With the mountains still under a frozen snow and spring avalanche dangers in the red, hikers and backpackers often find themselves looking for an alternate route for their forest fix. The spring is an exceptional time to explore the Olympic National Park’s abundant lower-elevation hikes. Although the rain forest will probably live up to its name, backpackers and hikers can find solace in the spectacular scenery along the South Fork Skokomish River. This trail is very popular among hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers and equestrians, so the winter and spring are the ideal time to visit.
From the trailhead, the trail gets off to a steeper start, offering some of the most rapid elevation gain on the whole trip. The uphill portion doesn’t last long, and soon hikers will find themselves in a verdant forest teeming with lush ferns and moss-covered trees. At the fork, follow the path left, uphill. After ascending a small bluff, which offers glimpses of the river below, the trail descends into an glen of old growth firs. The path crawls over a small, forested plateau before descending in steep switchbacks down to parallel the river.
The trail stretches along the riverbank, affording stunning views of the Skokomish River and easy river access for fishermen. Those accessing the trail should prepare for multiple stream and river crossings along this stretch, weather dependent. The river’s volatile nature is evident along the trail, as washed out bridges litter the trail. When I backpacked along the Skokomish River trail, I had no stream or river fords, but past trip reports mention river and stream crossings. I recommend preparing for anything.
After about 2 miles, the trail winds away from the riverbed and returns to the scenic forested slopes of the river valley. All other major stream crossings are eased by sturdy bridges, as the trail alternates between deciduous riverside vegetation and old, mossy forest. After about 4 .5 miles, a series of stumps indicate the area that was once Camp Comfort—washed away in a large storm. Continue up the trail and down a winding switchback for easy access to the rocky riverbed. Camping is also an option — there are numerous spots to pitch a tent along the sandy shore. Ultimately, Camp Comfort’s sandy banks are an excellent way to seek solitude from the otherwise well-known trail, and a great excuse to break out the gear for spring camping.
One Way: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 575 Feet
Highest Point: 850 Feet
Maps: Green Trails Mt Tebo No. 199
From Shelton, travel north on US 101 for 7 miles, turning left at milepost 340 onto Skokomish Valley Road. Follow the road for 5.5 miles, bearing right at a fork onto Forest Road 23. Continue for 6 miles on FR 23 to a signed junction and turn right onto FR 2353. In 0.5 miles, cross the South Fork Skokomish River. At the intersection, turn left, continuing on FR 2353 for 0.3 mile to the well-signed trailhead.