With the 4th of July holiday quickly approaching, I decided it was time to set up the season's first backpacking trip. And with the extremely warm weather, I decided to focus my efforts into the Olympic National Park. So after a bit of researching, and back and forth with various options, I ended up choosing the Seven Lakes Basin, aka High Divide Loop.
I submitted my permits about a month in advance and was surprised to win five days and four nights I requested, with a minor change of lakes one night. So with the permits in hand, I had my buddy fly in from Florida and we packed up for the trip.
I have published a video from this adventure on my YouTube channel: Outside+Stuff. I've linked the video here, so have a look. Otherwise, continue scrolling for the blog post.
When you backpack in the Olympics, you will need to stop by the WIC to pick up your tags, and if you don't have one, a very heavy bear can. I have my own bear can, but with the time we would be gone, each person needed their own can. So we picked up two and went on our way.
We arrived at the Sol Duc trailhead around 3pm and steamed our way up to Deer lake. It was a 4 mile trip and about 2,2oo feet in elevation gain. Seeing as how we were loaded out for the duration of the hike, this felt like the hardest hike. But we made it well before sunset, 5pm, and set up camp and got the food going.
I didn't take any photos of this portion of the trip because I have already covered the Deer Lake in my previous post: Sol Duc Falls, Deer Lake. Take a look for details about the falls and what it's like to make the hike up to Deer Lake.
We stuck to the North corner of the lake and found a site well up the hill. There were some closer options, but we wanted enough area to spring two tents. Once situated, and with darkness calling, the files started to make their presence known. They weren't too bad, but bad enough to force us to bundle up a little early and stop them from biting us through our thin shirts.
The next morning was uneventful. We had our breakfast, broke camp, and headed off to our next destination, Lunch Lake in the Seven Lakes Basin.
Making our way up towards the High Divide. You knew it was going to be a hot day when it's only 10am and you are already roasting on the trail.
Almost up on the High Divide, I broke through the trees to get a shot looking back at Deer Lake.
Another 2,000 feet up from Deer Lake, and you reach the entrance to the Seven Lakes basin. It's a beautiful view of Round lake (left) and Lunch Lake (right). However, this view comes with a small price. In order to access the lakes you will need to make the 400' trek down the basin wall. It's not that bad, but it will be fun once it's time to leave.
Here's a close up of Round Lake. We will be spending our third night here. It looks shallow from here, but that's only because of how clear the water is. Also, if you look a little past Round, you will see a glimmer of Sol Duc Lake.
Here's a closeup of Lunch Lake. We ended up making camp to the left of the lake, in that bank of trees closest to the camera.
The view of Lunch Lake from the top of the mound near our camp.
With the camps made, and the sun boiling hot, it was time to head down to the lake.
Not pictured is the naked couple who was swimming when we first showed up. Actually, they were a little further down the shore. It just so happened that they were swimming where the trail overhangs the lake by 40'. They were friendly and I needed some info about spots. So while talking with them we all got a good look at what naked humans look like while swimming in an alpine lake.
The previous couple looked like they were having so much fun, we decided to do a little swimming of our own. However, we kept our clothes on.
Later in the day, we did a little hike up past Lunch in order to take a peek at Clear Lake. It's not too far from Lunch, but none of us was in the mood to go down to the lake's edge. So we sat at the top of the hill and observed from afar.
Some lovely cloud action as the day slowly turned to night, on our second night.
So funny story.
I have a little bit of a dyslexic trait hidden in me. And it decided to rear it's head on the morning of the third day. We couldn't stay at Lunch Lake, as the permit said we had to move. But we only had to move to the next lake over. It was a close lake, so the move would be easy. Some how, I had it in my head that the place we were moving to is Round lake.
So early in the morning we trekked down to Round Lake, scoped it out, and moved our camp. Space was limited, but we made it work.
Turns out, we all LOVED Round Lake. We commented about how we would only ask for Round Lake the next time we come here. Nothing is better than Round Lake. It doesn't get much better than Round Lake.
About 8pm a couple comes down the trail and they tell us how they are permitted for Round Lake, so we make some room and remark about how we are surprised so many people are permitted here, yet there isn't that much space.
It wasn't until we were going to bed and I asked my friend to grab my pack for me. As he picked up the bag, the permit tag swung into view with the words Night 3 - Clear Lake. Ugh. It was too late to make any changes, so we kept it to ourselves, and wondered about how great Clear Lake must have been.
So, back to the morning when we moved down from Lunch Lake to Round Lake.
Here is the view from where we were camping.
Not only did we have a view of the lake, but we also had a view of the hillside across the lake. And if you look closely, you will see a black dot in the center of the shot. This black dot is a lot closer than the camera leads on.
Here is a better close up of a black bear foraging. In fact, we watched three adult black bears working the basin walls better than a professional mountaineer.
I liked to imagine what I would do if one of these bears came running down the wall, jumped into the lake and started swimming directly for our camp. I decided not to chance it and put my hiking shoes back on, just in case a foot race with my flip-flop wearing compatriots needed to break out at any moment's notice.
After going around the back of the camp a few times, we noticed what we were convinced was their bear cave. I think we even told the couple who camped with us about the bears, a lot. Some of us might of even had a bit of trouble sleeping knowing that bears were just on the other side of the lake from us.
No bears in this shot. Just some of the beautiful views we had as the sun began to set.
While we were watching the bears, I made another observation. I was hearing a strange clicking/squeaking sound with a flash of cinnamon every now and then. Turns out, in the top of the snag next to our camp, was a nest of flicker nestlings. There were three of them, and they would poke their heads out and skwak every time their parents flew in with fresh food. We became very fond of these little guys. However, one of them is a total dick and would force the others out of the way. He/she will probably be the only one to survive.
Early morning, the third morning, we all survived and there were no bears in sight.
Round lake was an almost perfect mirror. But I couldn't stay much longer to take photos. We needed to get going as soon as possible, it was going to be a hot day and we wanted to get the heavy elevation gains out of the way early on.
We broke camp and make our way back up to the High Divide around 9am. I decided to take a couple more photos from the scramble at the top of the ridge before we headed on to our next camp.
An early morning look at Lunch before we went on our way.
As you make your way south along the high divide, you get a quick look at the basin. However, at this point, these are all the false lakes that dot the landscape. For a moment we were comparing this to the map and becoming a little confused. It wasn't until we made our way further on we understood what were looking at. As a side note, this season was so dry that a lot of these false lakes have dried up. You can see a few of their last tiny pools in this shot. Supposedly, this season is going to be a bit rough to source water past the main lakes.
One of my few "tourist" shots, here's Florida boy making his way over the divide.
It's about 10 am and we are finally getting a look at the peak of Mount Olympus with Blue Glacier on the peak and White Glacier to the right.
Right before you get to the trail split for Hoh Lake, you will be presented with a boot trail up to Bogachiel Peak. Make sure you take this, it has some excellent views and it will connect back to the loop.
A little bit of a panoramic from Bogachiel Peak. The trail on the right leads off to Hoh lake. We continued on the loop which you can see on the left. And that's the Hoh River way down in the basin.
A close up of Mt Olympus and Blue Glacier.
Middle peak (Blue) and West peak (White).
After you pass Bogachiel peak and look north, you will get another view of the false lakes area of Seven Lakes Basin. It's actually a beautiful spot to enjoy the views of both the basin (north) and Olympus (south).
Just a No Name lake.
Kind of looks like the moon, or almost like a poor man's Enchantments.
This is the same spot as the last shot, just looking south towards Olympus.
Engage Dramatic POV!
As we made our way along the divide, we finally understood the lakes we were looking at. This is Morganroth Lake. There are some trails down there, so I am sure there are some nice camp spots as well. Filing this away for our next visit.
The further you walk, the more Blue Glacier comes into view.
I love how Blue works it's way down the mountain. I reminds me of a turn on a race track.
Almost over the divide, we are about to drop down into Heart Lake.
From the top of the divide, Heart Lake looks tiny.
So we passed right by Heart Lake. It was a bit underwhelming. Plus with the sun really starting to bake, all we could think about was getting under some tree cover, the sooner the better.
Seeing as how this was the fourth day, and also 4th of July, I got the idea that we should blow our last camp, Rocky Creek, and just make it to the car. I was asking my group to go 12 miles, instead of 8. And it wasn't too hard to convince them when I could promise ice cold beer just off the trail head.
Actually, we took an hour break at Rocky Creek. We iced our feet in the creek and heated up some water for Coffee. We talked over the decision, and after a short while, we decided to just pack it in and head to the car.
Normally, I would have stayed out in the wild. But this was a holiday weekend, and I was envisioning a looooong wait for the ferry to get home. So beating the traffic and making it back to Seattle seemed like a better bet.
Post hike beers from the general store at the Sol Duc hot springs.
So the entire trip was 20 miles and roughly 6,300 feet in elevation. We took two days to get to Lunch, but if you get up super early you could comfortably make it to Lunch in one day.
If I could do it again, I would make the push to Lunch in one day. Spend another day there. Then take the divide to Hoh Lake for a night. Then go to Morganroth Lake for a night, and then just pack it out back to the trailhead. I'm not sure which way I would go back, but I would probably choose to go back along the divide instead of heading down to Sol Duc River. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely river, but the views are better along the divide. And the views are what keep me going.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about planning your own trip, feel free to ask, I am happy to answer!