Forum Index > Trip Reports > North Fork Sol Duc to Boulder Creek and Aurora Ridge Loop 9/30/22 - 10/6/22
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powder blue
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powder blue
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PostWed Oct 12, 2022 11:04 am 
Planned a shoulder season hike with my long time hiking partner to see some areas of the Olympics we've not yet visited. Was hoping to catch the tail of the subalpine bear and berry season but it was not to be. The trip was executed as planned. The highlights were probably the fall colors and the lack of dew or rain. The hardest part was the lack or running water due to a combination of the trails chosen and the dry weather. We often packed between 4 and 6 liters of water. Day 1: North Fork Sol Duc TH to shelter. Hit the trail about 2 PM and got into the shelter with headlights on around 7:30. First crossing was just above the knees. No trouble with route finding during the later crossings even without the benefit of sunlight. Lots of rodent poop on the bunks but thankfully the stocked shelter included a broom head. Great shelter and privy as advertised. Day 2: North Fork Sol Duc Shelter to Boulder Lake. Started moving around 9 AM and had little difficulty following the old trail through all the switchbacks shown on the custom correct map to an elevation of around 4,000'. From here we followed the ridge heading uphill in an easterly direction until around 4,700' (just one or two hundred feet below high ridge running perpendicular to our direction of travel) when we jumped on some deer trails heading SSE toward our ridge. Once on the ridge we easily followed it until we met the happy lake trail, where we headed toward Boulder Lake. Arrived at Boulder Lake just after 1 PM, where we stopped for camp.
First View of Boulder Lake
First View of Boulder Lake
Day 3 Boulder Lake to Appleton Pass Started Moving around 8 AM anticipating a long day. Briefly lost the way trail heading over and around the ridge toward three horse basin due to some blow down but after finding again had no difficulty following the way trail to three horse lake. Not much of a trail through Three horse basin but was able to pick up the trail without much trouble heading up towards Everett Peak. We started up the dry creek bed heading up toward the pass then found the trail just to our left. It was a great way trail heading up to the pass. From the pass also lost the way trail heading to Blue lake but after just holding a pretty steady bearing down slope and toward the lake we popped out just fine. Took a lunch break near upper blue lake before going up and over a high pass on the east ridge of Appleton. We realized upon our return this was maybe not the normal route or at least not the route described in Peggy Goldman's book. But the pass worked out for us and we skirted the sidehill until we were just a couple hundred feet below the pass between Appleton and Cottleton. We dropped our packs and went up to the ridge but did not feel like we had the time or energy to use going up either peak. We maintained our elevation and ended up climbing up and catching the ridge between Appleton Pass and Cottleton, then followed the ridge down to Appleton Pass for camp. Arrived at camp around 7 PM.
Boulder Peak from Everett Peak
Boulder Peak from Everett Peak
Appleton and Blue Lake from Everett Peak
Appleton and Blue Lake from Everett Peak
Looking up the the pass we took over the east ridge of Appleton
Looking up the the pass we took over the east ridge of Appleton
View of Blue lake and upper Blue lake from the pass
View of Blue lake and upper Blue lake from the pass
View of Appleton pass and Olympus from the pass
View of Appleton pass and Olympus from the pass
Day 4 Day hike from Appleton Pass to the high divide This and the appleton pass trail from the hot springs were the only stretch of trails I had done. This is really one of the best way trails in the olympics and we had no trouble at all following the trail to the high divide. With the warm weather, we stopped twice to swim in swimming bear lake. The colors were fantastic out around cat basin. I think it took us around 3 hours each way with our day packs. Heavy packs would not have been an issue on this trail.
A dip in swimming bear lake
A dip in swimming bear lake
Looking back toward swimming bear lake across hillside above cat basin
Looking back toward swimming bear lake across hillside above cat basin
mt. olympus from hillside above cat basin
mt. olympus from hillside above cat basin
Day 5 Appleton Pass to Boulder Lake via trails A much quicker and less strenuous option from hiking between Boulder Lake and Appleton Pass but not nearly as fun. Stopped for a brief dip in the hot springs before heading back up to lake for camp. Day 6 Boulder Lake to Sourdough Camp Was on the trail towards happy lake by 8 and carried packs up the climb before dropping them once we reached the ridge running north from boulder peak. From here we took the ridge up to boulder peak. It took us around 75 minutes. The haze finally blew away the night before so we were treated with the best visibility we had all trip at the summit. After returning to our packs we headed for the aurora ridge trail. The trail was more strenuous than anticipated due to a lot of poor footing given the lack of use. We arrived to sourdough camp with our headlamps just before 8 PM.
Boulder Lake from Boulder Peak
Boulder Lake from Boulder Peak
Looking south toward appleton and cottleton from boulder peak
Looking south toward appleton and cottleton from boulder peak
three horse and upper three horse lakes from Boulder peak
three horse and upper three horse lakes from Boulder peak
colors on north side of aurora ridge trail
colors on north side of aurora ridge trail
looking south over meadow near aurora peak
looking south over meadow near aurora peak
Day 7 Sourdough camp back to North Fork Sol Duc TH Instead of slogging back to the aurora ridge TH and looking for a ride back to our car, we decided to go for the more adventurous option of dropping straight back down to the North Fork Sol Duc trail. First, we hiked up to sourdough mountain for our last view of Olympus. From camp we continued toward the Aurora ridge TH for about 3/4 of a mile until we found our ridge heading SSW toward the north fork sol duc. We were lucky to find a ridge that was pretty easy to follow with relatively open forest. There was a period of tall and dense salal around 2,500' that almost forced me to put on my rain pants. We hit the North Fork trail just a couple minutes down from trail from the first river crossing. It took nearly two hours for the descent. After making coffee and enjoying the river for a while, we headed back to the car where we arrived just after 1 PM.
one last view of olympus from sourdough mountain
one last view of olympus from sourdough mountain
Overall this was a great trip. Not much wildlife unfortunately. Just one bear on the way in along n. fork trail at about 2,500'. We did deal with some smoky and hazy conditions with more heat than we would have liked the first few days. But we were treated with great views and good travel conditions and were able to see a lot of area, both on and off the trail, that we had not yet seen. Saw 10 people total, including one camped at oyster lake, one hiking up toward appleton pass while we were hiking down, three camped at the hot springs, and 5 at the first crossing of the north fork sol duc crossing just after making our descent on our way out.

Now I Fly, vibramhead, haydenslides, RichP, RodF, Hesman, silence, Tom, rubywrangler, RAW-dad, JonnyQuest  meck
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RAW-dad
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PostFri Oct 14, 2022 2:40 pm 
That's an interesting loop. Thanks for sharing! Except for the N Fork Sol Duc, I've hiked through much of it but way earlier in the season. I can't imagine how dry those ridges north of Boulder Lake must be this time of year! And in this super dry Fall.

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vibramhead
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PostWed Oct 26, 2022 11:31 am 
Great trip & TR! Does the trail that climbs up to the ridge from the N Fork Sol Duc leave right from the shelter, or from somewhere down the trail from there?

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Hesman
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PostWed Oct 26, 2022 7:36 pm 
Vibramhead, there is a good description on how to find the trail described by RodF in this tr, once you leave the North Fork Shelter. Also, if I remember correctly, Meck posted a NF Sol Duck trip report with a couple of pictures that shows where to go.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. - Abraham Lincoln Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. - Dr. Seuss
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vibramhead
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PostWed Oct 26, 2022 7:47 pm 
Much thanks! As usual, Rod is the source of all Olympic wisdom.

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powder blue
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PostThu Oct 27, 2022 9:20 am 
The trail left directly from the shelter, passed through the one tent site directly upstream from the shelter and continued on from there, initially following the river just inside the woods and off the stream bank for several hundred feet before beginning to climb. As I said, we really had no trouble at all following it, which surprised me.

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vibramhead
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PostThu Oct 27, 2022 10:10 am 
Thanks!

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Forum Index > Trip Reports > North Fork Sol Duc to Boulder Creek and Aurora Ridge Loop 9/30/22 - 10/6/22
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