By Judy Smith
Are you looking for a rainforest hike with fewer tourists? Is your dog is giving you that “please don’t leave me” look? If so, it’s time to head for the Bogachiel River Trail. My first visit of the year was a couple of weeks ago and I wasn’t disappointed. Guidebooks describe this hike as a hard marathon hike up into the high reaches of the Olympic National Park wilderness, but there is also a lovely 4-mile loop for day hikers.
From the parking area, the trail descends for the first couple hundred yards before crossing a short log bridge. About a quarter mile in, take a side trail to the left signed as the “Ira Spring Wetland Loop.” This route rises and falls gently on a sidehill just above a large wetland area with stretches of old puncheon boardwalk to keep hikers out of the mud. I step carefully, because these cedar planks can be slick when they are wet.
After climbing up and over a couple of downed trees across the trail, I marvel at an incredible chorus of croaking frogs ahead. Drawing closer, my footsteps startle them and the wetland falls silent. I stand still until the frog symphony resumes and then I move forward. Once again they fall silent. I pull out my iPhone to record a sound bite so that I can talk frog to them. I could do this all day, because I’m easily entertained, but I’d never finish my hike!
After 1.5 miles of meandering through big trees and taking pictures of blooming Trillium and Redwood Sorrel, the trail starts to parallel Kahkwa Creek and eventually rejoins the main trail. The dog isn’t along today, so I could cross the creek and continue into the National Park, but it’s time for me to head back to the car.
At first, the main trail is like a freeway compared to the narrower Ira Spring Loop. However, not long after you start to follow the river, the path disappears with an abrupt 5-foot drop to the water. Nature rules. The Bogachiel River has claimed a short section of its namesake path so it’s time for a bit of bushwhacking. In short order, I’m past the washout, through the brush, and on the trail again. For the remainder of the hike, until you reach the log bridge, the trail is wide and flat as it follows an old roadbed.
The drive to the trailhead doubled from 20 to 40 minutes last year when Undi Road slid down the hill. The well-signed bypass route around the washout goes high up the hill before switchbacking down to the Bogachiel River. The small stretch of road after the bypass has some monster potholes that tested the limits of my off-highway Prius driving.
The Bogachiel Rainforest River Trail is right in our big backyard, if you are not daunted by road and trail washouts, this is a highly enjoyable and lightly trafficked hike.