first named by the O'Neil Expedition, which cut zigzag trails up ridges, felled trees against cliffs, and covered logs with brush and dirt to create a stair-like path for pack mules up prohibitively steep terrain. Today Staircase also describes the tiered rapids one mile upstream from the trailhead.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Permits are required for all overnight stays in Olympic National Park. Contact the Wilderness Information Center (360.565.3100) for backcountry camping reservations, permits and trail conditions. Visit the WIC: 600 East Park Avenue, Port Angeles, WA 98362.
- There's an $8 per person - per night fee (children under 15 excluded). If you don't have access to a WIC, or plan to arrive early or late, call the WIC to arrange your permit ahead of time.
- Quotas and Reservations are in effect May 1 - September 30 for Flapjack Lakes (there is no permit quota for the North Fork Skokomish River Trail).
- 50% of sites can be reserved in advance; the other 50% is available first come, first served from the WIC during business hours up to 24 hours in advance. Self registration is not permitted during this time.
- Camp only in established sites.
- Food Storage: Bear canisters are not required, but are recommended.
- Fires: Campfires are permitted up to 3500'. Fires are not permitted at Flapjack Lakes.
- A Washington State Fishing License is not required to fish in Olympic National Park except when fishing in the Pacific Ocean from shore. No license is required to harvest surf smelt.
- A Washington State catch record card is required to fish for salmon or steelhead and they must be accounted for as if caught in state waters. Fishing regulations are specific to site, species, and season. Always contact the Park before setting out for the latest guidelines.
- Recreational fishing in freshwater areas of Olympic National Park is restricted to artificial lures with single, barbless hooks (exceptions may apply).
- The use of seines, traps, drugs, explosives, and nets (except to land a legally hooked fish or dip-net smelt) are prohibited.
Rules and Regulations
- There's a $25 entrance fee to Olympic National Park ($50 annual pass).
- Pets are not permitted on trails. Pets are permitted in campgrounds and must be leashed at all times.
Directions to Trailhead
The Staircase - North Fork Skokomish River Trailhead is located in the southeast corner of Olympic National Park, 15.7 miles from HWY 101 on 119 North.
Highway 119 is accessible in Hoodsport, WA. The Staircase entrance is located on the north end of Lake Cushman. Staircase is approximately 105 miles from Seattle, 75 miles from Tacoma, and 95 miles from Port Angeles.
From Highway 101 in Hoodsport, turn onto 119. Note the road splits at 9.1 miles and turns to dirt for several miles before turning back to pavement for the last 1.2 miles. The dirt road is well maintained but subject to washouts and dust-outs.
The North Fork Skokomish River Trailhead is located on the right, just before reaching the ranger station.
Olympic National Park
600 East Park Avenue
Port Angeles, WA 98362-6798
Visitor Information: 360.565.3130
Road & Weather Hotline: 360.565.3131
Wilderness Information Center and Backcountry Permit Office (WIC)
Staircase Ranger Station: 360.877.5569
Seasonal Hours: June 24 - September 2: Open 8:30 - 5, Friday - Sunday
Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center
Forks Information Station
360.374.7566 or 360.374.5877
Quinault Wilderness Information Office