Elwha Backpack

Lillian Camp

MAY 26 - 28, 2007 - A solo backpack on the Elwha trail.  The weather gods were with me this weekend, and I enjoyed warm, sunny days and bright blue skies almost the entire weekend.  After leaving the trailhead at Whiskey Bend, I took the side trail to the Eagles Nest overlook, from which you can glimpse the Elwha River far below.  The Rica Canyon trail leaves the Elwha trail shortly after the overlook cutoff.  This 1/2 mile trail drops steeply down to beautiful Rica Canyon and the Goblins Gate.  The wildflowers were in bloom in Rica Canyon, and Goblin's Gate is almost magical. Here the mighty Elwha is ice blue as it turns sharply and disappears out of sight between steep cliffs.   Can you see the Goblin that gives the area its name carved in the cliff?  From Goblins Gate I hiked along the river towards Humes Ranch, then took the crossover trail from Krause Bottom back up to the Elwha trail just short of Michael's Ranch. The trail leaves the Elwha River at this point as it climbs up to avoid the rugged stretch of the river known as the Grand Canyon and skirts the flanks of Lost Cabin Mountain before descending  to the Lillian River in 2.8 miles.  High above and out of sight of the trail is Hurricane Ridge, where on a clear day you can look down upon the Elwha Valley.   

I camped at Lillian Camp on Saturday & Sunday and shared a campsite the first night with Todd and Tina, two doctors from Detroit, Michigan. They were taking the grand tour of the Olympic Peninsula while they consider moving to Washington State, and the wilderness was definitely making a favorable impression on them.   On Sunday morning I did a day hike from Lillian Camp to just beyond Mary's Falls Camp. After leaving Lillian Camp, the Elwha trail climbs away from the Lillian River and rejoins the Elwha River.  I saw elk in the woods, bear scat on the trail, and cougar tracks in the sand at the river's edge about 1/4 mile beyond Mary's Falls camp.  I did not, however, see Mary's Falls, thinking that the pretty but unimpressive cascade at the start of the camp was was it.  After returning to my campsite, I read the guide book again and realized that the falls were across the River from the camp, on Long Ridge. 

The only blight on the weekend happened when my food bag went missing from the bear wire on Sunday evening, and I had to hike out without eating first.  There was no sign of animal foul play; the missing bag was nowhere to be seen, and the wire was unhooked from the stationary loop and left hanging.

(Approximate) Weekend totals:

19.3 miles

1900' elevation gain

Getting Started


Rica Canyon


Goblin's Gate


Krause Bottom


Lillian Camp


Day Hike to Mary's Falls Camp


Hiking Out



Michael's Cabin

One of the many Geyser Valley homesteads, this cabin was once the residence of E.O. Michaels, more commonly known as "Cougar Mike."  He was an acclaimed sharpshooter and the nemesis of the local cougar population.  The trail to Humes Ranch starts here and drops down to the banks of the Elwha River, while the Elwha trail continues up, reaching Lillian Camp in 2.8 miles and continuing another 25 miles or so to the Elwha Basin and the source of the Elwha River.