Backpacking to Marmot Pass, Home Lake, and Buckhorn Mountain
Buckhorn Wilderness Area and Olympic National Park
~27 miles total hiking, ~7500′ elevation gain
July 3-5, 2015
We have done an overnight backpacking trip to Marmot Pass on the Olympic Peninsula the last two years in a row on the weekend following the 4th of July. Since the 4th fell on a Saturday this year, we figured we would make it a 3-day, 2-night trip and explore a little more of the area. We also heard that you can see all the Puget Sound area fireworks from Buckhorn Mountain so we wanted to check that out.
We grabbed an early ferry on Friday morning to beat the Holiday crowds and arrived at the Upper Big Quilcene River Trailhead just after 8 am. We hit the trail at 8:30 am and reached the familiar Camp Mystery around 11 am. Overall the trail was in excellent condition and amazing wildflowers were blooming everywhere! There was one notable large tree down over the trail early on before the first campsite. We were all able to make it over the log no problem (besides a little sap on us!). Surprisingly, no one had set up camp yet at Mystery. We had decided earlier we were going to push on to Boulder Shelter on the other side of the pass, so we were further out for exploring during the rest of the trip. We let the feet air out at Camp Mystery, pumped some water, and had lunch before making the final push up to Marmot Pass.
Marmot Pass was gorgeous, as always, but the lack of snow this year was very evident since we have been here in years past. It is fun to revisit the same place each year because the experience is always a little different. After a brief stop at the pass, we pushed on toward Boulder Camp on trails we had not yet visited. The views towards the inner Olympics were incredible as we walked along the trail towards Boulder Camp. We first caught sight of it from the ridge and realized we had a ways to go down. The alpine trail winds down to the camp, meeting the junction for the Dungeness River Trail and crossing a creek, which made a great water source.
We arrived about 1:15pm and there were already a few campers setup for the night in the obvious spots. We forgot the closer proximity this campsite has to the Dungeness River Trailhead. We found a spot next to the Shelter in the shade and made camp for a few nights. The evening was busy with fellow hikers passing thru or looking for flatter ground to lay their tent. We all took a nap and settled in. We cooked a great meal and made friends with our neighbor Rick and his daughter.
In the morning we made breakfast and started our hike to Home Lake. It felt like a treat to not break camp and pack everything up! We could get used to ‘base camping’! We left about 9:45am and arrived around 11:15am to a beautiful quiet lake to ourselves. The hike had some overgrown areas and had some exposed avalanche shoots. We passed a few substantial water sources along the trail as well. With the heat, we quickly dipped for a swim. The water wasn’t too cold or too warm, it was just right. Everyone relaxed in the sun and we even took a sleeping pad ‘raft’ out on the water for a bit. Soon more hikers joined around the lake to enjoy the respite from the heat.
We returned to camp to nap before prepping an earlier dinner for our voyage up to Buckhorn for the fireworks. Most overnighters had ventured onward to another camp, leaving only us and one other couple for the evening. We left about 6pm from the Boulder Camp to ascend the 2200′ up to Buckhorn. We met our friend Christian at the pass and started the boot path scramble scree up to the summit. Though we’ve done this trail every year, it is still a bit of a chore up and down. We enjoyed the company of other hikers and even a beer while watching the sunset. We took our annual American Flag photos with our group and bumbled around on the rocks. It was beautiful to be in the Olympics watching the sun pass over peaks you can’t see from Seattle.
We decided to head down while it was still dusk/light to the false summit to avoid the difficult rocks between them in the dark. Seattle and the cities north like Edmonds and south like Tacoma had great fireworks, albeit small from our perspective. We stayed for awhile, ooh-ing and aahh-ing when we saw the bigger displays. With headlamps donned, we descended the scree trail. On the pass we saw an amazing waxing moon rise large on the horizon, orange and on fire. We watched the stars for sometime, before heading back to camp at a brisk pace longing for our sleeping bags. We got to sleep after midnight.
In the morning we ate breakfast and broke camp to head home. We left about 10am, arrived at the pass around 11am, and were back to the cars around 1pm. It was a great adventure and so fun to go for 3 days and 2 nights at the same campsite. We had lunner (lunch/dinner) at Logger’s Landing, a perfect reentry with meaty home-cooking!