|Waterfalls; creekside and lake views; old-growth forest; wildflowers; fungi
|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)
|Olympic National Park, Olympic Peninsula - North
Ancestral lands of the Klallam, Quileute, and Makah
-- OR --
|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)
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.
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.
© 2022-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.