This reasonably short and mellow loop is a favorite, and with good reason. The evenly spaced points of interest keep kids and adults thoroughly entertained.
This trail can become muddy, but it has a longer season than many trails in the area.
This loop is described in the counter-clockwise direction, but can be done in either direction. The full loop is 6 miles round-trip, but there are several ways to make it shorter by using the Kraus Bottom Trail
or the Humes Ranch Meadow Connector
to cut off parts of the loop.
Start this loop from the Whiskey Bend Trailhead on the Elwha River Trail
. Take the Elwha River Trail
across the hillside through dense forest. After almost 1 mile of running, consider taking the short Elk Overlook
trail to the west for a chance to spot elk and bear in the valley clearing. Back on the Elwha River Trail
you soon come to a junction with the Rica Canyon Trail
. Turn off on the Rica Canyon Trail
and begin a steep descent on this narrow, sometimes overgrown, path to the river. You'll pass through an area burned in a fire and should start to hear the rushing waters of the Elwah River.
The Rica Canyon Trail
ends at the start of the misnamed Geyser Valley Trail
but, before taking it, venture out the short Goblin's Gate Trail
to see this narrow rock gorge that constricts the churning Elwah River. Back on the Geyser Valley Trail
, head over level ground, following the lush riverside path upstream. Multiple enticing campsites are scattered along the length of the trail.
Pass the junction with Kraus Bottom Trail
and continue towards Humes Ranch, set atop a grassy field. Folks lived in this recently restored homestead cabin until 1934. Interpretive signs here explain the historical significance and point out the fruit trees that still live nearby. Leave the wildflowers and meadows behind and continue to the end of the Geyser Valley Trail
on a short uphill pitch through the woods to the junction with Humes Ranch / Long Ridge Trail
. (From here, many people enjoy taking a side trip on the Humes Ranch / Long Ridge Trail
upstream to the "Grand Canyon" of the Elwah to see the suspension bridge.)
To complete the official loop, take the Humes Ranch / Long Ridge Trail
west (downstream), uphill across a forested hillside. Before long, you come across the recently restored Michael's Cabin. The story goes that Michael's Cabin was owned by "Cougar Mike" who kept the local mountain lion population under control. Continue on the Humes Ranch / Long Ridge Trail
past the Humes Ranch Meadow Connector
until the trail reaches the Elwha River Trail
. Join the Elwha River Trail
, heading northeast over level ground, passing first the Kraus Bottom Trail
and then uphill to the Rica Canyon Trail
. Stay on the Elwha River Trail
as it descends gradually at the Elk Overlook
spur until it ends back at the Whiskey Bend Trailhead.
Bear, elk, deer, grouse and osprey. Lilies, blue-eyed Mary, paintbrush, honeysuckle, monkey-flowers, spring beauty, trillium, violets, and sedum. Fir, cottonwood, and maple trees.