Wild Side Explorer Series: The Backpackers

Travel Guide: A backwoods adventure in Hood Canal

For those familiar with the magic of waking up next to a glimmering lake and nary a city sound to compete with birds chirping knows that it all starts with an epiphany (and, if you’re like us, a late-night cold one). Then comes the rallying of the crew, the logistics, and finally, the adventure. Though it may seem like a lot of work to some, to The Backpackers—the three friends featured below—it’s a worthy part of the journey that comes with the territory. 

Some may be turned off by the fact that Olympic National Park occupies one of the rainiest corners of the Pacific Northwest. But the intrepid explorers that make the trip despite a wet forecast are rewarded with incredible old-growth forests absolutely covered in lush moss and an array of wildlife that rivals any other park in the continental United States. Below, we’ve crafted an itinerary fit for a weekend warrior. But first, check out the video:


Day 1: Shelton and Hoodsport

11am | Hama Hama Oysters

If you’ve never been to our neck of the woods, be sure to beeline to Hama Hama Oyster Saloon. It’s the perfect first stop—not only because it’s mere minutes from the trailhead and some of the best beachside lodging, but because we can’t decide which is more amazing, the oysters or the show-stopping view! As an added bonus, the large outdoor tables are perfect for spreading a map out and finalizing logistics. Pro tip: don’t leave without first taking a stroll down the coastline trail.

1pm | Lena Lake/Brothers Trailhead

Though you’ll ramble down a dirt road for just over 14 miles (don’t forget to fill up!), the trailhead is well-maintained and relatively easy to spot. Even if you’re a moderate hiker that enjoys stopping to admire the incredible details that dot the edges of the trail, an early afternoon arrival to the trailhead is plenty of time to pack your bags, hike to Lower Lena Lake and set up camp before nightfall. That is, unless you’re hiking in on a Friday and vying for the best seat in the house. In that case, you might need to get an earlier start during peak season to beat the crowds. 

Hike to Upper Lena Lake and back

This 14-mile round trip is no joke—the trail is relatively primitive, and if you’re not prepared for a handful of false summits, you’ll want to throw in the towel (trust us—we saw it happen to more than one party). After an early morning and a campfire breakfast, though, anything seems possible. 

The Lower Lena Lake campsites are nestled into land subsumed within the Olympic National Forest. Somewhere along the trail, you’ll hike past the line that separates the forest from Olympic National Park and suddenly, you’ll find yourself among true giants. Logging operations transpired many years ago within Olympic National Forest but the trees within the park remain almost completely untouched. In a word, it’s humbling. Primordial would cover it, too. Be sure to swing by The Eldon Store in Lilliwaup on your way to the trailhead to pick up a fishing license—though the fish are relatively elusive in Upper Lena Lake, the experience of casting into a high alpine lake is hard to beat. 

Hike out, hit the track

After a quiet, serene sojourn in the woods, there’s nothing quite able to put punctuation at the end of the trip than a stop at The Ridge Motorsports Park. If you’re headed back down south via I-5, it’ll be right on your way and if your route home is by way of the Bremerton Ferry, it’s only a quick hop. 

The Ridge’s main attraction is the full-sized racing track that hosts a wide array of races and events for seasoned riders. It’s the only track in the country that has a small-scale replica just for go karts. We’re telling you, this is the real deal. To get a full peek at the endless fun to be had, check out The Tasters adventure writeup. AND if you find you just can’t quite talk yourself into driving home after all of the hiking, camping, excitement, and adrenaline, we won’t blame you. Book a night and stay an extra day!

At the end of it all, one of the most important aspects is most definitely documentation. Always share with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with #wildsideWA.