The Hardest, Nastiest, Meanest Trail in the Olympics

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10 July 2015
Comments: 5

The infamous chasm crawl.

What is wrong with me? What the heck was I thinking? I swore to myself back in July of 2006 never to ever do this trail again. I hated it. It was pure misery. I swore more times on it than I did watching (fill in your favorite team or politician) lose.

It was back then while researching Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula that I finally forced myself to hike to the Mildred Lakes. I was well aware of its reputation. And upon completing it I thought it would be once and done. Or so I thought!


A typical Mildred Lakes Trail scene.

Here I am working on the second edition of that book and aside from adding new hikes-I am re-hiking all of the original hikes to make sure that you are getting nothing but accurate information in my books. So, I found myself heading back up to the Mildred Lakes—and on one of the hottest days of the summer too. Mind as well really beat myself up!

And what did I find upon putting myself in complete agony for the day? Nothing really has changed on this trail! It is still the hardest, nastiest, you-have-to-be-crazy-for hiking-this trail in the Olympics!


  • It is only 4.5 miles to the lakes-yet it took me over 3 hours to reach them!
  • Actual evaluation difference between trailhead and the lakes is a mere 1,900 feet. But real elevation gain is over 3200 feet with ups and downs.
  • The trail was never officially built. The trailhead was-it is fancy with a picnic table and privy. Don’t let those amenities fool you into thinking the trail is anything special!
  • There is one section that climbs over 1,000 feet in about 0.5 mile. It is a nasty clamber up roots, rock and loose gravel. Those roots will be your handholds.
  • There is one section where you have to almost completely vertically drop over 25 feet into a tight ravine. Once again-veggie belays save the day.
  • You will skirt mud-go through mud (and this is a dry summer) and go up and over big downed logs.
  • Your knees and toes will scream.

Me writing my will (just kidding) at the Middle Lake.

And the lakes? They are pretty and among the largest in the Olympics and many a hiker loves them and busts their rump to get to them. But at a price!

How about you? Have you hiked to them? Love the trail? Hate the trail? Never-been-there but now are interested? Never-been-there and now have no interest what so ever to go?!

5 comments on “The Hardest, Nastiest, Meanest Trail in the Olympics

  1. Midge Martin on said:

    LOL, before I even read down to the answer, I knew it had to be Mildred Lakes!!!! Good on ya, Craig for ponying up to those beauties again !!

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. Can’t wait to go.

  3. Great write! I conquered the beast 3 times this past summer of 2015. I love the challenge and workout. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but true paradise. Best alpine lake fishing I’ve come across in the state. I will be going back several times this summer 2016!

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