The High Divide and the Seven Lakes Basin is an area in the Olympic Peninsula that had been in my radar for quite a while. I remember reading reports from people that hike up there from the Hoh River trail and doing some research on my own about it. Most people describe this as being like the Enchantments only bigger. Getting there is always a challenge as you need permits, which are limited and hard to get, and you have to play with the weather a bit. The Olympic Peninsula gets rain pretty much all year long. With all that, I had it in the back burner but then Matt, a good friend of Val and I, invited us as he got permits for Labor Day weekend. So the plan was set and late Thursday night, Val and I took of to meet with the guys up at a campsite near Sol Duc.
Day 1 – Sol Duc to Lunch Lake:
We woke up bright and early to a somewhat cloudy day. We met with the Matt and the other guys coming on this four day adventure and soon after getting breakfast; we went to pick up permits and headed to the trailhead. The hike started on a trail that looked almost like a highway, and it remained like that until we got to the Soleduck waterfall.
After a couple of pictures and getting our bearings right, we started climbing towards Deer Lake. The hike was pretty uneventful thru a lush forest until we got to the lake. I guess the only interesting thing was that the trail itself seemed very well maintained which we would learn later its pretty much how all the trails in this area are. We made a stop for lunch at Deer Lake and then continued climbing towards the High Divide trail. After a while, we made one last turn that finally gave us the first glimpse at the ridge and the trail going up on its side. Then, we got into the clouds. As we continued our views got limited to just about 100 feet in front of us. It was dense enough that we could barely make the trail, especially because it was a rocky section. Finally we got to our trail junction that would go over the pass and take us down to the Lakes Basin. After passing the ridge, we got somewhat views of Lunch Lake, our destination and Round Lake far below. And the switchbacks started. The descend was a bit grueling as we went thru a bunch of switchbacks on a trail that is made, yes, literally made of rocks. Every step up or down was literally like a staircase made with big boulders. Once down by the lake, we started looking for campsites. As a group, we had only one permit which meant that all of us need to set up in the same place. Being 6 of us with 5 tents made that a bit challenging but after going back and forth about 4 times, we finally picked up a large campsite on the northeast side of the lake. We had to do some mathematical calculations to figure out how we were going to set up so we could fit everything in that space – in the end; we were spending two nights there. After we figured that out and set up our tents, Val and I went for a walk towards Round Lake. Down there, we found a beautiful display of wild flowers, bumble bees and a deer that couldn’t have cared less about us being there.
We didn’t go much further that day because we were a bit tired, cold and the weather was not playing nicely. Our timing couldn’t have been better. As we got back to lunch Lake the fog just came all the way down obscuring pretty much everything. I went for a walk around the lake to snap some pictures before heading back to camp and to bed.
Day 2 – Lunch Lake, Bogachiel Peak loop with side trip to Hoh Lake:
Then the most amazing thing happened. We woke up to the spectacularly clear day with just a couple of clouds in the sky. As Val and I always do, we got dressed quickly and went for a walk around the lake. I have to say that I have seen spectacular mornings while backpacking but this one is probably in the top of that long list
Once the drooling stopped, we went back to camp to have breakfast and warm up with the sun. Then we packed stuff for the day and shared our hiking plans for the day. This was the day to go out and explore the area in any direction you wanted. Val and I took off on a trail behind our campsite and took a detour to go check a little chasm I saw from the side of the lake. We hike all the way to the end where we found a little waterfall bringing snowmelt to the lake. It was beautiful yet not very impressive. I guess it looks way better in the spring when a lot more water is coming down. From there we got back on the ridge and followed the trail until it got to the upper basin where we found a small no-name lake that was the source of the small waterfall we saw down below. The surroundings where incredible with rocks and flowers everywhere. Since we had a pretty good plan for the day, we followed a straight line trail towards the High Divide which gave us really nice views almost every step we took. Once we reached the High Divide, we turned around and got a much better sense of the upper basin and all the little lake that dotted the area
From that point, we turn west and followed the trail towards Bogachiel Peak that ended up being a short adventure in itself. Close to the peak, we found a user trail that traversed a cliff with ample views of the upper basin. Yes, the views where really good, the route, not so much. At some point we had to call it and turn around to find our way back to the trail. Then, just several hundred feet down the trail we found an actual trail to Bogachiel so we headed up there… it was a bit disappointing. I guess we were expecting 360 degree views but that didn’t happen. So we took a picture of ourselves and headed back down. About a thousand feet from there, we got to the trail junction that could take us back to camp or go down to Hoh Lake. We stopped there to discuss as this was an optional side trip but since we heard that a couple saw marmots and bears down there, we decided to give it a try. The entire trail goes steeply down which made us think, every step we took, about the climb back. While going down we did stop once to reconsider but curiosity prevailed so we continued to the lake. That ended up being a good call for several reasons, one of them being that we needed more water. Just a bit before we got to the lake Val spotted a black dot on the other side of the lake moving…. a black bear. Shortly after we reached the lake and went to filter some water and there we spotted another bear on the other side of the lake. Yes, they did look like little black spots, very round and fluffy black spots. Berries were very abundant so bears didn’t have any interest in hikers
With full bottles of water, we then climbed back to the High Divide trail which, for some reason didn’t seem as hard or strenuous as we thought it would. From there we closed the loop going back to Lunch Lake in time to make dinner, enjoy the evening and go to sleep
Day 3 – Lunch Lake to Heart Lake:
The third day also started crisp and clear, not as the second, but still very clear. Our morning walk was very short as the plan was to have breakfast, pack and hike to Heart Lake. In the original plan, when we met with Matt to plan this trip out, he mentioned the idea of leaving the packs half way and doing Bogachiel peak this day, but since we had already done it, we voted for getting to Heart Lake and then exploring around. The hike started on the same trail we took the day before to the upper basin but before we started the park ranger encouraged us to explore of trail while minimizing our impact. So once we got to the upper basin, Val and I veered off and went around some of the little ponds we saw the day before. I couldn’t say is there were more ponds or we just saw some that we didn’t see the day before. Either way it was as spectacular as before with fields of green and spots of yellow around the crystalline blue of the ponds.
We continued up until we got to the High Divide trail but instead of turn right, we turned left towards Hear Lake. It was more uphill. The trail followed the ridgeline to the highest point on the trail where we got our first glimpse to what would be our next incredible view. From that knob, we descended thru several switchbacks where we made numerous stops to gram more blueberries. But then, we got to a saddle where another couple was taking a break and taking pictures. When we got there we learned why. The views towards Mount Olympus from that point are just breathtaking. Even though the mountain range is on the other side of the Hoh River valley, it almost feels like you can touch it. Yet you know it’s higher up and much colder as you see the hanging glaciers
We then continued down and veered of towards Heart Lake. The first section of the trail seemed that it was going to reach the edge of a cliff and then dropped from there but as we got closer to it, we noticed the valley opening up in front of us. Right at the edge before the trail start going down steeper you finally get a god view of Heart Lake which obviously is named after its shape
When we got there, we found that Matt had already staked out a spot for our tent high up on the side. We huffed and puffed with our packs until we got there, set up camp, had lunch and then went out to explore a bit. For that we just went back up to the High Divide trail and continued on it going east towards Cat Peak. After a while, the trail got pretty desolated and very brushy. It also started descending pretty quickly so we didn’t go that far as we didn’t have a lot of time left in the day and we were already a bit tired. When we got back to camp temperatures had dropped considerably and wind had picked up quite a bit as well. A Park Ranger had indicated that weather was turning and that we could get some rain. Then, as clear as the day was it got cloudy and then everything went dark and we went to bed
Day 4 – Heart Lake to Sol Duc:
Last day. The hike out day. We woke up to a cloudy, cold and almost rainy day. Considering we had to hike out and then drive home we woke up fast, had breakfast, packed our gear and got ready to go pretty quickly. Then we hit the trail going down. It was misty and cloudy all the way and soon we were back in the forest plowing thru mud in some sections. The hike was fast and uneventful as rain was pretty much chasing us but we were able to get to our cars just before it started.
You can check the pictures here
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