Royal Basin features the highest concentration of 7,000' peaks in the Olympics, and many of them are skiable. The basin lies tucked in the rain shadow of the Olympic Range, an alpine bowl that produces some of the best spring corn in the Pacific Northwest. Getting there is a relatively short drive from Seattle, and much of the time is spent crossing the Puget Sound on the Bainbridge Island ferry. The 6-mile approach follows the banks of Royal Creek through an old-growth fir and hemlock stand before rising quickly into the sub-alpine zone. Dozens of avalanche paths guard the basin throughout the winter and into the spring, so be sure to check the avalanche forecast and come equipped. Royal Lake makes for a great base camp. Running water by mid-late May is a sure bet, and when the lake thaws, the fishing can't be beat.
Skiing in Royal Basin is easily accessed in late spring when the snow line has receded to 5,000 feet, usually by late April-early June, allowing skiers to boot-pack the trail up to Royal Basin. Winter trips into Royal Basin are possible and require expert route finding and technical backcountry travel skills.
Reservations and permits are required May 1 through September 30 for Royal Lake and Royal Basin. They can obtained through the Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles in person or by calling the WIC (360-565-3100).
Bear canisters are required for all backcountry users in Olympic National Park.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.