There is something magic about a natural waterfall. People young and old alike are drawn to the falling water. While there are many waterfalls in the world, there is not another like Sol Duc Falls Trail in Washington state. This beautiful waterfall is located in the Olympic National Park and is one of the favorite attractions therein.
Depending on the time of the year, and the water volume, the Sol Duc Falls splits into three or four channels as it falls 48 feet into the rocky gorge below. There are several viewpoints of the falls, upstream and down, as well as the view from the bridge that crosses the river. From whatever viewpoint you choose, the Sol Duc Falls is a wonder to behold.
The falls are found at the end of a moderate 0.8-mile hike through an old-growth forest to a bridge spanning the three to four-prong waterfalls. This scenic falls is the most photographed waterfall in the park. During the hike, you will pass over a few spring-fed and snow-fed creeks along the way. At the end of the trail, there is a wooden platform for the best viewing of the waterfalls.
Sol Duc Falls Trail History
The Sol Duc region of the Olympic National Park is located near Lake Cresent, in the northwest region of the park. It consists of miles of hiking and backpacking trails, the Sol Duc Hot Springs, the Sol Duc River, and the Sol Duc Falls. The oldest stories regarding the Sol Duc Valley are from local Native American folklore.
The story states that a dragon lived in the Sol Duc Valley and another dragon lived in the Elwha Valley. According to the legend, when the dragons discovered each other, they fought to a standstill, the burning tears of their frustration forming the Sol Duc Hot Springs.
Along with this legend, the Quillayute people of the region also named the river Sol Duc which roughly translates to “sparkling waters”. The hot springs were beloved by the Native Americans for their therapeutic value. The valley was discovered by settlers in the 1880s. A resort was built around the hot springs in 1912 with newspapers of the time calling it “the most noted pleasure and health resort on the Pacific Coast” until it burned down in 1916.
The resort was rebuilt, on a much less grand scale in the 1920s and continues to operate to this day, attracting thousands of visitors yearly. The region was made popular for its hot springs but lately, the waterfall has gained popularity. Sol Duc Falls is regarded as a must-see attraction in the Olympic National Park.
Getting to The Sol Duc Falls Trail
To get to the trailhead, travel west from Port Angeles on Highway 101 for 29 miles to Sol Duc Road. Turn left and travel 14 miles, passing the Hot Springs and Resort, to the parking lot at the end of the road. A National Park Pass is required for entry and parking. Olympic National Park offers an annual pass which can be purchased on their website. Please visit the park website for current entry fees.
This road leading to the trailhead is subject to seasonal closure. For more information on seasonal road closure, visit the park website. Current weather conditions for the park may also be found there.
PARK FACILITIES AND REGULATIONS
The National Park belongs to everyone. The Park Service has a zero-tolerance for harassment, racism, or intimidation in any form. Public lands are meant to be a national refuge, a place for pleasure and recreation. The Park’s highest priority is to provide a safe, welcoming, and inclusive experience for all visitors.
Pets are allowed but must be on a leash at all times. Service animals are always welcome. Developed recreation sites that offer amenities such as restrooms, picnic tables, campgrounds, and firepits may have rules specific to that area. Always check the information boards at the site.
All food, garbage, and heavily scented items must be stored in park-approved bear canisters in the Sol Duc River, High Divide, and the Seven Lakes Basin Loop area including all camps adjacent to and enclosed by the Deer Lake Trail, High Divide Trail, and Sol Duc River Trail and Cat Basin area.
Limited permits are available year-round for the Sol Duc area. Reservations are highly recommended for overnight backpacking trips between May 1 and September 30. Wilderness camping permits are available at the Wilderness Information Center. Camping is available in the many park campsites in the area.
Recreation areas are available for everyone to use. Be courteous to other visitors. Please remember to dispose of your trash in the designated containers provided in the park. Where no approved containers are available, remember to pack out whatever you brought in, and yes, that includes toilet paper as well.
Navigating the Sol Duc Falls Trail
From the trailhead, it is a nice and gentle hike for 0.8 miles through old-growth forests. The term old-growth forests refer to the Douglas Fir, red cedar, and western hemlock trees of the area that are over 200 years old. Their growth forms a multi-layered canopy with a forest floor abundant with downed wood and standing dead trees. Huckleberry, Oregon grape, and elderberry blanket the understory in the forests.
The biggest distinction between old-growth forests and the temperate rainforest is the amount of rainfall they receive which is attributed to the position of the valley away from the coast.
The Sol Duc River which feeds the falls originates on the northern side of the High Divide. Chinook and coho salmon return to the Sol Duc River in late summer and spawn in late fall, while cutthroat trout and steelhead run in the fall and winter and spawn into the spring. The Sol Duc River is one of the only few places where salmon run every season.
The Sol Duc Falls Trail is family-friendly and a pleasant hike through forests of every shade of green. The Sol Duc Falls announces itself with a roar before you even reach it. Pause for a minute on the bridge to watch the water cascade over the moss-covered rocks in the gorge below. This scenic hike is loved by all who visit Olympic National Park.
Visitors with more time to hike should consider accessing the Sol Duc Falls via Lover’s Lane Trail, which begins at the Mink Lake Trailhead within the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. This longer but less traversed path is highlighted by river access, deep green forests, a challenging ford across Hidden Creek, and a scenic bridge over Canyon Creek. This route is 6.1 miles roundtrip.
Photographers wanting to get the best shot of the falls should bring a tripod and filters. Consider coming early on a cloudy day, or in the evening hours when crowds are less and the sunlight plays in the shadows of the forest. Don’t forget to bring a towel to dry off the spray from the falls after hiking the Sol Duc Falls Trail.
The Majestic Beauty of Sol Duc Falls Trail
For a short walk, the Sol Duc Falls Trail offers a big reward – the beautiful Sol Duc Waterfall. This family-friendly, easy hike is one of the most popular trails in the Olympic National Forest, so be sure to plan accordingly. This trail is busy from May through September. Be sure to arrive early to avoid the crowds.
Keep in mind weather conditions can rapidly change here. It is best to consult the park before arriving to ascertain current weather conditions, road closures, and future weather forecasts. Always stay safe and plan ahead.
For more incredible hikes in Olympic National Park, check out our guide to Finding the 10 Best Hikes in Olympic National Park.
If you’re planning a trip to Olympic National Park and are looking for a great place to stay, look no further than The 8 Best Hotels Near Olympic National Park: Our Top Picks.
Something for Everyone at Sol Duc Falls Trail
The Sol Duc Falls Trail Valley has much more to offer park visitors. For those looking to spend more than a few hours, there are several other easy hikes in the area. From the Sol Duc Falls Trail, you can choose to take the Lover’s Lane Trail for an easy 6-mile hike. Or climb to Mink Lake (5.2 miles roundtrip); either of these hikes can be accomplished in just a few hours. The High Divide Loop that passes through Seven Lakes Basin is a 2-3 day hike that is very popular with visitors to the park. There are trails for every level of hiker in the park.
If you tire of hiking for the day, you can check out the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. The resort offers a variety of recreational activities including mineral pool bathing, massage, and dining. With your choice of three Mineral Hot Springs soaking pools and one freshwater pool to choose from, you will find the right temperature to relax and melt away those tired, aching muscles pain after hiking the Sol Duc Falls Trail.
The spring water comes from rain and melting snow which seeps through cracks in the sedimentary rock where it joins gasses coming from the cooling volcanic rocks. The hot mineral spring water then rises to the surface along a long crack or fissure. The resulting hot mineral springs have therapeutic value and have been treasured since the days of the Native Americans. Be sure to check it out while you are here.
Next, check out the other top hikes in Olympic National Park outside the Sol Duc Falls Trail by following the links below: