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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Olympic Hot Springs Inaccessible


Olympic Hot Springs Road (Elwha) is closed to all public access above Altair Campground due to the Glines Canyon dam removal.
Sol Duc Road is closed at Highway 101 due to repairs. It is scheduled for reopening in March 2012.

Olympic Hot Springs will be inaccessible from the Elwha Valley.Hikers interested in visiting the Olympic Hot Springs during the three-year dam removal project may reach the springs by hiking 14 miles from the Sol Duc Valley via Appleton Pass.


I had a conversation the other day with someone asking for information about getting to Olympic Hot Springs via Sol Duc.  Since the Glines Canyon Dam removal (at the base of the fully decommissioned Olympic Hot Springs Road) started December 19th of this year, the old road has been gated and all access prohibited.  This means that the only way to access Olympic Hot Springs is via the backdoor route . . . the trail over Appleton Pass . . . a 14 mile hike with 2,500 feet of elevation gain.

To add insult to injury . . . seems the Sol Duc road to the trailhead into that backdoor route (Sol Duc Trail to Appleton Pass Trail), is also closed until March of 2012 for repairs.  This adds another 13 miles to the trip.  Suddenly, a visit to Olympic Hot Springs is a 30 mile trip . . . definitely not a day trip.


Washington State has few opportunities for natural soaking . . .  I'm putting out feelers for updates:

  • Goldmyer Hot Springs - 11 mile level hike from the gate Middle Fork Road near North Bend.  Goldmyer requires advance reservations and a fee of $15 (last time I checked).  Caretakers live on-site.
  • Baker Hot Springs - last I heard they had rebuilt the pool after the landslide a few years ago.  Located on the east side of Mt Baker, these 105F hot springs are usually accessible in winter with 4WD vehicles and a short hike.
  • Ohanapenosh Hot Springs - in the southern end of Mt Ranier National Park . . . off-limits and enforced.  Pretty colorful mineralization though.
  • Lester Hot Springs - off limits, within City of Tacoma watershed.  Patrolled.
  • Wind River Hot Springs - Near the Columbia River, the springs are public but you must cross private property to get to them.  That permission is no longer forthcoming.  Skirting the private property by hiking the steep riverbank ravines is dangerous and poison oak effused outside of winter.
  • Sulfur Creek Hot Springs - Unappetizing, trust me.
  • Gamma Creek Hot Springs - plan on five days to get to this super-hot hot spring on the east side of Glacier Peak.  This hike is not doable in winter . . . in summer, a scavenger hunt to find the sources to rebuild the pool.  Lots of mountain goats, though.
  • and, of course, Scenic Hot Springs . . . still there and why it is so important we protect this wonderful offering from Mother Nature.
For those more adventurous and with time on their hands, our neighbors (Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia) have a plethora of accessible natural hot springs . . . many more than I could mention here.  A few:

  • Bagby Hot Springs - east of Portland, Oregon near Estacada.  Public, usually accessible with snow tire and/or chains.
  • Terwilliger (aka Cougar) Hot Springs - east of Eugene, Oregon . . . usually accessible year round.  $5 fee.
  • Skookumchuck Hot Springs, north of Harrision Lake in British Columbia . . . fee site and also run by the owner of Scenic Hot Springs.

2 comments:

  1. How can I get intouch with the owner of Lester Hot Spring? I would like to ask for permission to visit the spring.
    I have liver damage & gout. It is hard for me to hike to some of the other springs in WA.

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  2. Lester Hot Springs is inaccessible as it sits within the City of Tacoma Watershed which is closed to the general public.

    While Olympic is a long hike, Scenic is reasonably accessible at 1 /12 to 2 miles hike and 1,100 ft of elevation gain. Once snowmelt is complete the hike is doable while taking your time (most people do it in 45mins to an hour. There are only a few steep places where care is needed. Contact us for details.

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