Nestled and tucked away in the Olympic National Forest is a semi-hidden gem of a hot spring which just re-opened – which I am prepared to tell you everything about so you can be inspired to get there yourself.
Having been craving a dip in some natural and sulfuric hot water as of late, I happened to come across this picture of a pixie I know named Dawn soaking away in what seemed to be quite the pristine location to do so. I checked in with Dawn to see just where this magical picture was taken, and it turned out to be the freshly re-opened Olympic Hot Springs just outside of Port Angeles. I checked in with the Jess about when we could head out and she simply said, ‘As soon as possible.’ Fantastic, I thought, the sweet smell of sulfur on skin would be nigh!
Port Angeles is a quiet old port town with US Highway 101 running through it on the North tip of the Washington Peninsula. There are a few routes to take from Seattle depending on which part of city you’re in, one of them including a ferry ride from Kingston, the other including the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Here’s where Port Angeles is in comparison to Seattle:
All in all it’s about a 2-3.5 hour drive depending on if you take the ferry or not. I personally recommend staying in Port Angeles for the night, as it does require a hike to get out to the Springs. It’s only about a 25 minute drive from downtown Port Angeles to the trailhead, so getting a little room and going out for some drinks the night before worked out perfect for Jess and I. We stayed at the Port Angeles Inn ($60/night, Queen size bed, full bathroom) and ended up hopping around town to a few spots before hitting the hay for the hike the next morning.
For a quick bite and a brew we hit up the Next Door Gastropub. This spot is exactly that, a small little gastropub with $8-$15 plates, and a decent selection of NW brews on 10 or so taps. You won’t find anything rare from the beer world here, but nevertheless you’ll find something tasty. I snagged the Fig-N-Brie Panini and was extremely impressed. Definitely worth the stop in. From there we continued our usual beer hunting habits and walked over to The Lazy Moon Craft Tavern. Here they’ve got something like 18 taps, and this is where you’re going to find something rare. If my memory serves me correctly we found a bourbon barrel-aged stout, and some tasty IPA of sorts. There’s a pool table, and a bunch of elder locals sipping brews by themselves. Kind of an odd ambience to the place, but you got to remember you’re in a fishing port town. Highly recommend stopping through the Lazy Moon if you’re in the area. We got a good night’s rest and stopped in at Cafe New Day for some espresso and a snack (also recommended if you’re in the area), and set off for the trailhead.
As mentioned before it takes about 25-30 minutes to get from downtown Port Angeles to the parking area for the trailhead. Head West on the 101 outta town and you’ll simply take a left onto Olympic Hot Springs Rd. It’s very clearly marked from the 101. From there just follow the signs for the hot springs and you’ll end up at the trailhead parking lot. It’s a beautiful drive, and the dam has recently been destroyed and taken down, which apparently has made this drive even more pristine! Here’s a closer look at PA vs. the trailhead:
Once at the trailhead you’ve got a 2.5 mile beautiful hike ahead of you. We were greeted right off the bat by these incredible rays of light from the heavens above:
Some of the scenery along the way:
This is one of the three bridges you’ll cross to get up to the hot springs. Looks to be semi under repair currently.
View from the bridge pictured above.
You’ll start wondering when it is you’ll reach the end of the 2.5 miles, and then you’ll come to a beautiful little clearing with an old school styled outhouse in the middle. It’ll look like this:
Head off to the right as the signs will tell you, you’ll cross another rustic wooden bridge, and you’ll start smelling the lovely smell of sulfur you’re about to dip yourself in. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, you’re basically at the Hot Springs. You will see small pools to the left and right of the path. Two of these pools are decent to take a tiny dip in, but the most sacred pool you must keep walking for.
Some of the scenery along the path:
Beautiful reflection on a sulfur pool.
Sulfur water running over sticks and stones creating an epic array of colors.
Scene from one of the better of the pools along the path.
Now you must pay attention if you want to find the best pool located at these springs: go all the way past all of the pools you can see from the trail. At that point, the trail gets skinny, overgrown, and heads into woods off to the right a bit. Go another 20 yards or so and look for a small trail that goes to the right and very uphill. It’s a bit confusing, but there is definitely a small trail. One minute up that trail is the last and best pool. Here’s some shots and a video from around and actually sitting inside the top pool:
This is taken sitting down inside the pool.
This is a panorama shot from above the main pool where the hot water is actually coming out of the ground. On the left you have a changing area and a spot to put your items. The large log acts brilliantly as a backrest. Sometimes there are carpets in the bottom of the pool to keep the silt down, but they had been removed by someone for cleaning this trip.
Here’s a video of the scene:
We were fortunate enough to make it on a weekday, which I would highly recommend if you can, as there will be much less humans out there in general. I think we spotted something like five or six people on the way out to the springs, and once we arrived at the top pool we were greeted by one older local gentleman who warmly welcomed us. We chatted away fantastic hot spring conversation with Jack until he took off, leaving the pool to just us!!
Overall this is definitely one of my new favorite hot spring experiences. The hike is just enough to keep the away the miscreant crowd, it’s totally rustic and not built up, you can still be naked and not have to worry about it, and of course, the hot spring itself is magic. Jess and I highly recommend making the trek out there, and if you do, please let us know, we’ll totally tag along! Enjoy!