Queets River - Olympic National Park

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One of the few packraft trips in the Pacific Northwest with some easy to find beta online is the Queets River on the Olympic Peninsula. Starting at the foot of the Humes Glacier on the southeastern flanks of Mount Olympus on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, the Queets Rivers winds from source to sea through dense, towering coastal rainforest. 

Most kayakers run the Queets from the campground to a bridge over Highway 101, and details about that run can be found here. In a packraft though, you can get further upriver by following the Queets River Trail, a 15 mile trail that follows the river up into the Queets Valley through dense, Fern Gully-esque primordial forest.

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Distance:  Up to 15 miles hiking, similar paddling
Difficulty: Class II-III
Time: Overnight or one long day.
Red tape/permits: The trip is within Olympic National Park. More info here.

After a late start thanks to some wrong turns, we made our way to the Upper Queets Valley following National Park signs on Forest Service Road 21. We packed at the trailhead and set out around mid-day.

The river was running below kayakable levels, but still seemed alright for packrafts (around 600 cfs by this gauge) so we started by fording the river to the Queets River Trailhead on the far bank. Look for a large orange diamond attached to a tree overhanging the far bank where the trail starts (in higher flow you might want to ferry across the river).

 Fording the Queets over to the trailhead.

Fording the Queets over to the trailhead.

From here, the trail mostly follows the river bank, sometimes plunging deeper into the forest. The trail is probably the least maintained in the park so expect to deal with fallen logs, mud and pack tangling brush on the trail. We ended up losing the trail at one point and bushwacking through some ugly thorns, so be careful and pay attention to where you're walking.

 Following the "trail".

Following the "trail".

There are good campsites midway up the trail at Spruce Bottom and on a wide gravel beach about a mile to two miles beyond, we camped at the latter and hiked a couple miles further up the trail the next morning to our put in.

 Put-in beach.

Put-in beach.

The Queets River Trail is 10 miles of "maintained" trail and then another 5 miles of primitive trail, but given how little attention the trail gets in general, it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. We put in somewhere around the 10-11 mile mark to start our float.

 Below one of Class II rapids.

Below one of Class II rapids.

The river is a mix of class II rapids, deep flatwater pools and slow moving class I. The main hazard is wood, including a river-wide sweeper about five river miles from the take out and a number of massive strainers that could be dangerous for novice paddlers or in high water. They are all easy to scout and portage.

 Low bridge...

Low bridge...