The Humes Ranch Trail is a easy to moderate six mile hike that is part of the Elwha River and Geyser Valley trail system on the north side of the Olympic National park. Just south of Port Angeles and within the scope of an easy day-hike, the Humes Ranch is a popular hike for those on the Washington Olympic peninsula.
In fact, the park feels so close to town because a narrow tendril of the Olympic National park property skirts the main road from the park’s otherwise lateral boundary in order to reach out and touch the heart of Port Angeles.
The Humes Ranch trail loop is partially made up of other trails and is named for an early homestead that has been restored deep in the national park’s forest. Hiking the trail is commonly rated as easy enough for a stroll, long enough for a workout, and scenic enough to make you want to stay a while longer.
The hike has become an extended walk due to some changes in the surrounding environment and landscape, but the Humes Ranch portion of the loop has been revered as a cherished and popular trail even though it has become a little more distant due to the changes. This may be a case of the difficulty in reaching the destination becoming a part of the rewarding nature of hiking in the first place.
Humes Ranch Loop is well marked but still a primitive and remote trail. It is not one of the approved trails where you can hike with your four legged companion and there are no trailside facilities, so prepare for the long walk before you embark.
To see a further breakdown of the Humes Ranch Loop Trail, please visit the official page for the Washington Trails Association. Link to the relevant page on wta.org for the hike.
HISTORY OF THE Humes Ranch Trail
Humes Ranch Loop Trail is a piece of a larger trail system in the northern part of the Olympic National Park. The ranch cabin that the trail is named for was William Humes who settled in the area around the year 1900.
The Humes family was headed to Yukon as the Klondike Gold Rush was in full swing but fell in love with the beauty of the Olympic peninsula and made it their home just as the famed gold rush was coming to an end. The homestead became a landmark in the sparsely populated area and after the property changed hands, the quiet location was used for nature films and birdwatching.
The property surrounding Humes Ranch is vast and wild but the actual ranch property is less than a single acre. On that acre just alongside the wooden house is an apple tree that was planted by William Humes and still blossoms to this day. When the National Park system took over the location, Humes Ranch Cabin was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1977 and has been minimally maintained through the years. Minor repairs have abated serious damage, but the nature of the area means the cabin is in direct assault from the harsh elements year round and some of the cabin has seen severe deterioration through the years.
The Humes Ranch cabin sits up on the north side of the small valley where the Elwha River passes by just northwest of the Antelope and Idaho Creek trickle out. There is a clearing and field to either side of the cabin itself but the forest stretches out far and wide in every other direction.
GETTING TO THE Humes Ranch Trail
In order to get the Humes Ranch trail, the route you’ll be hiking was extended by a few miles now that the road to the trailhead has been closed. The 2012-2014 removal of the Glines Canyon and Elwha Dams has meant a wonderful restoration of the Elwha River, but as nature struggles to reclaim what is hers, the Olympic Hot Springs Road has suffered multiple washouts.
After several restorations, the National Park Service has closed the road at the Madison Falls parking area and that’s as far as you can currently travel by vehicle. The complete re-routing of the road up and out of the flood plain is tentatively scheduled to begin later this year but could last all the way through late 2023.
All this means that you’re hiking out to Humes Ranch from the Madison Falls area instead of the traditional loop trailhead at the end of Whiskey Bend Road. This adds nearly six and a half miles to the trek but rather than see that as an excuse to skip the Humes Ranch trail, embrace it as a part of the journey.
You can bicycle from Madison Falls to the Whiskey Bend Trailhead and then hike Humes Ranch as you would normally, or if you’re not a bicycle enthusiast, consider backpacking the entire length as an over night hike. In addition to the beauty of Humes Ranch, you’ll be able to see some of the park’s features you’d ordinarily drive past without noticing. Cascade Rock and the remains of the Glines Canyon Dam Overlook are worth your attention along the way.
PARK FACILITIES AND REGULATIONS
There are no public facilities beyond Madison Falls parking area where there is a park toilet. The Elwha Ranger Station Forestry Office is closed and offers no public facilities, and due to the washout road conditions, the toilet at the Whiskey Bend parking area is also closed. Once you walk into the park from Madison Falls, you are on your own. Pack what you need, bring it both in and out with you as there are no trash receptacles either.
Camping is primitive with no running water and no electricity, but there are several designated spots set aside for those hiking in on an overnight excursion. Goblin’s Gate, Geyser Valley Trail, Kraus Bottom Trail, and Humes Ranch all offer campsites with beautiful scenery but no facilities. It is highly suggested that you study the National Park Service guide to camping “off the grid” for the latest in the rules, regulations, and current restrictions. Reserving your permit for wilderness camping is available online and can be obtained up to six months in advance of your trip.
There is no dedicated swimming area along the route but you can always dip your toe (or more!) into the cool Elwha River just off the path. Once you make it past the old Glines Canyon Dam Overlook, you can walk out on the flood plain and stand in the sediment covered area where the waters of Lake Mills was once held back. Once you cross over Hurricane and Wolf Creeks, the river resumes its narrow shape that once fed the now dismantled reservoir and the Humes Ranch Loop trailhead is finally within reach.
NAVIGATING THE TRAIL
However you get to the Whiskey Bend trailhead, that is where the Humes Ranch Loop begins. Because of the extended hike from the washed out road you may be traveling on an extended hike, or perhaps even backpacking for a wilderness camp, but assuming you made it all the way down the paved roads, we’ll take a look at the traditional “old” trail that will be restored once the new road is engineered and built.
Wolf Creek Trail heads north out of the same parking lot, but to get to Humes Ranch you’re looking southeast for Elwha River Trail. It’s an easy trail with old growth forest on either side. At just under a mile in, you’ll see a small spur loop off to your right called “Elk Overlook Trail”. It’s a tiny 2/10th of a mile loop that exits back onto the main trail but gives you one heck of a scenic outlook at “Eagle’s Nest” point and you should most certainly take advantage of this small loop on the way in or on the way back out.
Another short distance in you’ll come across the split to Rica Canyon Trail. Take this as you descend 400 feet to the first campsite available and the small walk up to “Goblin’s Gate” where you’ll see the power of the Elwha River smashing down a twenty foot gorge and doing a fine job of impressing every hiker who witnesses it!
Continue south and then east along Geyser Valley Trail where you’ll pass by another suitable campsite and then on to Kraus Bottom Trail split. The south turn will bring you down to the river and a fine camp site, the north turn will bring you up and across the small stretch that divides the Humes Ranch loop so you can turn back here if you need.
Instead, continue on another half mile to the and you’ll get to the homestead building itself as well as the split off for another “turn back” point as the Humes Ranch Loop Trail shortcut will also bring you across to the main loop. South of the cabin are some more campsites and just as you approach Idaho Creek the trail will turn north and begin its loopback.
At the 3.3 mile mark you’ll be at the furthest point where the Long Ridge Trail splits off but you’ll continue west along Humes Ranch and eventually back onto Elwha River Trail as you return to the Whiskey Bend Trailhead parking area.
Though Humes Ranch Loop Trail has been significantly lengthened due to the road washout, the trail itself is a highly rewarding one that is well worth the journey. Along the route you can get some exceptional viewing at Eagle’s Nest, Goblin’s Gate, and just south of the cabin is Dodger Point Bridge which will allow dry passage over the Elwha River. Winters in the Olympic Peninsula are particularly harsh so Humes Ranch is best visited during the summer or fall to avoid the frozen winters or the rushing torrents of the spring thaw.
The washout of Olympic Hot Springs Road is a mild deterrent to the avid hiker, but should serve as a fresh reminder that before journeying into any remote wilderness, even in a controlled environment such as a National Park, it is imperative that you check ahead for weather and trail conditions. Your personal safety is worth the few extra minutes to check, and the inconvenience of not finding out about a major detour until you stumble upon it could also be avoided.
Humes Ranch Loop Trail is a great hike, ordinarily a six and a half mile loop is now nearly doubled as a 13 mile round trip, possibly making it into an overnighter. The popularity of the trail has lessened with the extended hike, but the rewarding trail is still one of our favorites hikes in Washington’s Olympic peninsula.