Royal Basin, Upper Dungeness Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington

Royal Basin - 13.6 miles

Upper Dungeness Trailhead

One of several large tarns in Upper Royal Basin

One of several large tarns in Upper Royal Basin

Round-Trip Length: 13.6 miles (6.8 miles to lake | trail continues 1.3 miles into upper basin)
Start-End Elevation: 2,540' - 5,107' (Royal Lake) : 5,695' (Tarn in Upper Basin)
Elevation Change: +2,567' net elevation gain to Royal Lake : +3,155' net elevation gain to Tarn
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Royal Basin - 13.6 Miles Round-Trip

Royal Lake (5,107') is located 6.8 miles from the Upper Dungeness Trailhead in Olympic National Park. It lies at the base of a capacious alpine valley holding a spectacular collection of tarns, snowfields and 7,000' peaks collectively called Royal Basin.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The hike begins in the Olympic National Forest on the Dungeness River Trail before departing up Royal Creek to the lake. It continues 1.3 miles and 590' above Royal Lake into the Upper Basin, where you may explore a network of meadows, waterfalls, snowfields and tarns:

The Dungeness River Trail heads southeast on a rolling grade to a bridge; bear right for Royal Basin and do not cross the bridge (1.0 miles : 2,705'). 

The trail enters Olympic National Park (1.2 miles : 2,865) and levels beside Royal Creek with many access points along its even banks. Travel is mild through a tall fir-hemlock forest and a thin, mossy understory.

At 2.95 miles (3,495') timber breaks across an avalanche slope with a look at peaks in the upper valley. The trail dips back into an attractive forest along the creek to the last campsites with permissible fires (3.28 miles : 3,458').

Travel intensifies from 4.0 - 5.0 miles on steep, rugged grades through heavy brush and clutter. It gains 730' on this tough climb into a subalpine forest. The trail crests (5.3 miles : 4,570'), dips and moderates for short intervals into a broad, stream-crossed opening at the Lower Meadow Campsites (6.2 miles : 4,695').

It continues over a log bridge and presses steeply to the north shore of Royal Lake (6.8 miles : 5,107'). Royal Lake is comparatively small but open with great views from the south shore. The trail forks and circles the lake; head left for quicker access to the south shore.

To reach the Upper Basin Trail, follow signs from the south shore through a large meadow to the Group Campsite and Ranger Tent. The Upper Basin Trail begins behind the Group Site on the far end of the meadow, .35 miles from when you first reach the lake (7.15 miles : 5,112').

The Upper Basin Trail crosses a log bridge and climbs steeply before leveling off in a broad alpine meadow (7.5 miles : 5,345'). It skirts the meadow before crossing a stream at an ill-defined (and somewhat counter-intuitive) point.

The trail seemingly heads straight for a waterfall, but the actual route veers right across the stream (7.7 miles : 5,380') and begins a very steep climb up a gulch with big views over the meadow below.

It abruptly levels at another fork in the open Upper Basin (8.0 miles : 5,640'). Bear right and wrap around a knoll to the first of several large tarns in the basin (8.1 miles : 5,695'). The Upper Basin is capped by Mount Deception (7,788') and a ring of jagged peaks. Open exploration continues across rugged moraines, snowfields and tarns.

Facebook Comments

Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N47 52.691 W123 08.223 — 0.0 miles : Dungeness Trailhead
  • N47 52.144 W123 09.043 — 1.0 miles : Royal Basin - Upper Dungeness Trail split
  • N47 52.213 W123 09.504 — 1.2 miles : Olympic National Park boundary
  • N47 52.375 W123 09.975 — 1.6 miles : Rolling travel beside creek
  • N47 52.441 W123 10.507 — 2.2 miles : Mild grade through moss covered floor
  • N47 52.430 W123 10.726 — 2.5 miles : Steady climb in tall forest
  • N47 52.093 W123 11.395 — 3.0 miles : No fires beyond this point
  • N47 52.090 W123 11.381 — 3.25 miles : No fires beyond this point
  • N47 51.965 W123 11.562 — 3.5 miles : Brushy, cluttered forest
  • N47 51.703 W123 11.954 — 4.0 miles : Begin steep section
  • N47 51.485 W123 12.453 — 4.5 miles : Steep, rugged section
  • N47 51.238 W123 12.874 — 5.0 miles : Steep grades moderate
  • N47 50.838 W123 12.957 — 5.55 miles : Undulating climb into subalpine
  • N47 50.491 W123 12.763 — 6.0 miles : Variously moderate-steep intervals
  • N47 50.347 W123 12.680 — 6.2 miles : Lower Meadow Campsites
  • N47 50.145 W123 12.673 — 6.5 miles : Short, steep switchbacks
  • N47 49.981 W123 12.675 — 6.8 miles : Royal Lake (5,107')
  • N47 49.816 W123 12.762 — 7.15 miles : Group Site - Trail to Upper Basin
  • N47 49.443 W123 12.843 — 7.45 miles : Cross creek (right)
  • N47 49.301 W123 13.014 — 8.0 miles : Fork in Upper Basin; bear right for tarn
  • N47 49.298 W123 13.167 — 8.1 miles : Tarn in Upper Basin
  • N47 48.857 W123 12.365 — Ridge (6,570')

Worth Noting

  • Bug spray is highly recommended on this trail.

  • For those with a late start, campsites along Royal Creek over the first 3 miles are easy to reach and very nice. Fires are permitted to this point.

  • Moraines in the Upper Basin are generally comprised of loose, decrepit rock that gives and cracks with little warning. Tread cautiously over moraines and snowfields. Do not overestimate the stability of rock and snow in the Upper Basin.

  • Approximately 3,450' of total elevation is gained on the roundtrip hike between the trailhead and upper basin tarn.

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 a $5 per person - per night fee to backcountry camp in Olympic National Park (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 Royal Lake and the Royal Basin. All sites along Royal Creek, Royal Meadow, Royal Lake, and Royal Basin require reservations, which can be secured 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, which are located and numbered around the lake.
  • Food Storage: Bear canisters are required in Royal Basin.
  • Fires: Campfires are permitted up to 3,500'. Fires are not permitted at the Lower Meadow campsites, Royal Lake, or Upper Basin.

Fishing Information

  • 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. Contact the Park before setting out.

  • 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 $5 day use fee to park and recreate in the Olympic National Forest. Self registration and pay envelopes are available at the trailhead. There are several inter-agency passes (e.g. Northwest Forest Pass, National Park Pass) that are accepted and waive the fee.

  • Dogs are permitted in the Olympic National Forest, but not within Olympic National Park. Dogs are not permitted on the Royal Basin Trail.

Directions to Trailhead

The Royal Basin - Upper Dungeness Trailhead is located 17.2 miles from Highway 101.

From HWY 101 just east of Sequim (near Sequim Bay State Park), turn onto Louella Road and drive .8 miles to Palo Alto Road. Turn left on Palo Alto (which becomes FR 28) and drive 6.4 miles to a fork.

Bear right onto FR 2880 (you'll see a sign for Dungeness area trails). At 8.3 miles, bear left at another fork (follow signs for Dungeness area trails). At 10.7 miles, bear right on FR 2870 at another sign for Dungeness area trails. Follow this to the trailhead.

The main parking area is located over the bridge, but you may also park in designated spaces along the road closer to the trailhead.

Forest Service Roads are well maintained dirt roads suitable for all vehicles, but are narrow, winding and subject to washouts and dust-ups. Drive carefully, and pay close attention to signs and turns. Roads are minimally signed and can be confusing, especially on the drive back to 101.

Contact Information

Olympic National Forest
Hood Canal Ranger District - Quilcene
295142 Highway 101 S.
PO Box 280
Quilcene, WA 98376

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

Quinault Wilderness Information Office

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Strenuous hike up to Royal Lake, but very worth it. No snow until the Upper Basin, plenty of mosquitos around the campsites. "
Randall Best  -  Olympia  -  Date Posted: July 6, 2018
"Going tomorrow for 1st time and using your terrific instructions to help me along the way! "
Katie  -  Hansville  -  Date Posted: October 19, 2013


Add Comment

Only used to identify you to ProTrails. Will not show on comments list.
Tell us when your experience with this trail happened.