This trail turns very rocky, especially after Boulder Creek Falls area.
Park at the end of the Elwha River Road (also called the Olympic Hot Springs
Road) and follow the remnants of this closed road west for about 2.5 miles on mellow grades. This part of the old closed road becomes the Olympic Hot Springs Trail
and soon arrives at a suspension bridge to cross Crystal Creek. Next pass the former parking lot which is now an alder filled meadow. At this point, you can take a detour across Boulder Creek to visit the stinky hot springs, or continue west on the Appleton Pass Trail.
The Appleton Pass Trail goes past the Boulder Creek campground which was formerly used for car camping. Now it is a hike to a camping spot with pit toilets but no water source. Continue on the trail through a dense forest along the north side of Boulder Creek, past the intersection with the Boulder Lake Trail
. Cross the North Fork of Boulder Creek on a log bridge and listen for the sounds of Upper and Lower Boulder Creek Falls. These cascades have worn deep grooves and are worth the short side trips to visit, especially after a good rain.
Cross the South Fork of Boulder Creek, run up a few short switchbacks and then follow the valley upwards on mellow terrain for a short ways. Next, the incline steepens considerably with switchbacks and big vertical to attain before topping out at Appleton Pass. Luckily there are some intermediate meadows along the way to give a taste of what awaits you at Appleton Pass. The meadows here and around Oyster Lake are spectacular and well worth spending time to explore. Enjoy views of Sol Duc Valley, Mt Olympus and the Schoeffel Creek drainage.
To finish this trail, leave the idyllic pass behind and head west across the wildflower and berry covered mountainside on a fairly gentle descent. Go through pretty meadows under the imposing south ridgeline. Enter the forest and switchback steeply down the flank of Mount Appleton reaching two tiny murky ponds. Continue the steep descent through dense forest and cross Rocky Creek. The Appleton Pass trail ends at the intersection with the Sol Duc River Trail
at the Appleton Junction camp.
Lupine, bistort, elderberry, fir hemlock, cedar. Elk, deer, goats, bear.