Wagonwheel Lake-You’ll bust an axle on this one!

I recently returned to the Staircase Area of Olympic National Park to tackle (actually track for a new Green Trails Map) one of area’s steepest trails-Wagonwheel Lake. The sign at the trailhead warns that you’ll climb 3,200 feet in 2.9 miles. Which isn’t entirely true as the first .4 mile you’ll gain only 200 feet and the last .5 mile you’ll gain only 200 feet meaning that within 2.0 miles you’ll ascend 2,800 feet! Yep-that’s steep! So many park visitors intent on seeing the lake ignore this warning (or underestimate their fitness level) and attempt this trail. Many soon poop out! And for those who persevere-once they get to the lake-they realize that all of that effort was hardly worth it. The lake is more of a stagnant pond cradled in a forested basin. But if you have more energy and determination-there is a scenic payoff waiting for you. Follow a way path another .4 mile and 700 more feet of climbing to an open knoll straddling the Mount Skokomish Wilderness-Olympic National Park Boundary. From this spot you can now enjoy excellent views of Mount Lincoln, Mount Stone, Mount Skokomish, Mount Ellinor, Mount Washington and the vast and unknown emerald ridges dividing the South and North Skokomish River valleys. Locate Wonder Mountain, Five Ridge Peak, Six Ridge and other little known and little explored peaks. A region that pretty much looks as it did when Lieutenant Joseph P O’Neil explored this part of e Olympic interior over 120 years ago. Want more information on this hike? It’s hike no. 38 in my Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula book. Have fun busting your axle on your way to Wagonwheel!

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