Adventure Elwha River Hikes for Each Season of the Year

Head and shoulder shot of bear grazing on Elwha River vegetation with a mossy bank and tree framing the shot

Hike the Elwha River with us for a year-round adventure!

Imagine hiking on a culturally and historically significant river with a knowledgeable guide who was once a member of the Elwha River Wildlife Research Team.  Adventure Elwha River hikes can be modified from easy to challenging by adjusting length and elevation gain.  Unlike the Elwha Dam Removal Tour, your adventure Elwha River hike will focus more on hiking and less on visiting multiple sites related to dam removal.  However, we can certainly discuss Elwha Dam removal and the resulting restoration while hiking.  The entire ecosystem is in process of transforming thanks to the input of salmon and movement of sediment and woody debris. 

An 8-point bull Roosevelt Elk grazes in a meadow on private property near the Elwha River watershed

Check out local rate information on Olympic National Park guided ecotours or explore other Elwha River hiking and dam removal tours

April - May Elwha River hikes

Elwha River hikes in the spring (April and May) is a great time for wildflowers, migrating birds, and wildlife (especially Roosevelt Elk and maybe Black Bears too).  You do not need to worry about Grizzly Bears on our Elwha River hikes because they are not found on the Olympic Peninsula.  As days lengthen and it starts to warm up, banana slugs, amphibians, snails, and insects start to emerge.  Migrating birds like Orange-crowned Warblers populate leafing-out deciduous trees, and flowers like the diminutive Calypso Orchids bloom next to the trail.

A boy pauses for a photo of him placing a very large yellow salmonberry in his mouth

Two Elwha River hikers look through a spotting scope and binoculars at a Bald Eagle perched across the Elwha River

June - August Elwha River hikes

A hiking adventure during the summer (June to August), is an excellent choice for berry foraging and amphibians when venturing on Elwha River hikes.  There are so many excellent berries for the choosing:  Salmonberries, Thimbleberries, Salal Berries, Blackberries (both native and introduced), Strawberries, Black Raspberries, and Huckleberries.  This is not something you should venture to “try” on your own so having an ecologist along is a great introduction to Pacific Northwest edible berries.  Additionally, June and July are great months for viewing amphibian life cycles in small ponds created by the Elwha River

Two smiling hikers crossing a large Elwha River tributary on a narrow bridge with a railing on only one-side of the bridge

A clump of chanterelle mushrooms grows on the forest floor, two have been cut exposing the gills

September - October Elwha River hikes

If you plan your hiking adventure on the Elwha River in the fall (September and October), you are in for treat.  During September, we can watch Pacific Salmon exploring parts of the Elwha River for the first time in 100 years.  Learn to view and find a redd and watch an adult salmon defend it!  While we are sitting still and watching the salmon, it is not uncommon to see other wildlife, such as an American Dipper.  October is prime time for colorful and diverse mushrooms and although caution should be observed, chanterelles can be collected under the knowledgeable watch of your naturalist guide.

Madison Falls waterfall is flowing heavily in March due to rain and melting snow in the high country

A long-stretch of Elwha River as seen through sun and low lying clouds as well as fall color

November - March Elwha River hikes

An Elwha River hike in the winter (roughly November to March) should lead to a true wilderness experience.  It is unlikely that you will encounter anyone except locals if you venture out at this time of year.  The forest is alive with moisture and active moss and lichen coat all surfaces like a luxurious carpet.  This is also a great time to observe Roosevelt Elk because they do not hibernate (like bears) and mill around in the lowlands without threat of predators to keep them on the move.