Olympic Mountains - August 2022 (Gray Wolf, Dosewallips, Cameron)

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Olympic Mountains - August 2022 (Gray Wolf, Dosewallips, Cameron)

Post by leiavoia » August 14th, 2022, 3:07 pm


This is my first visit to the Olympics. I wanted to visit a region that wasn't completely overrun with tourists. I'm providing this trip report as intel to help any future visitors. And also pretty pictures. Humans like pretty pictures. You are a weird species.

@Logan, Deanna, & Mae - If you read this, let me know you got home okay. I could not find you at the trailhead.

What: 42 mile, 5-day backpack loop.
When: August 9-13, 2022 (Monday - Friday)
Where: Olympic National Park, Deer Park Trailhead (south of Port Angeles)
Route: Deer Park -> Three Forks -> Cedar Lake -> Gray Wolf Pass -> Dose Meadows -> Lost Peak Trail -> Cameron Creek -> Three Forks -> Deer Park
Weather: Mid 70's average daily highs. 44F recorded overnight low when camped near river. Mostly sunny. One day had a brief thunderstorm pass through in the morning.
Red Tape: You need an ONP entry pass AND a backpacking permit (register and pay for both online. print out hard copies before you leave to save trouble. Keep copies on you phone as backup. Encountered no rangers during trip. Permits were never checked.) Campsites in the Grand Valley area have quotas and reservations are required.
Trailhead: The road to Deer Park is up a long winding road with blind corners. The last 8 miles are gravel, but unusually well maintained gravel. Most vehicles should not have trouble. However it was a hot day when i came in and my engine almost overheated. Had to stop in the shade a few times to let it cool down.
Highlights: High mountain pass scenery, generally good weather, met some nice people.
Lowlights: Overexertion, missed my camps, rough Cameron Creek Trail.

Day 1: Deer Park to Three Forks


Hike Time: 3 hours

Arrived at TH at 4pm. Hiked down to Three Forks camp in a little over 2 hours with poor knees. My shriveled desk jockey legs were wobbly and frazzled after a 3,200ft decent, but trail is good quality. Three forks is a wonderful campsite. Several good spots, a shelter, outhouse, easy and plentiful water access. Its the best camp along the Gray Wolf River. If this camp is full, a great alternative is the next camp 5 minutes down the trail after crossing the creek bridge.

Day 2: Three Forks to Cedar Lake (via Cedar Lake Trail)


Hike Time: 7.5 Hours

The Gray Wolf River Trail is your typical PNW low elevation forest trail. No big surprises. It gets progressively drier and buggier as you head upriver. Ellis Camp was pretty good if you want to stay here. Falls Camp was very buggy and not a really friendly looking place. I took the Cedar Lake Trail up to the lake. This trail is very steep, unfriendly, marshy, buggy, and overgrown. Easily the worst trail on the trip. Very exhausting. It would almost be easier to take the cross country route over the pass to get to the lake instead.

Other hikers reported a mama bear and cub at the lake, but i did not see them. There was a camp raider deer. Lake was very buggy, with giant horse flies being the biggest trouble. There are many campsites right by the outlet creek, but only limited views of the lake due to the weird angle. Lots of fishies jumping.

Day 3: Cedar Lake to Dose Meadows (via cross country pass route)


Hike Time: 10 hours (2 wasted getting "lost")

Ascended the pass to the east of the lake on cross country boot path. This looks impossible from afar, but is surprisingly doable when up close. (still not recommended for anyone with a fear of heights). Views are amazing on the way up to the pass. There is a faint boot path that should guide you up, but even without it, you can just rock hop and use good judgement to make your own fun. Lots of water loving wildflowers up here. Took me about 90 minutes to get to the top from camp, with lots of stops to take pictures and admire the view.


At 10am, just as i got to the top, an insta-storm rolled in over Gray Wolf Pass. A flash and a clap of thunder. Light rain started and soaked me for about 20 minutes. Not a good place to be! There is an obvious boot path down from the top that anyone can follow. Not at all difficult.


Path becomes hard to read near the little tarns half way down. I was following directions from Douglas Loraine's "Backpacking Washington" which indicated that the trail "contoured Southeast" but i couldn't find anything like that. The only thing SE was a thickly wooded suicidal dropoff. Nonetheless, i spent 2 hours poking around the suicidal dropoffs trying to find anything that looked like a way down and found nothing but mud and sharp pokey things. My self preservation instincts kicked in and told me to look elsewhere; this was clearly not the way. I found the correct way down by crossing the outlet stream of the lower tarn and then going over the little hill to the south. Footpath becomes apparent again after this!

After rejoining the main trail, i ascended Gray Wolf Pass and start down the other side. The pass trail is a long descent, but trail is graded very well with lots of switchbacks. I would be spoiled by this later.

The Dosewallips River corridor is a mostly disappointing mix of intermittent overgrown brushy slopes and cedar forests. I was already very tired by this point and the hike to Dose Meadows seemed to never end. The trail is very overgrown in places and felt more like a bushwack, making the going slower than i anticipated. Lots of little ankle-breaking rodent holes and rocks on the trail need your constant attention, but are hidden under brush overgrowing the trail.

Dose Meadows is a great campsite. Lots of places to put tents or hammocks, water access, an outhouse, and views of mountains past the meadow. Lazy marmots live next to the trail sign.

Day 4: Dose Meadows to Cameron Creek / Grand Valley Trail junction (via Lost Pass)


Hike Time: 7 hours

Lost Pass Trail is relentlessly steep. Fortunately it is rather short. Pretty views from the top.

The path undulates through large meadows and squishy areas with flowers, butterflies, and regular flies. Lots of good photos can be had here. There is a good campsite about half way around the valley near the second of the three major streams that come down from the mountain.

I baby-stepped my way up to Cameron Pass. It's the second big climb of the day and mostly in full sun. Lots of great scenery on the way up and down from the pass. Trail is decent here. The way down is loose rock and gravel as is typical of many high mountain passes, but pretty easy compared to fighting through bushes. Scenery at the bottom is amazing. Meadows of wildflowers fed by a dozen streams coming down from an amphitheater of snow-clad mountains. There are great camps right in the middle too! After passing the beauty areas, the Cameron River trail becomes rocky, uneven, overgrown, and mean spirited.


The original intention was to make it to my reserved camp at Grand Lake. However as the day went on, it became apparent that i was not going to make it before about 11pm and a 14 hour day. Yesterday's overexertion combined with rough trail and slow going were taking their toll. I ended up bailing out near the junction with Grand Valley Pass Trail in a little hovel by the stream.

TIP: If you are going from Dose Meadows to Grand Lakes in a single day, i STRONGLY recommend breaking it into two days and camping at the Cameron Creek headwaters at the bottom of Cameron Pass (the north side). Literally everyone i talked to on the way through that area was behind schedule, becoming exhausted, and looking for bailout options, including myself. If you need to bail out, bail out some place nice, you know?

Day 5: Cameron Creek to Deer Park TH


Hike Time: 11 hours

Starting early and carrying the extra weight of failure and disappointment, i decided to skip the Grand Valley route i had reserved. I started down the Cameron River to make a fast hike back to the car and head home. The Cameron River trail is smooth and easy on the topo, but consistently abusive and very slow going. Overgrown with spiky things of all sorts, dozens of downed trees, multiple fallen-log river crossings, washed out trail reroutes, and other obstacles severely slowed my pace.

After a foot soak and a lunch break at three forks, i baby-stepped up the exhausting 3,200 ascent back to Deer Park TH. Arrived back so fatigued i couldn't drive and ended up taking a nap at a rest stop before continuing home.

Final thoughts:

- Disappointed i didn't get to see the Grand Valley. I can go back and see just that area on another trip, however, starting form Obstruction Point TH.
- Most of the trails were rougher than i expected. I tried to pick a challenging hike for me, but i had about 6 days of walking squeezed into 5 days and i just bit off more than i could chew.
- The offtrail section from Cedar Lake over the pass was fun. Recommended for any able-bodied person. I do not recommend the Cedar Lake trail itself. Ugh.
Last edited by leiavoia on August 14th, 2022, 3:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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retired jerry
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Re: Olympic Mountains - August 2022 (Gray Wolf, Dosewallips, Cameron)

Post by retired jerry » August 14th, 2022, 3:22 pm

Nice report, thanks

I did a Grand Valley loop a few years ago. From Obstruction Point trailhead. A little more alpine. All of that area is great.

I think you need to reserve specific campsite on specific day in Grand Valley. Which is not my favorite.

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Re: Olympic Mountains - August 2022 (Gray Wolf, Dosewallips, Cameron)

Post by leiavoia » August 14th, 2022, 3:26 pm

retired jerry wrote:
August 14th, 2022, 3:22 pm
I think you need to reserve specific campsite on specific day in Grand Valley. Which is not my favorite.
Which is your favorite?

I had reservations for Grand Lake, as that was what was available at the time.

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retired jerry
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Re: Olympic Mountains - August 2022 (Gray Wolf, Dosewallips, Cameron)

Post by retired jerry » August 15th, 2022, 6:10 am

it's not my favorite to have to reserve a specific site on a specific night. I prefer flexibility in case I get tired or do some side trip.

I think I stayed at Grand Lake. Nice site under trees next to a meadow. Very cold in meadow, everything frozen, but stayed above freezing where I was camping. They had these weird containers to poop in that they must have hauled out with a helicopter.

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Re: Olympic Mountains - August 2022 (Gray Wolf, Dosewallips, Cameron)

Post by drm » August 15th, 2022, 3:35 pm

I tried to go up Gray Wolf Pass a couple years ago and was defeated by extensive blowdown. Sounds like that has been cleared.

I also went up to Dose Meadows camp and that section of bushwhacking between Gray Wolf jcn and Bear Camp is apparently famous. I spoke to a guy who said he hiked it decades ago and it was the same then.

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Re: Olympic Mountains - August 2022 (Gray Wolf, Dosewallips, Cameron)

Post by Walkin' Fool » August 16th, 2022, 12:12 pm

Thanks for the report! I did a 4-day trip similar to your original plan last Sept., but left out Cedar Lake. It was exceptionally beautiful!

That 3,000'+ descent right off the bat is a quad-killer for sure! I camped at Falls Camp (you're right, it's very meh), Dose Meadows (agree that it's super nice), and Moose Lake (nice, but popular w/day hikers). I think Moose Lake was the best out of the Grand Valley lakes. Dose Meadows to Moose Lake wasn't an overly long day for us - probably a 7:00am - 2:00pm day, but we tend to move steadily with only very short breaks. I agree the Cameron Basin is a beautiful area worth exploring, and it seems most people do break that section up into 2 days. I would have much rather gone up Cameron Pass from the Cameron Basin side then down, though. I didn't love going down the steep kitty-litter over hardpack from Cameron Pass, and last year there was still a fairly steep snowfield to contend with going down Cameron Pass as well. If I did that loop again, I'd definitely consider going the reverse (CCW from Deer Park). Due to the forecast calling for thunderstorms our last day, we hit Hurricane Ridge via Badger Valley, rather than going under Obstruction Peak. That is a very beautiful route!

Did you see quite a few people? Except for the quota lakes area in Grand Valley we saw very few people our entire trip, maybe 3 or 4, although it was a bit smoky from fires, which may have kept people away.

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Re: Olympic Mountains - August 2022 (Gray Wolf, Dosewallips, Cameron)

Post by jalepeno » August 16th, 2022, 12:55 pm

Great report of an outstanding area. I wish the NPS would repair the road into the Dosewallips trailhead. Those extra miles walking along the old road make access from the SE exhaustive, although it keeps away the hordes.

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Re: Olympic Mountains - August 2022 (Gray Wolf, Dosewallips, Cameron)

Post by leiavoia » August 17th, 2022, 7:54 am

I saw a fair number of people, but not more than the area could hold. I estimate I ran into about 20 different parties around the entire loop across the 5 days. Deer Park camp was full of car campers when I exited on a Friday night, but was mostly empty when I arrived on a Monday afternoon.

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