If you are camping in the Staircase region of Olympic National Park, there is no better spot to get a little perspective on the area than from the 5,952-foot summit of Mount Ellinor. Unlike many of the lower trails available on the North Fork of the Skokomish River, however, this hike will have you earning your views after a short but arduous ascent. From the upper trailhead you'll only have a 1.6-mile hike to the top, but the trail climbs 2,340 feet to reach the summit in such a short distance. Much of the trail consists of switchbacks and stairstep risers, and rough and rocky sections are not uncommon.
The views at the top are worth every ounce of effort, however, so stay focused on the reward. From the trailhead at the end of NF-014 the summer route begins climbing immediately as it follows a ridge right up the south face of Mount Ellinor. You'll begin the trek under the tree canopy, but this will thin out a bit around 4,500 feet when the trail makes its way east off of the ridge to cross beneath a narrow and rocky spine. Keep your eyes open for mountain goats as you pass beneath this rock face, and be aware that snow can linger here into June. You'll continue to climb east of the ridge until approximately 5,100 feet, when the trail turns west to regain the ridge and make the final switchbacks up to the summit.
Once you catch your breath, enjoy one of the best views on the peninsula. Southern and southeastern views include Lake Cushman and Hood Canal and stretch toward Mount Rainier in the distance. Olympic peaks abound to the north, including Mount Washington and Mount Pershing to the northeast and Mount Olympus in the distance to the northwest. Mount Baker can also be seen some 100 miles to the northeast. Take your time and enjoy this summit, if only to give your legs a little rest before the descent. Heading down can be just as challenging as the climb, especially on unstable legs and rock. Fortunately, there are plenty of good excuses to pause and look up from the trail for a bit.