Backpack to Marmot and Constance Passes

Rate this Adventure 24 miles 5200 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Kristin McLerran

This is a magical way to backpack into parts of Olympic National Park--and with no need to drive all the way and get a permit in Port Angeles. Mountain views, summits, and alpine lakes can all be reached in one trip, as long as you can accept gaining 3,500 feet over the course of 6.25 miles! 

The secret to this trip: Marmot Pass and Boulder Shelter, where you can camp on National Forest Service land. Multiple excellent, large backpacking sites sit just on the edge of the National Park, giving you great access to Mt. Constance and Mt. Deception, two of the tallest peaks in the Olympics. And Marmot Pass itself is not something to be overlooked--it is an absolutely stunning route on the Olympic Peninsula with quintessential views of the mountains, Hood Canal, Puget Sound, and is surrounded by a few great peaks just waiting to be bagged: Buckhorn Mountain, Iron Mountain, and an unnamed but gorgeous peak just south of the pass.

From Quilcene, WA--a town that is less than two hours from Seattle--drive south on 101 for 1.5 miles until you take a right onto Penny Creek Road. After 1.5 miles bear left onto Big Quilcene River Road (FR 27). Drive 9.25 miles and turn left onto FR 2750. It is then another 4.75 miles to the trailhead.

From the trailhead at Tenmile Shelter, you begin the hike with about 2.5 miles of dense forest of cedar and hemlock alongside the Big Quilcene River. At Shelter Rock Camp (around 3600 ft. elevation) you leave the river and begin the climb to Camp Mystery. When you reach Camp Mystery, you have gained around 2000 feet of elevation and hiked 4.5 miles. Camp Mystery is a great option for a first campsite if you started the day a little late. There are multiple large sites hidden in the trees, all lining a bubbling creek and great water source.

If you have ample time, continue on to the most beautiful part of the day: Marmot Pass. From Camp Mystery to the Pass is only 1/8th of a mile, but you gain almost 1,000 feet of elevation, so expect it to be Steep. Marmot Pass (6,100 ft) sits in between Buckhorn Mountain (6,996 ft) and another unnamed peak (6,599 ft). There is a nice trail up to the top of Buckhorn that makes it easy to summit, and it is a simple scramble to the summit of the unnamed peak. These peaks are easy to climb as a part of your hike in or out, or as a day trip from Camp Mystery or Boulder Shelter. Mountain goats are often seen at the top of both peaks. They're beautiful, but remember to keep your distance!

More beauty awaits you if you continue on to Boulder Shelter Camp, downhill from the pass about 1.7 miles. From the pass, follow the well-marked left fork south. Boulder Shelter sits in a meadow just below an enormous boulder field, next to a large creek that serves as another excellent water source. It is from Boulder Shelter that you have access to some gorgeous parts of Olympic National Park.

A great day hike out-and-back is to Home Lake and Constance Pass, which lie just below Mt. Constance. From Boulder Shelter it is 3.6 miles to Home Lake and another .4 miles to Constance Pass. The trail follows a long valley, but don't be fooled by the fact that Home Lake only sits 200 feet higher than Boulder Shelter--you will lose and gain a decent amount of elevation over the course of this day. But it is absolutely worth it: Home Lake hides below Constance Pass and among trees and cascading creeks. All in all, this trip includes a large variety of experiences in Olympic National Park that can be accessed from National Forest land.

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