Big Creek Nature Trail

[Featured Image Description: A wooden bench next to a creek in the forest. A gravel path leads to the bench, which is on the right. The creek flows high, with crystal blue water, on the left.]

The accessible portion of the Upper Big Creek Loop Trail, sometimes referred to as the Big Creek Nature Trail, is truly a gem. It offers a rare opportunity to travel through mature second growth rainforest, surrounded by towering mossy trees, the sounds of flowing water, and a little bit of solitude while still close to amenities and other people. This trail is located very close to Hoodsport, WA, in the Big Creek Campground, Olympic National Forest. It is the traditional lands of the Skokomish.

Spoon Rating: Two spoons. This is an accessible trail, but there are five grades of 8-10% up to 50 feet long, with one grade approaching 15% for a few feet. There is one set of roots rising 2 inches above the surface that can be navigated with care.

Trail Stats: Distance: 0.6 mile; Elevation Change: 40 feet; Max Grade: 15%; Max Cross-Slope: 2%; Typical Width: 3 feet; Typical Surface: hard packed, firm pea gravel;  Amenities: accessible toilets, potable water, accessible parking, picnic tables

A trail passes between three tall western red cedar.
The Big Creek Nature Trail passing between three tall western red cedar. Fall leaves are scattered on the trail and the grass in a mossy forest.

Trail Description:

The gate to the campground is closed during the winter but visitors may still access the trails. There is a footpath near the gate leading into the campground but you may prefer to take the road in. There is a paved 4 foot wide path around the gate, suitable for wheelchairs. It is approximately 0.25 mile from the gate to the trailhead all on a gradual incline of approximately 5%.

The road into campground starts paved on a gentle grade. After passing the campground loop trail and the campground host site, the road becomes gravel. Curve left past a broad gravel parking area with a fee station and restrooms. At the fork, continue straight following signs towards the north loop. Watch out for some loose gravel and potholes. Crest a hill past site 42 and look for the restrooms on the left with one accessible parking spot and one regular gravel parking spot.

The trail starts behind the restrooms near site 42. Follow the wide, loose gravel path to the left behind the restroom, as it immediately curves left to a 8-10% incline for approximately 50 feet. Turn right at the ‘T’ where the trail meets with another path then take another 6-8% incline for 20 feet. You then come to a fork with a sign pointing to Upper Big Creek Loop Trail, Big Creek Campground Trail, and Mount Elinor Connector Trail. Continue straight on the Upper Big Creek Loop Trail heading towards the bridge. There is short decline of 8-10% for 50 feet, then a very slight rise for 5 feet to bridge. It is level going onto bridge. There are a couple of boards on the other side with a 2-inch rise, but you can navigate around them easily. The bridge is a marvelous construction over rushing Big Creek; it’s very sturdy with parallel boards and wood slat barriers on either side. The barriers somewhat block the view from sitting height.

A wooden bridge over Big Creek.
The wooden bridge over Big Creek. A gravel trail on a slight incline leads to the bridge. Two boards are slightly above the surface of the trail. Tall narrow trees are in the background.

On the other side of the bridge, the trail surface is hard-packed pea gravel, a very firm surface to travel on, and is 3 feet wide. The trail declines slightly then curves left. You will almost immediately come to a couple of roots rising about 2 inches above the surface. The trail crew plans to cover these, but for now they could be bypassed with very careful maneuvering. Traveling amongst towering mossy trees, the trail declines at 8-10% for approximately 75 feet as it curves to the right. It levels out briefly with a resting area on the left then curves sharply right again on a decline of 5%. The trail then levels out and passes between tall western red cedar before curving left and onto a small bridge over a seasonal water flow. The surface onto the bridge is level. On the other side of the bridge, the trail curves to the left on a 5% grade, continues level, then curves right between old growth cedar. Curve left and right again then come to a 20-feet long 10% decline, getting steeper near the bottom at 15% for a few feet. The trail continues to curve a few times amongst mature cedar and tall mossy maples in a gorgeous rainforest setting.

A wooden boardwalk travels through the forest on the Big Creek Nature Trail
The wooden boardwalk after the turnpike. A hard-packed gravel trail leads onto the boardwalk in the center of the photo. It extends towards a cedar in the background. A hill is on the right

At 0.2 miles, come to a small log bench on the right that blocks the old trail. You will continue on a level, hard packed gravel trail that was recently built by the Mt Rose Trail Crew. Travel on a slightly crowned turnpike with a large fallen log on left and a small ditch on the right then onto a level boardwalk. The trail curves left around a western red cedar, then right and left around a hill with a 8-10% grade for 20 feet. It then continues level as you travel parallel to the creek before coming to a fork; the upper loop trail continues right. To continue on the accessible trail, go left on a slight decline for 5 feet. You’ll arrive at a beautiful resting spot next to the creek with a bench. The bench sits 16 inches above the ground and has an angled backrest with no armrests. There isn’t a lot of space to turn around in a chair, but you could back out slightly and turn around. This is end of the accessible portion of the trail; turn back the way you came to return to the parking area.

Map of the Big Creek Campground
Map of the Big Creek Campground. The trail is indicated by dotted lines beginning at a trailhead and restroom icon just above site 42.

Cell Phone Reception: Spotty.

Pass/Entry Fee: Interagency America the Beautiful pass or Forest Service pass required to park at campground. You can park at the pull outs along the road and enter without a pass.

Getting There: The Big Creek Nature Trail is located in the Big Creek Campground, 9 miles from Hoodsport, WA. From Hoodsport, take Highway 101 to State Route 119 and turn left (west). This two-lane paved road has sections of curves with speed limits of 25-45mph through residential and forest areas. The road comes to a T-section with Forest Service Road 24; turn left and then an immediate right into the campground. There is one ADA accessible spot in a paved parking area in front of the gate, with four total spots. There is additional parking along FR 24 on pullouts. Two parking spots, including one accessible spot, at the restroom nearest the trailhead. Potable water is available in the campground during the season

Nearby Alternatives: Forest Service Road 24 continues to Lake Cushman and the Staircase area of Olympic National Park, with gorgeous views along the way.

Land Acknowledgement: This is the land of the sqʷuqʷóbəš [Twana/Skokomish], “People of the River”, whose traditional territory included the entire Hood Canal drainage basin in western Washington.

GPS track and elevation profile of Big Creek Nature Trail
The map, GPS track, and elevation profile of Big Creek Nature Trail. It indicates one way of travel. The map is at the top with a red line for the trail. Elevation profile at the bottom. Stats above read Distance: 0.3 mi Elevation gain: 6 ft Moving time 0:15:11

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