If you want solitude and an easier backcountry experience, the Bogachiel Rainforest is it. Located near Forks, WA the trail brings you directly into the wilderness and has little elevation change overall. But that does not mean it is easy. The elevation changes are steep and up and down, there are several water crossings in the rainy season, and the trail is very muddy. Washington Trails crews have been doing extensive work clearing and rerouting the trail, and there are still improvements to be made; the river frequently washed out the trail, so now it bypasses the river and travels entirely through the rainforest. The Bogachiel is definitely a hidden gem. This guide offers trail stats and detailed information for the Bogachiel River Rainforest trail to the Ira Springs Wetland loop.
Spoon (Difficulty) Rating: Five Spoons. Though the mileage and elevation change are low, spoons are added for the backcountry experience, bugs, trail conditions, steep grades, and lack of places to rest. Make sure you carry the Ten Essentials for Hiking and tell someone where you are going.
Trail Stats: Distance: 3.8-mile loop (can be completed as a 3.6 mile out-and-back with fewer elevation changes). Elevation Change: 210 ft Longest Grade: 10% Typical Surface: Very soft – mud/earth. Areas of fresh composite gravel. Typical Width: 1-2 feet These stats are approximate based on GPS readings and estimations. This trail is open to dogs on leash.
Trail Description: The trail begins to the far-right side of the parking area next to a new forest service trail sign. The trail starts on a generally steep descent for the first 0.25 miles, beginning at about 430 feet elevation and losing about 115 feet. From the trailhead, immediately descend about 20 feet on loose gravel, curves to the left, and continues mostly level for about 100 feet before coming to another descent of about 15 feet. The trail rolls slightly, curves to the right and then comes to a turnpike (a raised section filled in with gravel over a generally wet area) – this entire section was recently improved by WTA. There is a step of about 4 inches at the end. Loose gravel continues as the trail descends more steeply on 3 uneven steps built into the trail with large rocks, with steep declines between.
Past these steps, continue onto natural surface trail with areas of rocks and mud. As you follow the ridge, you can start to hear water flowing below. Come to a rocky area and slight step, continuing on very gradual descent, before descending more steeply over rocks and a muddy area. At 0.3 mile and 315 feet elevation you have now reached the river valley floor and the first creek. The trail curves to the right to the log crossing. Pass between two big trees over a slight hill and take a moment to appreciate the big Western Red Cedar as you approach the log bridge. Note: this creek is the easiest year-round access for water on the trail; if you had planned for water this is it, since the river is no longer accessible.
The log bridge begins with a wooden plank ramp covered with chicken wire for traction. This foot bridge is literally a log – a tree that stretches across the creek and has been somewhat leveled out on the top. It is very narrow with a hand rail on the left side, a couple of tree branches sticking out to maneuver around and some uneven footing. It ends in 3 steps on the opposite side.
The next 1.5 miles of the trail is generally narrow, muddy, and mostly level. Just past the creek, you come to a fork for the Ira Springs Wetland loop– continue straight. You are now entering the fringes of a rainforest ecosystem, with mossy trees and sword fern groundcover. Continue for a few hundred feet to a sign for an overgrown fork heading right to the Homestead Loop. Continue left for the River Trail. From here the park boundary is approximately 1.8 miles.
The trail continues generally narrow, level, and muddy. This area can be very buggy, so carry protection and be ready to just get through it as quickly as you can. At approximately 0.5 miles from the trailhead, come to Hurley Creek, with two options for the water crossing – on the right you can cross directly on rocks, to the left is a small log over the creek. Water levels were low, so I crossed on the creek.
Just past the creek, the trail goes up a slight rocky hill for about 15 feet, then continues narrow and slightly muddy. At 0.8 miles come to the first deeply muddy area, this one about 20 feet long with rocks in trail. At 0.9 miles come to another fork; on the left is the beginning of the reroute built by WTA. You can continue straight for a short distance to the only view of the river at a small overlook. There is no easy place to get down to the river from here.
After taking a moment to appreciate the Bogachiel River, return to the new trail. For the next 1.0 mile, you are basically going to be hiking in soft ground and mud through the rainforest. It is a beautiful area that was previously not easily accessible, and visiting in the dry season definitely makes it easier, but prepare for muddy boots and pants. The trail is generally level, gaining only about 20 feet with a few short ups-and-downs.
The trail rolls slightly and curves right, before coming to a deeply rutted muddy area. A few hundred yards later roots cross the trail, rising 2-3 inches above the surface. You then come to a slight hill about 10 feet in distance with rough steps cut in to the natural surface. The trail continues slightly rolling, curves left, and rises another hill of about 5 feet; here you get a glimpse of the river through trees. Continue approximately 100 feet to a slight incline.
At 1.3 miles come to a new footbridge over a creek. Take one step onto a ramp, one step onto the bridge, and two steps down. Trail becomes narrow and very muddy for about 100 feet, then dries out briefly and curves to the left to another muddy area with dryer shoulder, before coming to an area of deep mud and ruts for about 100 feet. The trail then becomes a narrow footpath through ferns encroaching on the trail before opening up again slightly into a beautiful area of the rainforest with tall Sitka Spruce, Hemlocks, and Vine Maples.
Trail curves left between several beautiful Sitka Spruce to a slight incline. It then curves right around a large tree then left up a slight incline of about 15 feet in distance, then curves right at the top of the hill. It continues slightly muddy and comes to an area of lots of rocks and roots in trail before entering a long area of deep mud.
At 1.5 miles come to two hills. Start on a steep descent of 10 feet with rough steps cut into mud, then descend into mud and up another 10-foot-long hill. Trail rolls steeply again and comes to another 10-foot incline before leveling out as it approaches the river river. There is more beautiful old growth here, with roots crossing the trail. There is a small downed log over the trail, but can be walked around. The trail continues slightly muddy and rolls, with views of the river and mountains to the right, as you travel along a hillside above the river delta. Trail levels out and splits around tree. Curve to the right, then left and right again. Come to a muddy dip in the trail with an ephemeral (seasonal) stream.
At 1.7 miles cross between old downed logs; this is a convenient place to stop and rest on one of the log rounds scattered by the trail. The trail then meets the end of the reroute and connects with the original trail. This well-established trail continues mostly level and dry but narrow and brushy. It curves to the left up a slight incline between tall trees and you can hear river – it continues to curve left and right a couple of times and then comes to the intersection with the Ira Springs Wetland Loop trail and the National Park Boundary.
The park boundary is to the right; the trail ends at Kahkwa Creek. From this trail, there is a fork to the left that goes up and downhill steeply and a path straight ahead which is slightly steep and ends directly at the creek with a steep drop off. If you can hop down this might be a good place to get water. To continue on into the national park you must ford the creek.
Back at the main trail, continue straight for the Ira Springs Wetland Loop trail. This trail is well established, but it is where all of the up and down in elevation change happens, and there are many creek crossings and loose boardwalks. If you had an easier time with the muddy Bogachiel river trail, you could choose to return the way you came. It is a beautiful trail, and there are lots of berries along the way – which also means be aware for bears, I saw one cub on my hike.
The Ira Springs Wetland trail gains about 50 feet in the first 0.5 mile. It begins on a narrow well established corridor with 3-4 inch tree roots across the surface. Almost immediately, you come to an old, uneven boardwalk over the trail as it follows a creek. In a couple hundred feet pass narrowly between to two large Sitka Spruce and a Hemlock. Cross another old boardwalk with a slight step up, pass between more trees, and cross another boardwalk. There is a nice view overlooking a creek here, but the bank is eroding; it also provides a bypass around a very steep section of trail, but be very careful along the bank and only take it if you really need to. Then pass between trees again and step over a large root.
Trail continues mostly level before coming to another old unstable boardwalk. Trail curves right and then climbs somewhat steeply for a distance of 50 feet with a gap in trail for seasonal water flow. It climbs more steeply with a couple of steps to another large gap in trail with log barricade on one side and steep, eroding bank on other side; there is a muddy area at the end of climb. Trail rolls a few times with roots breaking the surface, curves to the left and continues to climb. It then narrows with roots crossing the trail and a steep drop off on the right. Continue to curve left and right as the trail rolls slightly.
Come to a fairly steep incline about 15 feet long, and then the trail continues to roll. The forest is newer here, with narrow trees along the hillside. Come to another old boardwalk with uneven and unstable boards and four steps. Next take two tall steps over tree roots. Continue uphill to another old boardwalk; cross boardwalk and come immediately to a creek with a boardwalk over. However, water flows over boardwalk, so it may be slick.
Trail starts to roll downhill, crosses roots and continues to roll and curve around trees. Descend to a small creek, and rise on a slight incline to a dense hemlock forest. Take six steep steps to two small boardwalks over a creek, one step down, and pass between a small blow down already cut from trail. Cross a small stream to a muddy area before continuing to another short descent on logs placed into trail and a small boardwalk. Make a slightly steep descent around a tree about 15 feet long. Trail starts to level out, with roots breaking the surface. It is a bit slick and narrow as it curves to the right with a steep drop off.
At 2.5 miles come to a foot bridge. Step down over a root on the other side of the bridge and cross another foot bridge. Trail curves to the left, slightly steep and muddy for about 20 feet. There is a small gap in trail for water with a step up on the other side, rocky, then another small gap. Come to boardwalk with 3 steep steps up and ends on a wet, rocky area. Trail curves right over roots to another uneven but mostly stable boardwalk with two steps. This is a beautiful wetland area with tall Sitka Spruce and cedar.
Trail narrows with lots of roots and continues to curve and roll. Come to a tall Sitka Spruce right ahead, as the trail curves to the right around the tree with lots of roots in the path, some 6-10 inches high. You are roughly following the hillside, and can see top of hill above to right, wetland descending below. Trail descends somewhat steeply over roots for about 10 feet. Come to more trees in trail with tall roots to step over onto a muddy area. The trail narrows with a drop off on the left. Descend steeply about 50 feet, and start to roll downhill with sounds of a creek. Curve right and left on a brushy trail, and cross rocks on some steps up.
At 2.7 miles, come to a creek with no footbridge. You can cross on rocks, but even with a low flow it was a little troublesome. There is a steep narrow step down to the creek and a steep and muddy step up.
Trail continues with natural surface, curves around slight incline and then heads uphill for a distance of about 100 feet then back down passing narrowly around a tree with roots in the trail. Curve right again to another creek with no footbridge; it is a narrow gap with rocks to step across, fairly easy with low water flow.
The trail generally continues to roll up and down on a narrow width with roots and mud as it follows the hillside, generally descending. Curve to the left going downhill then right before leveling; it then rolls and becomes narrow and uneven with several roots across to step over. Come to one very steep two foot step down from tree roots. Trail continues rocky and muddy, generally rolling but descending. Descend steeply to another small stream crossing about two feet across.
It is immediately level on the other side of the stream then climbs steeply about 10 feet before continuing to roll up and down. Take three steep 1-2 foot steps over tree roots to a very muddy area on a descent of 40 feet. The trail continues to roll; you are back on the hillside overlooking wetland to the left with tall grasses and trees and sounds of a creek. The forest rises above on the right with views to the top of the ridge.
Come to some steep steps over roots – careful of your footing, they are narrow and uneven. Come to another muddy area and then take two steps up onto an old boardwalk, step off onto muddy area and then another boardwalk. Trail narrows and gets brushy, descends steeply on a hill to another level boardwalk over a creek. Trail continues to skirt hillside with beautiful old growth red cedar and hemlock. Trail descends steeply for about 15 feet, continuing to generally descend back down to valley floor.
The path becomes narrow and rocky with some brush encroaching and rather unstable footing. Step over a log and come to another boardwalk. Step down over roots onto another boardwalk. Off that boardwalk cross mud, step up onto another boardwalk as the trail gradually ascends slightly. Come to another boardwalk, ascend steeply on a narrow rocky trail for about 100 feet. Come to another incline with a 3 foot step up over roots, curve to the right then left with a small dry stream and take a two foot step down.
The trail continues to roll and curve with steep drop of on left, following the hillside with wetland below. There are lots of flowers and grass, and unstable footing on rocks and tree roots in the trail.
At approximately 3.1 miles, a vine maple curves over the trail, then a large old growth red cedar and a small footbridge with railings on both sides. The sky line is open to your left but you are still traveling in shaded forest with hillside up to right. Cross a small stream then climb steeply up a hill for about 60 feet, pass between trees over roots, take a two foot step up, then step down over roots. (I was pretty exhausted by this point, but its only another 0.4 miles before the trail gets easier again)
The trail becomes wet, narrow, and brushy, and continues to roll with obstacles in trail. Take another step across roots and then step up over roots, entering deeper into a shaded forest with vine maples over trail. Come to a slight muddy hill and a small stream. Take several quick rolls before leveling out slightly. Travel a decline for about 50 feet to a muddy area as the trail narrows.
Level out and come to several big red cedars; you are almost level with the wetlands. Take a boardwalk over a wet area with a down tree on left, step over a large root. Come to two log rounds placed into trail and cross another boardwalk to a slight incline. You are now moving away from wetland and back into the forest. Trail continues to roll then comes to many more slightly unsteady log rounds in trail with roots in between. Pass between a few large Sitka Spruce; the forest is once again a mix of big leaf maple, alder, sitka spruce, and ferns.
At 3.5 miles, cross a couple of muddy areas then reconnect with the river trail. Turn right and return the way you came in, this time ascending 115 feet in 0.25 miles.
Cell Phone Reception: Limited at trailhead, none on trail.
Pass/Entry Fee: Interagency All Access Pass or Northwest Forest Pass
Getting There: There are references to the road to the Bogachiel River Trail being closed, but this isn’t exactly true; the original road is closed, but there is a bypass on a gravel road. To access the trailhead, turn onto Undi Rd across from Bogachiel State Park, approximately 5 miles south of Forks. Continue on a two-lane paved road until you come to a barrier and a gravel road on the left. This gravel road is regularly maintained but can have deep potholes and washboarding, so prepare to travel slowly. There is one steep hill with a beautiful view out to the mountains. The road begins to narrow with some pullouts, then narrows to a steep, potholed single lane for about 0.5 mile to the trailhead. I travel it easily in a Prius, though very slowly while dodging potholes and maintaining traction.
Nearby Alternatives: Elk Creek Conservation area in Forks has many features of a rainforest, received little traffic, and is rated as three spoons.
Land Acknowledgement: The area along what is now known as the Bogachiel River is the traditional lands of the Quileute. The land was ceded in the Treaty of Olympia, while the Quileute maintain rights to their traditional hunting, fishing, and foraging lands.
Last updated: July 8, 2020