Colonel Bob Peak: Elevation 4,492 ft. Elevation gain: 4,560 ft. Distance: 14.4 mi. Time: 9 hrs. 20% alpine. Trailhead: 230 ft. Rating: 3.
Overview:As the crow flies, the Colonel Bob peak is located 5 miles east of Lake Quinault. This is the only day-hike-able peak in the Olympic rainforest. The Colonel Bob trail winds through the magical Colonel Bob Wilderness, a world of ferns, tumbling water, mosses and old growth trees. Huge Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir and Western red cedars reach toward three rocky peaks: Mount O’Neil, Mount Gibson and Colonel Bob. Colonel Bob is the highest and most accessible of the three.
Getting to The Trailhead:The Colonel Bob trailhead is located six miles from Hwy 101 and three miles beyond the Lake Quinault Lodge, on the South Shore Road. Look for a sign and a small parking area on the right side of the road, houses are on the left. Lake Quinault and the South Shore Road are located in the Southwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula.
The Trail:The trail climbs immediately, ascending a ridge covered with old growth rainforest. You are surrounded by maidenhair and sword ferns, huge Doug Firs, Cedars and cascading water. At 2 miles cross a beautiful, classic footbridge spanning one of the many tumbling creeks coming down the hillside. At 3.2 miles cross another bridge over Ziegler creek. At 4 miles pass Mulkey shelter (2,160 ft), set in a marshy area, and then begin a series of switchbacks, up to the crest of Quinault Ridge (3,200 ft.). Immediately descend a couple of hundred feet and beginclimbing again. At 5.5 miles pass a junction with the Pete’s Creek Trail (3,300 ft), coming in from the right. This is an alternative, shorter & steeper route, starting at the Pete’s Creek trailhead, (950 feet). See below for directions. You are now on the west slopes of Gibson Peak. At 6 miles, the trail breaks out of the trees and brush, becomes rocky and enters open country. A variety of wildflowers often bloom here; including lupine, arnica, daisies and Columbia Lilies. The trail climbs to a gap (3,700 ft.) which looks out over Fletcher canyon and then descends again, to the level benches of Moonshine Flats at 6.3 mi and 3,500 feet. Colonel Bob Peak is directly north. Beyond Moonshine Flats the trail crosses Fletcher creek twice, then climbs steeply, switch backing up to the ridge through subalpine county.
The Peak:For the last 200 feet of trail, steps hacked in the rock lead east to the summit at 7.2 mi. and 4,492 feet. In 1967 a fire lookout was removed from the top of this peak. Views of the whole Quinault area: including the river, lake, and timbered ridges are expansive. North and east are the glacier covered peaks of Mt. Olympus. Nearby to the northwest is Mt. O’Neil (4,295 ft.) and southwest is Gibson Peak (4,417 ft.). Mike’s Spike, at 4,175 feet, rises dramatically on the ridge running to Gibson Peak.
Directions and information on the shorter, steeper Pete’s Creek trailhead:Hiking distance to the summit is 4.2 miles, 8.4 mi. round trip. Elevation gain: 3,520 feet. Time: 5-6 hrs. Drive 8 miles south of Neilton on Hwy 101 and turn east on the Newberry Creek Road, FR #2220. Drive Newberry Creek Road 8.5 mi. to its junction with FR 2204 and follow it 11 miles to the signed, Pete’s Creek Trailhead.
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