The first 9.2 miles of this trail are great for running, albeit a little moist from constant rain. The final portion (ascending/descending First Divide) is treacherously steep - be careful.
From across the Staircase Campground, the North Fork Skokomish River Trail follows the Skokomish River's east wall as it winds north. You'll quickly note that the river is flowing the opposite direction towards Hood Canal, an arm of Puget Sound.
Follow the river along the bottom of the valley as you pass Staircase Rapids, multiple streams, and skirt the southern slopes of Mt. Lincoln (5,772'). Eventually you'll pass Flapjack Lake Trail
on your right and work your way closer to the namesake river itself. Be mindful along this section, there are multiple streams to cross.
Pass Black and White Lakes Primitive Trail
, then cross the river itself. The trail intersects with Six Ridge Trail
directly after this. Continue along the river's western wall for a few more miles until you finally diverge from the river. From here, the running gets very difficult - if you were looking for a mellow journey, turn around.
North Fork Skokomish River Trail now heads up the saddle between Mount Duckabush (5,759') and Mount Steel (6,133') to the west, and Mount Hopper (6,099') to the east. Generally runners will end their journey at the famed First Divide, but the trail continues north, all the way to the Duckabush River Trail. Along the way to First Divide you'll pass the Nine Stream and Two Bear campgrounds. Be sure not to miss the panoramic views from the top!
Enormous trunks reach for the sky, lacy limbs stretch to the sun, grooved bark is sanctuary to tiny creatures in the vast cathedral of Douglas firs that dominate the forests on this side of the Olympic Peninsula. A tree that grows best on bare mineral soil with loads of sunlight, the Douglas fir's survival depends on that most fearsome but respected of forces - fire.
The eastern Olympics experience large-scale natural fires every 300-400 years. Thick bark protects mature trees, so they can survive to produce seeds that repopulate burned areas. Flames burn away organic forest floor debris, giving Douglas fir seeds access to the soil they need. Fire also kills understory plants that may intercept the young sapling's sunlight. Along with death for some forest plants, fire brings life for the system as a whole. In a national park, preserving natural processes like fire is an important goal.