The Enchanted Valley trail offers lush old-growth rainforests, towering mountains with countless waterfalls, and an iconic chalet, nestled in an absolutely stunning valley. The Enchanted Valley is nothing short of jaw dropping; however, there is a LOT you need to know about this hike before you hit the trail, from backpacking permits to black bears and backcountry campsites.
If you’re looking for an incredible adventure, lace up those hiking boots and let’s hit the road- here’s everything you need to know about the Enchanted Valley, Olympic National Park’s best backpacking trip.
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About the Enchanted Valley Trail
- Length: 29ish miles (per our GPS tracking app)
- Net elevation gain: 3,244 feet
- Difficulty: Challenging. You won’t encounter any technical sections or serious elevation gain along the trail, but it is loooong!
- Time: Due to the length, most hikers usually do this as at least an overnight backpacking trip, but my husband, Justin, and I passed a couple of hardcore folks on the trail, who totally did this as a dayhike!
On average, it will take most hikers and trail runners between 10 to 15 hours to complete, largely depending on their level of fitness and if they’re carrying backcountry camping gear.
- Dog-friendly? No, dogs are not allowed on the trail. This is both to protect the pups and the Quinault ecosystem, which is home to lots of elk, bears, and deer.
- Permits? If you plan to camp along the trail, you’ll need a wilderness permit from Olympic National Park. To snag your permit, go to the Recreation.gov permit site, select “Quinault” as your starting point, and pick the dates for the campsites you’d like to stay at along the Enchanted Valley trail (more on that below).
Regardless of whether or not you’re camping along the trail, you’ll also need an interagency pass, like my beloved America the Beautiful Pass (which, for just $80, will get you into 2,000+ national parks and other federally managed recreation sites for an entire YEAR!) to park at the trailhead.
So what is the Enchanted Valley and what’s up with that chalet?
The highlight of the entire 29-mile trail is, inarguably, the Enchanted Valley itself, an expansive meadow, deep in the heart of the Quinault rainforest. This field is bordered on one side by dense forest and on the other, a wall of seemingly vertical mountains, jutting dramatically out of the earth and festooned with dozens upon dozens of waterfalls- no wonder it’s sometimes referred to as The Valley of 10,000 Falls!
The Enchanted Valley Chalet, a rustic yet incredibly picturesque cabin, sits in the middle of the valley, welcoming hikers as they complete their long journey there. And, what’s really cool is that the chalet has been functioning that way for almost a century!
In the 1920s, the U.S. Forest Service was eager to promote outdoor recreation in this breathtaking landscape and hired a contractor in 1930 to build the chalet. All of the building materials, including bricks and mortar for the fireplace, had to be hauled through the rainforest for over 13 miles by horse, allowing the chalet to be built in just a year.
Weary hikers enjoying the Olympic Peninsula were able to rest at the chalet- at the time, a hot meal cost $1 and a double bed would run you $2 a night (can you imagine what the chalet was like back then?!). Eventually, though, it became too expensive to operate the chalet and in 1943, the building was repurposed to be an Aircraft Warning Service station for World War II.
Thankfully, the chalet reopened to the public in 1953 and, while you can’t go inside the building today, it’s still an iconic landmark along the trail.
How to get to the Enchanted Valley Trail
The Enchanted Valley trailhead (also called the Graves Creek trailhead) is located in one of the most overlooked spots on most travelers’ Olympic National park itinerary, the Quinault Rainforest. It’s located along the southern portion of the Olympic Peninsula Loop and will take take about three and a half hours of driving time from Seattle or four hours and 15 minutes from Portland.
The last town you’ll hit before you start driving through the incredibly gorgeous Quinault Rainforest to the trailhead is the teeny community of Quinault. Here, you’ll find the Quinault South Shore Ranger Station, where you can stop to ask a ranger any questions you may have or rent a bear canister (which is required to camp along the trail- more on that below!).
Right across the street, you’ll find the Quinault Mercantile, which offers snacks, sandwiches, and camping gear, if you need to pick up any last minute provisions. There’s also a cozy hotel here, the Lake Quinault Lodge, if you happen to get to Quinault late and need a place to stay the night before you start your backpacking trip (I wouldn’t recommend driving along the road to the trailhead in the dark, due to its serious potholes).
Tip: I’d recommend filling up your gas tank in the town of Aberdeen, about 65 miles east of the trailhead, given you’ll have limited options past this point. Otherwise, there is only one gas station a few miles west past where you’d turn for Quinault, but it’s unattended and other reviewers have frequently complained about having issues with the pumps.
From here, you’ll continue along the banks of Lake Quinault and eventually, the Quinault River, as the forest grows denser around you. The paved road eventually turns to gravel and you’ll encounter some gnarly potholes along the way. So drive slowly and carefully, especially if you have a low clearance vehicle.
The road will eventually dead-end at the Graves Creek Campground, which is right next to the trailhead’s parking lot. This is a popular campground for hikers to stay the night before they head out on the trail- all sites are offered on a first come, first serve basis for $20 ($10 if you have a senior pass!).
Pssst... there’s no cell service anywhere near the trailhead so be sure to download offline maps on your Google Maps app, as well as the trail map on All Trails (unless you’re, like, seriously hardcore and navigate with an actual map) before you head here. You'll need an AllTrails+ account to download offline maps on the app, but good news- you can get a 7-day free trial here.
What to expect along the Enchanted Valley Trail
The Enchanted Valley trail is one of the best hikes in Olympic National Park– almost the entire trail follows along the curving Quinault River and takes you through the absolutely stunning Quinault Rainforest, with towering trees dripping with moss overhead, enormous primeval ferns, and colorful wildflowers as far as the eye can see. There’s also tons of water features along the trail, from log bridges over babbling brooks to stream crossings and endless small waterfalls.
As mentioned above, you won’t encounter any rock scrambling or anything else remotely technical, and the most challenging “obstacle” along the trail we experienced were some short sections of intense mud. If you have waterproof boots (check out our favorite for men and women), you’ll have no issues.
It’s also possible you may encounter some areas where the massive trees have been blown over by windstorms, but they’ve typically been cut up or there’s a path around them.
Otherwise, while there is certainly some elevation gain, the trail is mostly flat with small rolling hills the entire way. More than anything, it’s just long.
Because this trail is “easy” (but for the length), it’s accessible to lots of differently skilled hikers, especially if you can break up the distance over a couple of days. Justin and I passed families with tiny kiddos and met a 75-year old gentleman at our Enchanted Valley campsite. So long as you give yourself plenty of time on the trail and come prepared, I’m confident most hikers in reasonably good shape would be able to tackle this trip.
Along the trail, you’ll pass three primitive campgrounds (each of which offer a rustic outhouse) that you can potentially camp at during your trip:
- Pony Bridge is only about 2.5 miles into the trail, right next to a particularly breathtaking gorge, with turquoise water rushing below and vibrant green ferns festooning the rocky gorge walls.
Justin and I hit the trail just before dusk on a Friday after work, so we stayed our first night here. It’s absolutely gorgeous (in my opinion, the prettiest of the three non-valley campgrounds), but between the fact there’s only about four or so campsites here and how close it is to the trailhead (making for a very long hike to the valley the following day), I generally wouldn’t recommend staying here, unless you’re getting a late start too!
- O’Neil Creek is 6.4 miles into the trail. It’s located a bit off the main trail along the river, so the sites are quiet and offer a lot of solitude.
If you’re doing the trail as a two-night backpacking trip, this may be an excellent mid-way stopping point to the Enchanted Valley.
- Pyrites Creek is 9.0 miles in and has a few campsites with sparse tree coverage. Given this campground is so close to the Enchanted Valley and these sites aren’t particularly secluded, I’d recommend staying in the valley itself over this campground. Obviously, it’s a better option than hiking in the dark (especially in bear country) so it’s good to know this is an option in case you run low on sunlight.
And saving the best for last, you’ll reach the Enchanted Valley, Olympic National Park’s most gorgeous campsite! In terms of camping, there’s got to be 100+ campsites here of all different settings and varieties, from along the riverbed, to the valley floor itself, to the groves of towering trees to the right of the chalet. We went on a particularly busy weekend and I was pretty worried about finding a campsite here, but we wound up getting a pretty great spot!
If you want to follow along with our Enchanted Valley adventure, we actually made a whole video about it so you can see all the stellar views for yourself!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ENCHANTED VALLEY TRAIL
When should I hike the Enchanted Valley trail?
The Enchanted Valley is usually mostly snow-free from late May through mid-October. Towards the beginning and end of this window, it becomes more and more likely that you’ll encounter snow or ice on the trail, not as nice weather, and difficulty doing any day hikes if you’re planning on going past the valley.
June and July are probably the two best months for this hike- there’s a good chance you’ll get sunny skies and the waterfalls in the Enchanted Valley will be at their maximum flow, due to the early summer snowmelt.
Is getting a permit hard?
As mentioned above, you’ll need to get a permit to camp anywhere along the trail.
In prior years, the National Park Service only distributed a limited amount of permits per day, which, due to the trail’s popularity, quickly sold out. In fact, I tried to snag a permit in 2021 and could only book a date in late October, which we wound up canceling due to excessive snow in the valley at that time.
Now, however, there is no quota system, so you should have no problem snagging a permit, no matter how close to your trip you check! This does, however, mean it can get pretty crowded- there were probably well over 200 people in the Enchanted Valley when we camped there!
Fortunately, the camping area is huge and campers were very spread out, but, if you go on a busy weekend like us, just know that you’ll likely be sleeping within 50 yards (at best) of the nearest tent.
Can I expect to see wildlife?
The trail is known for being an excellent spot to see elk, bears, deer, and mountain lions. Unfortunately, Justin and I only saw a deer and a couple snakes along the trail (although we passed two groups of hikers who promised a mama bear and her cub were straight ahead and we heard elk CONSTANTLY along the trail).
Wildlife is just that- wild- so keep a lookout for new furry friends while you’re on the trail and understand that seeing them is kinda just sheer luck!
So… what do I need to know about these bears on the trail?
The bears that live in Olympic National Park are black bears, which a dude we met at our campsite likened to “giant racoons”, given their skittishness and proclivity for eating human trash.
The good news is that black bears are almost never aggressive unless they or their young are threatened.
The not so good news is that they are indeed like giant racoons and want to get into all of the delicious treats you brought along with you in your backpack. You are required to bring along a bear canister to store your food and any other items you have that are smelly, like toothpaste, deodorant, or chapstick and store it at least 100 yards downwind from your (or anyone else’s) campsite.
Make sure you also understand good bear safety, like cooking downwind from your tent, not eating in your tent, and basically making sure that you and your shelter do not smell like yummy food. This is not just to protect you, but also the bears, who frequently need to be put down if it gets its paws on human food and starts associating humans with delicious treats.
Although it’s highly unlikely that a black bear will attack you, you should absolutely come prepared with bear spray (Justin and I both carry this one), which temporarily deters, but does not injure an aggressive animal.
What are some suggested backpacking itineraries along the Enchanted Valley trail, depending on how many days I have?
- One night- Camp in the Enchanted Valley
- Two nights- Camp at O’Neil Creek the first night and in the Enchanted Valley the second night
- Two nights- Camp at O’Neil Creek the first night, visit the Enchanted Valley during the day, and camp at Pyrites Creek the second night (it’ll make for a slightly less brutal last day)
- Two nights– Camp both nights in the Enchanted Valley (we met a guy who was actually spending a whole week just camping the valley- sounds absolutely incredible!)
Can I hike the Enchanted Valley trail as a dayhike?
Yes, you can certainly take on the entire (or any portion) of this 29-mile trail in one day- and you don’t even need a permit! That being said, buckle up for a long day- and some very sore feet.
Do not attempt this if you are an inexperienced hiker or trail-runner. Additionally, you should have the proper emergency gear in case you injure yourself or are slower than expected. Bring a headlamp to avoid hiking in the dark and a method for filtering water (like this one).
The entire trail is incredibly gorgeous, but to be totally transparent, the most stunning part is definitely the Enchanted Valley, which is “the end” of the hike over 14 miles from the trailhead. Unless you’re planning on doing the entire length of the trail in one day (you beast, you!) or happen to already be in the area, there’s plenty of hikes in Washington that aren’t quite as remote as this one that provide similar rainforest views.
If, however, you’re already staying around the Lake Quinault area (which is only about an hour from the trailhead), it certainly would be worth driving to the Enchanted Valley trailhead and making the 5.0-mile roundtrip hike to Pony Bridge, if you don’t feel like doing the entire trail.
Can I hike the Enchanted Valley as a thru-hike?
Yes, you can hike from Graves Creek trailhead past Enchanted Valley, through Anderson Pass to the Dosewallips trailhead (see the route here). This trail is about 35 miles long, has over 7,000 feet of elevation gain, and is considerably more challenging and technical than the out-and-back, Enchanted Valley trail.
I’d only recommend this route for more advanced hikers and backpackers.
It’s also worth noting that Anderson Pass, at 4,480 feet of elevation, is much higher than the rest of the Enchanted Valley hike and you’re likely to encounter ice and snow along the way much later into the season. We backpacked here in late June and met a guy who hiked up Anderson Pass, and described its conditions as “treacherous”.
Just a reminder, there is NO cell coverage along this trail, and few hikers go beyond the valley, so we highly recommend you bring a satellite communicator for off-the-grid communication. This one weighs less than 4 ounces and has 2-way messaging, tracking and SOS capabilities.
Is there anything else I should know about camping here?
So long as there is no fire ban in effect (please check before you go and light anything on fire), campfires are allowed at all of the campgrounds through the Enchanted Valley and you can expect to find rustic fire rings at the campsites along the trail. If you want to have a fire here, I’d suggest bringing along some fire starters– most of the wood here is quite wet!
You’re not, however, allowed to have fires above 3,500 feet to protect the soil and the fragile vegetation, so your campfire options will be much more limited if you continue past the valley to Anderson Pass.
Be sure not to be the guy that burns down the Enchanted Valley and practice good fire safety, like cleaning away any flammable materials around the ring before starting the fire and completely dousing the flame before you leave it unattended.
It’s also worth nothing that there’s plenty of water along the trail, from the Quinault River to the plentiful waterfalls, so it isn’t necessary to pack a ton of heavy water with you. Instead, bring along a water filter- I swear by my Sawyer Mini, which weighs nothing, fits into the palm of your hand, and filters 100,000 gallons of clean drinking water for your drinking pleasure!
What to Pack for the Enchanted Valley Trail
- Your permit: Rangers have been known to ask for it!
- America the Beautiful Pass: to leave on the dashboard of your car
- Tent: Justin and I have this one and we LOVE it. It has huge vestibules to set your boots and backpack in, isn’t crazy heavy for the price, and is adorable.
- Sleeping bag: I have this one and Justin has this one.
- Sleeping pad: I have this one and Justin has this one.
- Inflatable pillow
- Campstove: burner, propane canister, and lighter
- Folding camping sporks
- Cookware: We have this cook set, which comes with a lidded pot and two cups and this larger steel cup with foldable handles (which is perfect for holding a bit more volume, like soup, and fits perfectly around the cook set, might I add).
- Refillable water bottle
- Water filter
- Portable single-serve pour over coffee (if you’re extra like me)
- Bear canister
- Bear spray
- Poop kit: The very formal name for this kit, which is for, well, if you need to poop in the woods. Bring along a lightweight trowel, toilet paper, and Ziploc baggies (to store used TP).
- Large baggies to store any food waste you generate (friendly reminder to always leave no trace!)
- Food: Think dehydrated meals (like this one or this one).
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Phone, battery bank, and cords
- Rain jacket: It’s the Pacific Northwest, y’all (women’s and men’s).
- First aid kit
- Satellite Communicator: if you’re doing the thru-hike beyond the valley
- Snacks!: I’m a sucker for some Cool Mint Clif bars.
- Waterproof hiking boots: You’re constantly crossing streams and squishing through muddy parts- make sure they’re waterproof! I have these Topos and Justin has these.
- Hiking sandals: There’s nothing more annoying than setting up your tent, getting all cozy- and then having to take your hiking boots on and off every time you want to get in and out of your tent. Be a comfort queen like me and bring along some trusty sandals, like these for women or these for men.
The Enchanted Valley is, well, enchanting and I can’t wait for you to explore it! Do you have any questions about the hike? Let me know in the comments below!