With a week vacation and wild fires raging in BC, we decided to head south of the boarder to explore the Olympic National Park, Washington State. Staying just outside Lake Cushman in the south east corner of the park, we didn’t really appreciate it’s size and scale until we got the map out. It’s huge. Our National Geographic map quickly put things into perspective and we realized in the time we had, we could literally only explore the outer edges. So after hours of studying the map and getting a handle on what was possible, we headed for a shorter option to ease into it (it was only 24hrs after the Canada Ironman 70.3 in Whistler) and took on Mount Ellinor.
As seen from the edge of Lake Cushman (below), Mount Ellinor and Mount Washington are quite the imposing wall which signify the start of the Olympic mountains.
There are two trailheads: a summer and winter starting point. We took the summer option, simply to enjoy driving deeper into the mountains and to gain a little more elevation. From the trail head, the trail winds through the forest zig-zagging up the southern ridge before emerging into the large bowl that sits below the south face.
Once in the bowl, the route remains well marked and the US National Park team does a good job maintaining the trail. The views over valley quickly make the 14km-long lake Cushman look like a small puddle, while in the distance, Mount Reiner was visible sticking it’s head out above the clouds.
Once out of the bowl and over the south ridge, the trail passes through a series of alpine colourful meadows before getting up into rocky alpine.
Once into the alpine, the greenery subsides and we found a few remaining patches of snow, which were providing an ice bath service for the local mountain goats.
Once on the summit of Mount Ellinor the 360 views are incredible: the Hood Canal, Mount Reiner, the Olympic National Park and beyond.
So if you’re in the south east region of the Olympic National Park, Mount Ellinor is an absolute 100% must-do. Once we were done, we headed down to enjoy the waters of Lake Cushman, SUPping and rope-swinging – great day!