A spring hike to Royal Basin is the perfect hike for those with a sense of adventure who want a good workout. This trail leads to a spectacular subalpine lake ringed by jagged snow-capped peaks, panoramic vistas, wildlife, old-growth forest, and rushing rivers. Not to mention vibrant colors in the fall and wildflowers in the summer.
The hike starts out alongside the Upper Dungeness River and then turns up into a canyon toward Royal Basin before entering Olympic National Park. The trail gradually ascends up the canyon and through what may best be described as a fairy forest. Dappled sunlight illuminates the moss-covered ground and monolithic boulders along this ancient and magical forest path that, for a moment, may make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a fairy tale.
The moderately strenuous trek climbs steadily up a well-maintained trail for the first six miles. There are a few sets of switchbacks, and the creek crosses the trail a few times. You’ll get your hiking boots a bit wet and muddy, but none of the crossings are difficult. Deer, marmots, and mountain goats, along with a variety of birds, are some of the creatures you may see on your journey.
A trail around the lake provides many opportunities for photography, a picnic, or that perfect fishing spot.
For those who have chosen to make this an overnight adventure, you can find limited camping as well as composting toilets available at Royal Creek, Lower Royal Meadow, and Royal Lake. It is well worth the extra 1.6 miles to venture on to Royal Basin.
Adventure awaits those willing to make the trek to the upper reaches of the Dungeness River in Olympic National Park.
GOOD TO KNOW
Map | Green Trails #136 Tyler Peak or Custom Correct Buckhorn Wilderness
Mileage | To Royal Lake: 14.4 miles round-trip;16 miles round-trip to Royal Basin
Elevation gain | 2,550 feet
Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass required.
A Wilderness Camping Permit is required for all overnight stays in the back country. Permits for Royal Basin must be obtained through the Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in person or by calling (360) 565-3100.