Four Great Day Hikes around Lake Quinault, Washington

Quinault is a launch-point to adventure for people of all fitness levels.

You don’t need to be an athletic super-freak to experience the place’s magic. You also don’t need to have endless amounts of time. Just a pair of comfy shoes and a couple hours will do.

I’ve made no secret about the fact that the Quinault area is my favorite place in the Pacific Northwest. I can write a whole book about all that you can see there (and I intend to). But, in this piece, I keep things simple.

I list five of my favorite Lake Quinault day hikes below. Each entry notes the trail’s level of difficulty as determined by my completely unscientific classification system.

Try one. Try them all. Whatever works for you. Enjoy. Tell me about the experience (or not)!

Happy nomadding, friends.

Kestner Homestead and Maple Glade Nature Loop Trails (both easy)

I’ve listed these trails together they each start within feet of each other in the parking lot of the Quinault Rain Forest Station. You can hike one or the other or do both.

I’m going to cheat a little bit here because I’m lazy. At least, I’m feeling lazy at the moment. I’ve going to link to the pieces I’ve already written for these two locations.

I’ve written about the Kestner Homstead Trail here:

I’ve written about the Maple Glade Nature Loop here:

Irely Lake (easy once you get over the initial elevation gain)

Irely Lake is my favorite Quinault day hike. I don’t know why. I don’t try particularly hard to figure it out, either. Something about trail’s energy just speaks to me.

Getting to the trail can take a little while, but it’s a beautiful drive. You have to go all the way to where the South Shore Loop Road turns into the North Shore Loop Road (or vice versa).

Once you reach the trail-head, it’s 1.2 miles to the lake. Right off the road you’ll climb a little ways. It’s rather steep, but it doesn’t last long. Past that point, it’s mostly smooth, level sailing all the way to Irely.

Irely is a dark little lake tucked away in the center of gigantic fir, cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees. If you go down the short side trail to its shore, you can see all kinds of life out there.

I’ve seen elk hitting the lake for a drink. I’ve seen countless birds. I once saw a Biblical plague of baby frogs there. They were fascinating, adorable little guys that I wrote about here.

The trail gets sloppy in the winter. Oftentimes wind will blow branches or whole trees over the trail in the stormy season.

The mountain-lion warning signs there are no joke. I’ve had a couple encounters with the animals in the area around Irely Lake (one on Irely Lake Trail specifically). So, factor that into your preparations and estimations of risk tolerance.

I’ve pinned the location to a Google map you can see below.

Colonel Bob (hard)

Ah, Colonel Bob. My ancient nemesis.

I frequently see this trail rated as “medium” difficulty on other sites. Then again, I’ve also seen Mount Storm rated as “medium,” and that is just preposterous.

Bob isn’t as difficult as Storm King, but it’s given me a hard workout even when I was in peak fitness. Still, its 13.6 miles can be done in one day (which of course is why I included it here as a day hike). Unless you’re in very strong hiking shape, you will be tested to complete the Colonel Bob out-and-back without camping for a night, so be warned.

My misadventures with Bob have been the result of circumstances (snow and an injury) rather than the difficulty of the trail itself, but I’ve always thought of Colonel Bob as a person I held a friendly grudge against. I try to get up there once a year.

The view atop bob is one of the best but, I’m ashamed to say (considering i run a travel site), I don’t have a picture of it at the moment. I plan on remedying this soon. For now, I’ve pinned the location to a map.

You’ll just have to trust me: it’s a nice view. Or else just check out the folks at Outdoor Society for pictures.

Yes, the Quinault Lake Loop (also Known as the North and South Shore Roads) Runs Both Ways



Here’s a post unlike any I’ve ever written before. I noticed that a popular search term leading people to my site is the question, “Does the Quinault Lake Loop run one way?”

Well, the answer is simple: no, the loop is not a one-way road. It is a two-way road that you can start from either end.

There are some sections where the road narrows enough that only one car can pass at a time. In those cases, you simply pull over to the side and let them pass (or vice versa).

The road can get rough, especially in winter, but I’ve driven it in a Hyundai Sonata with little trouble. Parts of the road are paved and some are not.

In any case, the road is a two-way road and there’s no “right” way to drive it.

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Maple Glade Nature Loop Trail near Lake Quinault

Busy Reader Highlights

  • One of the most accessible trails in the Lake Quinault area
    The trail is very short and is also wheelchair accessible.
  • Packs a punch
    At less than a half-mile long, the trail is very short. In that short space, though, it gives a great feel for the flora of the Quinault rain forest.
  • It’s literally right next to another fun, short trail
    The Maple Glade Nature Loop trail starts only a few yards from the Kestner Homestead Trail.

Leisurely Reader Discussion

The trail is easy to find. Just park at the ranger station embedded in the map below and you will see the trail-head right there. You can hike it on your own time or you can talk to the rangers and see when they’re doing a guided tour. I have not done the guided tour myself so can’t speak to that, but I have talked to the rangers around that station and have always found them to be friendly and knowledgeable.

I assume the guided tour is a good experience. As for going it unguided, the trail is short and wheelchair accessible, but by no means is it short on sights.

You get a good look at the giant sword ferns, maples, spruces, and other prehistoric-sized trees. You also get a good look at the thick coats of moss that cover the trees, which I personally find to be the most remarkable phenomenon there.

The trail intersects with the Kestner Homestead trail, which I’ve written about here. If you have the time and energy, the two trails together make a great pairing. Or just stick to the Maple Glade trail. It’s good fun and a way for everyone to enjoy the magnificent Quinault Rain Forest.

Kestner Homestead Trail: Short, Easy Hike near Lake Quinault

Busy Reader Highlights

  • Easy.
    At only 1.1 miles long, the Kestner Homestead Trail is also very flat, making this a great selection for those looking for a relatively easy walk.
  • Great for lovers of nature and lovers of history alike.
    The main attraction of the trail is the Kestner Homestead historical site, but getting there also takes you through a beautiful stretch of temperate rain forest.
  • Low-stress for those unused to the wilderness.
    Though hikers should always be mindful of wildlife (mandatory legal disclaimer), this trail starts near a well-visited ranger station and ends close to a road with a small house beside it. The trails around Lake Quinault tend to be rugged and to take you far away from civilization, but the Kestner Homestead Trail is about as safe as it gets.
  • It’s literally right next to another short, easy trail.
    A few yards from the Kestner Homestead trailhead is the trailhead for the Maple Glade Nature Loop Trail.
  • You can do this trail guided or unguided.
    The park rangers lead tours along the Kestner Trail, stopping at spots along the way to share educational talks on important points. You can also hike it alone on your own time (this is how I did the trails).

Leisurely Reader Discussion

Getting to this trail is easy. Simply park at the ranger station (location embedded below) and you’ll see the clearly marked trailhead. There’s a restroom in the parking lot as well. The rangers at this site have always seemed particularly friendly and relaxed. It’s such a quiet location on the sparsely-populated North Shore Road of the Lake Quinault loop, and an easy-going vibe resonates there.

At the trailhead a bridge crosses Kestner Creek (which was almost completely dried up when I was there in July 2019) and takes you into a hall of gigantic hemlocks, maples, and spruces, most of them covered in thick, shaggy coats of moss. There are also impressive sword ferns and skunk cabbage. It feels like stepping back into the age of the dinosaurs.

You follow this flat, well-maintained trail until it reaches a wide open area with the remnants of the Kestner Homestead. A crab apple tree stands out front with some rusting farm machinery. The primary attraction of course is the old house, barn, and work buildings. The front door of the house is locked but other than that the stuff is there to be explored freely.

This is apparently a good spot to view the Roosevelt elk (the area I’ve had most luck in finding them is shown here), but I didn’t see any while there.

From the homestead, the trail loops back towards where you started. Before you get to the end of your circuit, you can switch over onto the Maple Glade Rain Forest Trail where they intersect, or you can continue on your way back to the parking lot.

Either way, have fun and enjoy the Kestner Homestead Trail.

Happy nomadding, friends.

Frog Invasion at Irely Lake

I long ago lost count of how many times I’ve hiked the Irely Lake trail just outside Lake Quinault, Washington, but during my latest visit I witnessed a something I’ve never seen there before. Swarming along every step of the path was a great, hopping, flopping multitude of frogs. Baby frogs, to be exact.

Yes, baby frogs as far as the eye could see, my friends.

I’m sure this must be an annual occurrence, but when I told a ranger about it the next day he was as unaware of the phenomenon and as fascinated at hearing the news as I was in experiencing it. He was also unaware that Irely Lake was almost completely dried up. This is one more thing I’ve never witnessed before in all my excursions up that path.

Dried up Irely Lake
This entire flat area is usually filled up with Irely Lake.

To my memory, the lake’s always been filled up to the woodline, giving little shore-space. On this day, however (July 12, 2019), the lake had shriveled down to a little pool in the middle of a muddy flat—a muddy flat also swarming with baby frogs.

The little buggers made the hike very slow-going. I had to tiptoe along the entirety of the trail and pause several times to let a particularly big cluster of baby frogs leap off into the sword ferns growing alongside the trail.

When I reached the dry lakebed, another hiker (the only other hiker I encountered that day) said he’d encountered a mountain lion on the trail. He seemed an experienced outdoorsman. I don’t doubt his account. For me, though, there was no mountain lion (though I did encounter one a few years ago in that same area)—there were only the baby frogs.

One of my favorite things about nature is how nothing is ever the same from one day to the next. You can hike the identical stretch of woods every morning for a year, and every morning you’ll see something slightly different. Sometimes, you’ll see something spectacularly different. In this particular case, I’ve hiked the Irely Lake Trail dozens of times and this was the first I ever saw the swarm of baby frogs.

Though they slowed my progress, the frogs made every foot of the trail a pleasure. It was a privilege to witness that spectacle of nature, and the frogs made for a hike I’ll never forget.

The Irely Lake Trail has a funny way of surprising me. For a modest mile of hiking trail, it’s sure given me plenty to write about.

http://nwestnomad.com/travels/washington-places/strange-conversation-at-irely-lake-olympic-national-park/

It’s the same reason why I maintain that Lake Quinault and the surrounding rain forest are the best spots in Washington. A part of me wants to keep quiet on that and keep Quinault under-visited, but another part of me wants to share that amazing place. There’s no place I’d rather spend a long weekend or a vacation than in the Lake Quinault area. I made that conclusion long ago, but the place never stops strengthening its case.

Frogs, my friends. Baby frogs. A whole multitude of them. I’m grateful I decided to do Irely again that day. Dang near missed it.

Keep nomadding, friends.