In 2018, outdoor recreation is more popular than ever, which has led to innumerable subjective rankings of locations, and of the fifty-nine National Park units. While various social media users and webpages debate whether Yellowstone or Yosemite are the best parks, under the surface, many park units escape the public consciousness. Quietly, however, some of the online and in person discussion has turned to 2017’s eighth most visited National Park, Olympic, and its surrounding wild areas. This is a change in that for many years, Washington’s most popular park was Mount Rainier, and many outdoor purists both in and out of Washington sought to keep the trails of the Olympic peninsula secret. But, with greater information available on the internet, popular media, and word of mouth, many visitors are now seeking out Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest to enjoy some of the jewels of the Pacific Northwest and national public land system as a whole.
While Mount Ellinor is not the highest mountain on the Olympic Peninsula (Mount Olympus is, at 7,979 feet), nor the site with the most accessible high alpine views (Hurricane Ridge, in Olympic National Park is), it is one of the most popular hikes in the region, along with Sol Duc Falls and the Hall of Mosses. As well, on a clear day, Mount Ellinor has some of the best views of Olympic National Park and the peninsula as a whole from its 5,954 foot summit. Mount Ellinor also is one of the best places to see mountain goats in the entirety of Washington. While all of these items are positive - great views - ability to view wildlife - what is bad about the Mount Ellinor hike is the vertical gain. While there are many ways to climb Mount Ellinor - Upper Trail; Lower Trail; Winter route - all of these ascents feature a fair amount of vertical gain in a short distance. But for those willing to accept the pain, they will find that despite its popularity, Mount Ellinor’s summit is worth the potential suffering.
Olympic National Park is one of the National Park system’s crown jewels, and to many people, may be the brightest jewel in the crown. Because of its beauty, in the last ten to fifteen years, the park has seen increased traffic and visitation in many areas. Even though Olympic has gradually become more popular, like the National Park system as a whole, it still has large areas of wilderness in which adventurous travelers can experience silence and solitude. One of these areas is the Staircase region of the park, which is located in the southeast corner of Olympic National Park. The Staircase region was named by Lt. Joseph P. O’Neil during his 1890 expedition to explore the southern Olympic Mountains because of the enormous cedar staircase that he and his men constructed up and over a rock bluff, which was ultimately known as the “Devil’s Staircase”. While the enormous cedar staircase is now gone, what remains is the serene silence of old growth Douglas fir forests. One of the best and most accessible ways to experience the Staircase region is along the Shady Lane trail.