Sol Duc Falls, Lover’s Lane Loop, Deer Lake, and Mink Lake

Trail Highlights:Waterfalls; creekside and lake views; old-growth forest; wildflowers; fungi
Round-trip Distance:1.70 miles / 2.70 km (Sol Duc Falls Trail only)
6.50 miles / 10.50 km (full Lover's Lane Loop)
5.80 miles / 9.30 km (Deer Lake via the eastern side of the Lover's Lane Loop)
5.40 miles / 8.70 km (Mink Lake via the western side of the Lover's Lane Loop)
Location:Olympic National Park, Olympic Peninsula - North

Ancestral lands of the Klallam, Quileute, and Makah
Directions:
  • On U.S. Route 101 between Forks and Port Angeles, Washington, turn right from eastbound/left from westbound between Mileposts 220 and 219 onto Sol Duc Hot Springs Road ("Sol Duc Road" on some maps) where indicated by signage for Olympic National Park Sol Duc Valley Hot Springs Resort
  • Proceed 12.20 miles / 19.60 km to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, turn right into the resort (sometimes signed "Lover's Lane"), and park in designated areas to access the northern Lover's Lane Loop and Mink Lake trailheads
    -- OR --
  • Proceed 14.00 miles / 22.50 km to the parking area at the end of the road for the Sol Duc Falls Trail / Lover's Lane Loop trailhead
  • Required Pass:National park pass or equivalent for U.S. National Park Service sites
    Additional Trail Info:Washington Trails Association (Sol Duc Falls)
    Washington Trails Association (Lover's Lane Loop)
    Washington Trails Association (Deer Lake)
    Washington Trails Association (Mink Lake)
    U.S. National Park Service (Mink Lake)
    U.S. National Park Service (Sol Duc Area Brochure)

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    Unique in form, Sol Duc Falls is the highlight of both the short Sol Duc Falls Trail and the longer Lover’s Lane Loop.
    Sol Duc Falls Trail —
    Lover’s Lane Loop,
    September 29, 2018.

    The Lover’s Lane Loop and connecting trails offer several ways to enjoy a corner of Olympic National Park tucked away amid deep mountain folds, from a short nature trail to one of the park’s iconic waterfalls, to leisurely strolls through old-growth rainforest, to steeper jaunts upward to surrounding mountain lakes.  While all the options are doable as one, very long day hike, most hikers will choose to break them into shorter trail combinations that offer opportunity for return visits.

    The Sol Duc River is a constant presence along the Lover’s Lane Loop and Sol Duc Falls Trail.  The river and trails ply ancestral lands of several locally indigenous peoples, including the Quileute, who call the river “Sol Duc,” or, “Sparkling Waters.”  Not surprisingly, its signature feature is Sol Duc Falls, where the river slips sideways into a deep gorge overlooked by well-placed viewing platforms.  Depending on recent rainfall and snowmelt, its mood can range from serene to thunderous.  (Compare the photo at left, taken during fair weather, to the one below, taken during torrential rains.)

    The Lover’s Lane Loop is accessed by three trailheads, two on the northern end of the loop at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and one at the southern end near the falls.  From the southern trailhead, the Sol Duc Falls Trail (sometimes called the Sol Duc Falls Nature Trail), begins as a short spur that joins the Lover’s Lane Loop near Sol Duc Falls.  It is the shortest and most direct route to the falls, as well as to the connecting Deer Lake Trail just beyond.  Typical of all the area trails, it is surrounded by towering rainforest.  While the southern trailhead is obvious at the end of its parking area, locating the trailheads at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort requires a little poking around.  To hike the loop clockwise from the resort, look for the eastern branch of the trail just after turning right off of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road into the resort.  (The side road into the resort is called “Lover’s Lane” on some resort maps.)  The trail is on the left just before the road crosses a bridge over the river.  This section of the loop passes an RV park and the Loop A and B campgrounds (and is thus sometimes called the “B Loop Trail”).  To hike the loop counterclockwise from the resort or to take the most direct route to Mink Lake, turn right off of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, cross the bridge, pass the resort, and follow the road to the right.  The trailhead for the western segment of the loop is on the left across from the last row of cabins and is signed for Sol Duc Falls and Mink Lake.  Both sides of the loop meander along the river through impressive old-growth woodland, save for a small patch of recovering second-growth forest near the resort and Mink Lake trailhead.  Seasonal wildflowers and fungi abound throughout the rainforest verdure.

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    A Columbian blacktail deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) grazes just off the trail.
    Lover’s Lane Loop, October 17, 2019.

    The side trails to both Mink Lake and Deer Lake climb moderately through dense forest to reach their subalpine destinations.  The Mink Lake Trail departs the Lover’s Lane Loop near Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort; the Deer Lake Trail at the opposite end of the loop near Sol Duc Falls. Both lakes are wooded round about, but offer some areas of boggy shoreline access, where more spring and summer wildflowers flourish.  Do check recent trip reports for current conditions before heading up to the lakes, as snow lingers late in these mountain enclaves.

    Expect to enjoy the falls in the company of others, given its popularity and easy access.  Apart from the campgrounds, which are quickly bypassed, the remainder of the loop and the lake trails offer much more solitude. Consider packing waterproof clothing, if not for the Olympic Peninsula’s frequent rainfall, then for the falls’ continuous spray, particularly when flowing at high volume.  Waterproof footwear is a must during wet weather, as the relatively flat loop trail quickly fills with standing or flowing water.  Large wildlife, e.g., deer, bears, and cougars, are sometimes sighted in the area, especially on the more remote lake trails.  Be aware of your surroundings and know how to keep yourself safe in the unlikely event you encounter one of these magnificent wilderness creatures. (More information about wildlife safety is found on this site’s “Resources” and “Safety” pages.)  Otherwise, enjoy this lush landscape sculpted by sparkling waters.

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    Columns of old-growth forest line the generally flat Lover’s Lane Loop throughout most of its circuit.
    Lover’s Lane Loop, May 30, 2019.
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    At its eponymous waterfall, the Sol Duc River spills sideways through a “comb” of stone slots as it tumbles into a chasm rent from the woodland. Depending on recent precipitation and snowmelt, the rushing waters surge into three and sometimes four separate chutes before rejoining in the rift below.
    Sol Duc Falls Trail — Lover’s Lane Loop, October 17, 2019.
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    The abundant moisture and organic material throughout the trailside rainforest supports a variety of unusual fungi. Although fungi can be difficult to identify with certainty, those pictured here are likely fly agarics, or, fly amanitas (Amanita muscaria) (upper left), angel wings (Pleurocybella porrigens) (lower left), conifer chicken of the woods, or, conifer sulfur shelves (Laetiporus conifericola) (upper center), bear’s head (Hericium abietis) (center), red-belt conks (Fomitopsis sp.) (lower center), cauliflower fungus (Sparassis crispa) (upper right), and spring orange peel fungus (Caloscypha fulgens) (lower right). (Do note that fly agarics and angel wings are known to be poisonous.)
    Sol Duc Falls Trail, Lover’s Lane Loop, and Deer Lake Trail,
    September 29, 2018, May 30, 2019, October 17, 2019, and June 12, 2022.
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    In contrast with the loop trail, the trails to Deer Lake and Mink Lake climb, sometimes steeply, up the mountainsides bounding the Sol Duc River below. Deer Lake Trail, June 12, 2022.
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    For most of its length, the Deer Lake Trail never strays far from Canyon Creek, chattering over three waterfalls of its own as it rushes down from Deer Lake to join the Sol Duc River just below Sol Duc Falls. Deer Lake Trail, May 30, 2019.
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    Lichen thrive on the forest’s trees, stones, and logs along the trails, including the imaginatively named devil’s matchsticks (Pilophorus acicularis) (upper left), fairy barf (Icmadophila ericetorum) (lower left), and lungwort, or, lung lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria) (right). Deer Lake Trail, June 12, 2022.
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    Low, unnamed peaks rise about Deer Lake. The trail continues around the lake, providing access to campsites on its far shore; however, snow can sometimes obscure the lakeside trail into the first weeks of summer.
    Deer Lake Trail, May 30, 2019.
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    Along the trails, keep an eye out for conifers sporting gigantic burls on their trunks; here, a western redcedar (Thuja plicata) along the Lover’s Lane Loop (left) and a Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) along the Deer Lake Trail (right). Burls are malformations formed from unsprouted knots of buds, likely the result of some sort of injury, yet generally pose no harm to the trees. In spite of their massive burls, these trees remain very much alive.
    Lover’s Lane Loop and Deer Lake Trail, October 17, 2019 and June 12, 2022.
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    Forest hugs most of Mink Lake’s boggy shore, where seasonal wildflowers abound. Mink Lake Trail, May 31, 2019.
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    The verdant woodland about the falls and lakes hosts a plethora of spring and summer wildflowers, including, first column, top to bottom, evergreen huckleberries (Vaccinium ovatum), two-leaved false Solomon’s seals (Maianthemum dilatatum), and common beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax); second column, top to bottom, white avalanche-lilies (Erythronium montanum), Pacific trilliums (Trillium ovatum var. ovatum), and Smith’s fairy bells or fairy lanterns (Prosartes smithii); third column, top to bottom, western bunchberries (Cornus unalaschkensis), salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis), and strawberry brambles (R. pedatus); fourth column, top to bottom, vanillaleaves, or, sweets-after-death (Achlys triphylla) and Scouler’s fumeworts (Corydalis scouleri); fifth column, top to bottom, white marsh marigolds (Caltha leptosepala), broadleaf lupines (Lupinus latifolius var. subalpinus), and pioneer violets (Viola glabella); sixth column, top to bottom, shootingstars (Primula sp.), marsh violets (V. palustris), and star-flowered false Solomon’s seals (Maianthemum stellatum); and seventh column, top to bottom, Pacific bleeding hearts (Dicentra formosa), plumed false Solomon’s seals (Maianthemum racemosum), and fool’s-huckleberries (Rhododendron menziesii).
    Sol Duc Falls Trail — Lover’s Lane Loop, Deer Lake Trail, and Mink Lake Trail, May 30-31, 2019.

    © 2022-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.

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