On Lake Quinault’s southern shore just beyond the boundaries of Olympic National Park lies one of the most well-protected old-growth conifer forests in the entire United States. Luckily, the Forest Service has built the Quinault National Recreation Trail System, a network of approximately 10 miles of hiking trails, to explore this incredible wilderness sanctuary.
The trail system has numerous routes, but the roughly 4-mile Cedar Loop is certainly the best introduction to the variety of attractions this landscape has to offer. In addition to Lake Quinault’s shoreline, you'll see giant Sitka spruce and western hemlocks, tumbling crystal-clear creeks, moss and fern adorned ground cover, and an extensive boardwalk system that winds through bogs dotted with skunk cabbage and flanked by massive stands of western red cedars. You’ll also pass 20-foot Cascade Falls and 8-foot Falls Creek Falls.
To get started, consider spending some time with the informative interpretive signs on the 0.5-mile Quinault Rainforest Nature Trail on the system’s western edge, or begin your journey via the shoreline in front of Lake Quinault Lodge. Both make excellent starting points.
If you are looking for additional hiking in the area, take the Gatton Creek Falls Loop. Douglas firs are our planet’s second tallest conifer species after coastal redwoods, and you'll see some huge examples on this loop.