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.