By Bret Wirta
May 05, 2009
Distance: 6.2 miles One-Way. Elevation Change: 940 Feet.
I hiked the Slab Creek Trail from the trailhead to the bridge on Gray Wolf River. This trail is in the Buckhorn Wilderness section of the Olympic National Forest. The Slab Camp Trail joins the Gray Wolf River Trail upstream of the washed-out bridge site, so it affords access to the upper Gray Wolf River and the interior of the Olympic National Park.
It was about a twenty minute drive to the trailhead from the Quality Inn in Sequim. In a field along the road sat a beautiful bobcat enjoying the spring sunshine and waiting for lunch to make an appearance. There was plenty of parking at the trailhead. I signed in at 9:30am. I didn’t need a permit because this was just a day hike.
The trailhead is at 2,540 feet in elevation and I’d be traveling down to 1,600 feet to the river. It was overcast with some light sprinkles of rain and in the low 50’s. Lots of tree peepers were singing just like my home state of New Hampshire. The trail begins in a boggy section
and descends through blow-downs and small second growth trees. After about forty-five minutes of steep downhill walking, the trail joins a frolicking creek which I assumed to be Slab Camp Creek. The trees became larger and the creek roared as I hiked down to the valley floor. The sun was shining through a bit of mist and it was very beautiful.
The Gray Wolf River Bridge is substantial with its thick wooden treads and log atop steel I-beams. It must be a hundred feet long. The river tumbled about twenty feet below the bridge. Ken said that people fish the river for Dolly Varden trout. It is catch and release.
I said goodbye to Ken and Barkley as they crossed the bridge and went on to further adventures along the Gray Wolf. Further upstream is Cameron Creek and Grand Valley but that adventure was for another day. I turned around and retraced my steps. It was a long, one-thousand foot, uphill slog back to the trail head. It took one hour of no-stop, fast paced walking to my car. I think with stops the return hike is more like an hour and a half.
Slab Camp vs. Gray Wolf Trail
The distance from the Slab Camp trailhead to the Olympic National Park boundary along the upper Gray Wolf Trail is 6.2 miles. If the bridge over the lower Gray Wolf River was not washed out, the hike from the Gray Wolf trailhead to the Olympic National Park boundary would have been 9.1 miles. Hiking from the Gray Wolf River Trailhead to the Olympic National Park boundary is almost 3 miles longer, but you would be hiking along a less steep and more scenic trail. Until the lower Gray Wolf River Bridge is rebuilt, the Slab Camp Trail represents an acceptable substitute for “Sequim” access into the Olympic National Park.