Mildred Lakes is a gem! Anyone who enjoys hiking the majestic Olympic Mountains should think about puting this hike on their “must conquer” list. The trail may only be 4.4 miles with a 2,000 foot elevation gain, but don’t pass it off as easy.
This trail is primitive and looks like it’s been maintained by only foot traffic. The roots are numerous and large with rocks galore, making the hiker almost always keep his eyes on the trail. The trail starts with a decent elevation gain through thick forest, then crosses a small creek that runs year round. After this, the forest ends and you come across a old rock slide where Jefferson Ridge comes into view.
The trail continues back into the forest. A bunch of boulders covering the path mark the end of the first ascent. At this point, the mountains around the valley present themselves, and the view pushes you forward. After gaining 1,400 feet you’re nearly halfway there, but then it’s time to descend: you hike down 300 feet to cross a large tree over a year round large creek . Campsites scatter around the creek making a lovely overnight stay, with a nice waterfall just upstream. These campsites are perfect if your start time at the trailhead is in the evening!
After crossing the creek you gain the largest amount of elevation very quickly. Switchbacks are difficult enough by themselves, and these also come with roots and a couple of areas where hands are needed for scrambling. A 1,000 feet are quickly gained in less than a mile (from 3,000 to 4,000 feet). Once you reach the second ridge, the mountains are more prominent with Mount Cruiser, Jefferson peak, Mount Perishing and Mount Skokomish surrounding you.
Next, you descend 200 feet to the first and smallest lake. The best campsites are at the largest lake, where Sawtooth Ridge is in plain sight of your tent and the north end of the lake is open and less treed. The west and second largest lake is more scummy and buggy. Throw your line in at any of the lakes as they hold rainbow and cutthrout trout from pan size to large 16-inch trout. Rock climbing is also popular at Sawtooth Ridge.
This trail was once isolated as the road was washed out two miles from the trailhead . Every trip to Mildred lakes before the road was fixed our group camped in solitude. Now it can be packed and the parking lot full but other trails are near. Mildred Lakes holds the largest mountain lake I have ever hiked to. A full day is advised since options for exploration and activies are endless.
Directions: The trailhead is on Hamma Hamma road which is located off Hwy 101. From Olympia, head north on Hwy 101 and take the Hamma Hamma Recreation exit on the left. From Tacoma cross the narrows bridge on hwy 16 then left on hwy 302 to north hwy 3. Then take hwy 106 to connect to hwy 101.
Season: Summer, Fall
Length round trip: 8.8 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Strenuous (steep), lots of roots, rocks
Variety: Out and back
Elevation Gain: 2,000 ft total , from 1,800 to 3,800 ft
Features: mountain vistas, peak climbing, wildlife viewing, fishing, rock climbing, swimming
Wildlife seen: Rainbow Trout, toads
Trailhead amenities: Port-a-potty, parking lot, log book
Water Source: Rivers and three lakes
Passes/Permits: Northwest Forest Pass is required to park or a $5.00 day pass. Wilderness Permit is needed to camp overnight
Special Information: No fires above 3,500 feet
Usage: Day hikers, backpacking, fishing, rock climbing
Map: Green trails map 167 Mt Steel, Custom Correct map Mt Skokomish-Lake Cushman