Grand Loop – Olympic National Park (43 mile loop)

Trip Overview: The ~43 mile Grand Loop backpacking trek (aka Deer Park Loop) in Olympic National Park traverses over four mountain passes (Gray Wolf Pass, Lost Pass, Cameron Pass, and Grand Pass) and provides countless alpine views. +/- ~13,000 feet of elevation across the course of this trek with a peak elevation of 6,650 feet. Highlights include subalpine forests, glaciers and glacial-fed alpine lakes, impressive mountain peaks, and alpine meadows filled with wildflowers. This area of Olympic National Park is less crowded than several other areas, but is no less scenic. The majority of the images here are from a trip in mid August and are representative of summer conditions.

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Overall map of the Grand Loop backpacking trek in Olympic National Park. Day 1 (purple), Day 2 (blue), Day 3 (yellow), and Day 4 (red).
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Approximate elevation profile for the Deer Park backpacking loop in Olympic National Park
  • Higher resolution version of the overall map for Grand Loop trek (PDF)
  • Topographic map of Olympic National Park for purchase (amazon link)

Jump to Day 1: Deer Park Trailhead to Falls Camp
Jump to Day 2: Falls Camp to Dose Meadow Camp
Jump to Day 3: Dose Meadow to Grand Lake Camp
Jump to Day 4: Grand Lake to Deer Park Trailhead

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Preparations:

Click here to read more about Permits

Permits:  Wilderness permits are required year round for overnight camping in Olympic National Park. Permit reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance on recreation.gov. When you book your permit, you are required to choose campsites for each night of your trip. Note that for this loop, there is no dispersed camping allowed, so you must stay at the designated campsites listed on your permit. There are quotas in place limiting the number of individuals that can stay at each wilderness camp, so plan to reserve permits in advance for be flexible with your route.

When planning your trip, you can consult this map showing the location of the various wilderness campsites. I have suggested campsites listed in this itinerary, but your ultimate itinerary will depend on permit availability.

Click here to read more about Logistics

Logistics: The 18-mile Deer Park Road, which leads to the Deer Park Trailhead is narrow and steep and the last 9 miles are gravel. Thus, the NPS notes that it is not suitable for RVs or trailers. This road is also closed from late fall until melt out in late spring, so be sure to check the status of the road if backpacking early in the year.

If you wish to camp the night before started your trek, the Deer Park Campground is located near the trailhead. This campground has 14 sites that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are pit toilets but no potable water available, so plan to bring water or filter/sterilize at camp. There is parking available near the campground, so you can leave your car there while on your backpacking trek.

Click here to read more about Difficulty

Trail Conditions and Difficulty: Backpacking along this loop is difficult given the steep trails and abundant elevation gain. Each day climbs over 2,000 feet (with one day over 4,000!), so you should be in good shape if attempting this itinerary. For an enjoyable experience, plan to spend at least 4 days hiking. That said, the trails along this loop are generally well marked and maintained so route finding is not an issue for most.

 

Supplies: There are black bears in Olympic National Park so backpackers are required to either use bear canisters for food storage or to properly hang their food (at least 12 feet high and 10 feet out from the nearest tree trunk). Many backpackers struggle to properly hang food, so bear canisters are preferred by park officials. If you choose to hang your food, an ursack is a good idea because it adds a second layer of protection in case a bear is able to knock your food down.

You likely will want bug spray because the mosquitoes can be out in force in certain areas of this trek (especially shortly after the snow has melted). I prefer a picaridin based spray because it does not damage plastics and synthetic fibers like high concentration DEET sprays do. I also like to pre-treat my clothes and tent with permethrin spray repellent. The permethrin treatment stays on your clothes for up to 7 washes, so it helps reduce the amount of spray you need to put on your skin.

You likely will want trekking poles since they help your knees on the steep climbs and descents and with stabilization while fording creeks.

 Below is a list of the gear recommended for backpacking in Olympic National Park:

Hiking clothes

Clothes for camp

Hiking gear

Camp gear

Random

Food and drink

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Day 1: 10 miles; +2,000 feet / -3,400 feet; Deer Park Trailhead to Falls Camp

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Day 1 map of the Deer Park backpacking loop in Olympic National Park, from the Deer Park Trailhead to Falls Camp (purple)

Map of the Day 1 hike along the Grand Loop (PDF)

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Approximate elevation profile of the day 4 hike on the Deer Park backpacking loop in Olympic National Park

On day 1 you start with a 5 mile long and 3,000 foot descent from the Deer Park Trailhead to the intersection of Cameron Creek and the Gray Wolf River. The trail then follows the Gray Wolf River through a valley as it climbs roughly 2,000 feet in elevation over the next 5 miles. At the point you reach Falls Camp, which makes for a great first campsite. If you have extra energy after setting up camp, you can hike another 1.7 miles (one way) up to Cedar Lake for a nice view.

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View looking south from the Deer Park Campground (credit: J. Cornish)
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After a ~4 mile descent into a forested valley, you reach Gray Wolf Camp, which sits near the (Credit: P. Peterman)
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From that point on, the trail crosses the Gray Wolf River several times as it heads through a forested valley (credit: John Strother)
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Crossing the Gray Wolf River along the Grand Loop in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View from the trail near Camp Ellis at the ~7.5 mile mark (credit: P. Peterman)
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View hiking along the Grand Loop between Gray Wolf Camp and Falls Camp (credit: John Strother)

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Day 2: 11 miles; +3,200 feet / -2,800 feet; Falls Camp to Dose Meadows Camp

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Day 2 map of the Deer Park backpacking loop in Olympic National Park, from Falls Camp to Dose Meadows Camp (light blue)

Map of the Day 2 hike along the Grand Loop (PDF)

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Approximate elevation profile of the day 4 hike on the Deer Park backpacking loop in Olympic National Park

The hike on the second day takes you up over Gray Wolf Pass. In the first ~4 miles the trail climbs over 2,000 feet until you reach the top of the pass at 6,200 feet. Take in the views from the pass and rest your knees for a bit. You then begin a steep descent (into the Dosewallips River Valley) that drops nearly 2,500 feet over the next 3 miles. The trail then traverses through the valley as it follows the Dosewallips River. Along the river you will pass Bear Camp and Dose Meadows Camp, both of which make for nice campsites on your 2nd night.

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Starting off on Day 2, crossing the Gray Wolf River before starting the climb up to Gray Wolf Pass (credit: John Strother)
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Hiking towards Gray Wolf Pass, along the Grand Loop in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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Gray Wolf Pass in the background, along the Grand Loop in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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Colorful moss and flowers near Gray Wolf Pass (credit: John Strother)
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View from atop Gray Wolf Pass, along the Grand Loop in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View from atop Gray Wolf Pass,along the Grand Loop in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View looking down into the Dosewallips River Valley, seen along the Grand Loop in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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Descending down into the Dosewallips River Valley after crossing Gray Wolf Pass (credit: John Strother)
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View of Mount Fromme seen from near the Dose Meadows Camp (Credit: John Strother)

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Day 3:  10.3 miles; +4,200 feet / -3,900 feet; Dose Meadow Camp to Grand Lake Camp

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Day 3 map of the Deer Park backpacking loop in Olympic National Park, from Dose Meadows Camp to Grand Lake Camp (yellow)

Map of the Day 3 hike along the Grand Loop (PDF)

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Approximate elevation profile of the day 3 hike on the Deer Park backpacking loop in Olympic National Park

The Day 3 hike is the most difficult hike of the loop. You must hike over Lost Pass, Cameron Pass, and Grand Pass over the course of 10+ miles. From Dose Meadows, the trail immediately begins to ascend. After climbing ~1,000 feet in the first mile, you reach Lost Pass, which sits at 5,600 feet. The trail then flattens for the next mile as you traverse along the west side of Lost Peak.

At roughly the 2 mile mark, you begin to climb again. After another 1,000 feet of climbing, you reach the top of Cameron Pass. There are some great views here, so it is a nice spot to take a break. You then descend ~2,300 feet over the next ~3 miles as the trail drops down into the Cameron Creek Basin.

At the 6 mile mark, you start the final big climb of the day. You must climb ~2,000 feet over the next 1.5 miles in order to reach the top of Grand Pass. Again, take in the great views and then descend the final ~2.5 miles before reaching campsites at Gladys Lake, Moose Lake, and Grand Lake.

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Heading towards Lost Pass to start the hike on Day 3, seen along the Grand Loop in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View from the top of Lost Pass in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View from near Lost Pass along the Grand Loop in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View along the Grand Loop, between Lost Pass and Cameron Pass (credit: John Strother)
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View along the Grand Loop, between Lost Pass and Cameron Pass (credit: John Strother)
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View along the Grand Loop, between Lost Pass and Cameron Pass (credit: John Strother)
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View from atop Cameron Pass in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View from atop Cameron Pass in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View from atop Cameron Pass in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View from atop Cameron Pass in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View from atop Cameron Pass in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View looking north into the Cameron Creek Valley from atop Cameron Pass in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View as you descend from Cameron Pass down into the valley towards Cameron Creek (credit: John Strother)
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View as you descend from Cameron Pass down into the valley towards Cameron Creek (credit: John Strother)
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View as you descend from Cameron Pass down into the valley towards Cameron Creek (credit: John Strother)
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After reaching the bottom of the Cameron Creek Valley, you again begin to climb, this time up to Grand Pass (credit: John Strother)
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View from near Grand Pass in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View from atop Grand Pass in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View from atop Grand Pass in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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Small deer seen atop Grand Pass in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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Traversing Grand Pass in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View looking down into Grand Valley as the Grand Loop descends from Grand Pass (credit: John Strother)
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Descending down into the Grand Valley in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View looking back towards Grand Pass while descending (credit: John Strother)
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Meadow seen along the Grand Loop (credit: John Strother)
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After the descent from Grand Pass, you soon reach Gladys Lake, Moose Lake, and Grand Lake. There are campsites at all three lakes. This is the view from Moose Lake looking back towards Grand Pass (credit: R. Funnell)

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Day 4: 11.4 miles; +3,200 feet / -2,500 feet; Grand Lake Camp to Deer Park Trailhead

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Day 4 map of the Deer Park backpacking loop in Olympic National Park, from Grand Lake Camp to the Deer Park Trailhead (red)

Map of the Day 4 hike along the Grand Loop (PDF)

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Approximate elevation profile of the day 4 hike on the Deer Park backpacking loop in Olympic National Park

On the last day you again start out climbing… It is a ~1,500 foot climb over the first 2 miles in order to reach the top of the Hurricane Ridge. From there, the trail follows along the top of Hurricane Ridge for ~5 miles. Along the way you get nice views at Obstruction Point and you pass by Elk Mountain and Maiden Peak. From Maiden Peak it is then just another 4 miles, mostly downhill, back to the Deer Park campground.

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Day 4 starts with a steep climb out of the Grand Valley. You are treated to nice views along the way (credit: John Strother)
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View from along the Grand Loop in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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Climbing up the trail towards Obstruction Point, in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View looking towards Badger Valley from near Obstruction Peak (credit: John Strother)
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View from along the Hurricane Ridge between Obstruction Peak and Maiden Peak (credit: John Strother)
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View from along the Hurricane Ridge between Obstruction Peak and Maiden Peak (credit: John Strother)
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View from along the Hurricane Ridge between Obstruction Peak and Maiden Peak (credit: John Strother)
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View from along the Hurricane Ridge between Obstruction Peak and Maiden Peak (credit: John Strother)
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View from along the Hurricane Ridge between Obstruction Peak and Maiden Peak (credit: John Strother)
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View of Grand Valley seen from Hurricane Ridge (credit: John Strother)
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View from Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park (credit: John Strother)
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View of Sequim, Dungeness Spit, the Strait of Juan De Fuca to the north (credit: John Strother)
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View of Sequim, Dungeness Spit, the Strait of Juan De Fuca (credit: John Strother)
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The final stretch before getting back to the Deer Park Campground to finish the Grand Loop in Olympic National Park (Credit: John Strother)

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Here are some similar trip reports!

North Circle Loop – Glacier National Park (52 mile loop)

Yosemite Highlights Loop – Yosemite National Park (40 mile loop)

Teton Crest Trail – Grand Teton National Park (48 mile loop)

Mineral King Loop – Sequoia National Park (45 mile loop)

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