The “goal” for this one-day, human-powered adventure was to get as far into the Olympic Mountains as possible, yet still be home in time to tuck in my daughter. Thanks to my MTB and good trail conditions, I made it approx 30 miles round-trip (14 on bike, 16 on foot) before turning around just a few miles shy of Anderson Pass. It was one of those amazing days when I just wanted to keep going and going… This was my first time up the Dosewallips River drainage, but definitely won’t be my last.
TLDR trail conditions: Except for the last mile, which had patchy snow, the entire route is snow-free with less than 10 blowdowns. No flotation or traction needed. I rode my mountain bike but you could get away with a gravel bike. PSA: Although no one bothered my car, there was a fair amount of broken glass in the parking area. 😦
I started at the Dosewallips River Rd trailhead on my mountain bike. This “road” has been closed to cars for years due to a couple large washouts, and has been taken over by hikers and bikers. AWESOME. I was expecting typical kinda boring forest service road, but the route closely follows the rollicking Dosewallips river for quite some time and then climbs a steep narrow canyon to an unexpected thundering waterfall. Expectations exceeded.
The first few miles of the closed road-trail mostly look like this. Minimal elevation gain and well-packed gravel. There is one large washout at approx mile 2, where the trail briefly becomes more technical single-track as it takes you around the washout. You could easily hike-a-bike the washout if you aren’t comfortable riding it.
Old road sign along the steeper part of the ride.
After climbing up through a narrow rocky canyon, you turn a corner and are treated to views of this big ol waterfall! Surprise!
Typical road conditions for the last few miles of the ride. A gravel bike could make it, but I was glad for my MTB and front-suspension.
After approx 7 miles of riding, I reached the abandonded Dosewallips Ranger Station and Campground at the end of the closed road. Here is where I stashed my bike, locking it to one of the bear-proof storage bins with my smelly items (food, chapstick, bike shoes) safely inside the bin.
Bike and gear storage at the abandoned Dosewallips Campground
I took off up the trail on foot (no bikes allowed on trails in the National Park), and in a few miles I encountered a junction. Right to Hayden Pass, left to Anderson Pass. I went left, up the West Fork Dosewallips trail. The trail was in fantastic condition, with very few blowdowns (maybe 5 total on the West Fork?) and no snow until the last mile. For the last mile, which was at approx 2900 ft elev, there were somewhat frequent patches of snow across the trail, but nothing that required traction or flotation.
I made it about 6 miles past this junction – only a few more miles (and many more feet of elev gain! 🙂 )and I would’ve reached Anderson Pass!
Looking down at the West Fork Dose from a high bridge along the trail
It was one of those days where it was hard to turn back. I went through Big Timber campground and decided to continue on to Diamond Meadows… Then I reached Diamond Meadows, and decided to go just a bit further. My map showed a ford of the West Fork Dose up ahead. I figured that would make a great turnaround spot. When I got to the “ford” it had a signed foot log! At this point I was just a few miles from Anderson Pass and it was very tempting to just keep going… but I didn’t want to miss bedtime with my kiddo. So I checked to make sure the foot log was still in good repair (it is) and headed back the way I came.
This is about as deep as the snow got, right before the foot log. And this was just a patch, not consistent coverage.
My turnaround point. The foot log survived the winter and is in good shape.
The run back down to my bike went quickly, even with frequent stops for pictures, including a photo of a neat tree (see below) that looked like it had recently been scratched by a bear. Note the shredded bark approx 6 ft off the ground, and the little patch of trampled dirt at the base of the tree where I imagine he stood as he scratched at the tree. This is just a guess of course, but it was fun to think about!
Lots of this…
I returned to find my bike still locked safely to the bear bin (probably would’ve been just fine without a lock at all…). I unlocked it and started flying down the gravel road. Wheeeeeeeeeee! I stopped briefly to chat with a hiker and their dog – one of the only other humans I saw that day. They mentioned they’d seen a bear about a mile further down and off the trail to the left, minding his own business and munching on greens. I slowed my descent and kept glancing to my left, hoping not to miss him. After a couple miles, I spotted him, ambling right down the middle of the trail! He hadn’t yet noticed me so I quietly dismounted my bike and tried to get a good pic… at which point he saw me and ran off up a brushy slope. I could see him up on the hillside, so I made one more attempt at a photo, but my camera kept focusing on the vegetation instead of the bear. I decided to leave well enough alone and continued on my way. Here is my best-but-still-not-good pic of the bear. 🙂
Might be time for a camera with manual focus.
I was back at my car by a little after 6 pm, on the 7:40 ferry, and home in time to give my kiddo a hug and kiss before she drifted off to dreamland. Perfect day!