Sol Duc Falls Trail Guide

Olympic National Park is brimming with beautiful and accessible hikes with Sol Duc falls as the piece de resistance. It’s a short, relatively flat trail through the towering forests that the national park is well known for. The falls are thunderous and a beautiful. With a trail as easy as this one, families and adventurers alike will enjoy this trail making it a must do for anyone in the Lake Crescent/ Port Angeles area.

Sol Duc Falls Trail Details:

Distance: 1.85 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 210 feet (easy)
Time: 1 hour
Fees: Sol Duc Falls is within the Sol Duc Valley fee area for Olympic National Park. A week pass to the park is $30 or included with a National Park pass.

Trailhead directions:

Take hwy 101 and turn left onto Sol Duc-Hot Springs Rd if coming from Port Angeles. Follow the road 13.8 miles passing the hot springs and Salmon run on the right until the road dead ends at the trailhead. The parking lot is huge and offers facilities/ trash. The trailhead also serves a number of other great trails in the area including Lover’s Lane which is a 6 mile loop that includes a stop at the falls.

Sol Duc Falls trail description:

The trail starts at the far end of the parking lot from the road, straight from where you came in. Shortly after the trail starts, there is a trail split to the right, stay left (or straight in this case) following signs for Sol Duc Falls. Just before you reach the falls around 0.75 miles in there is another trail split. Keep right (again straight) and follow the trail as it crosses the bridge and gives you the best view of the falls.

The best photos are from the bridge!

The falls are located in a deep scenic gorge which is unfortunately inaccessible at the bottom so you can only view the falls from above.

If you cross the bridge you will find many small paths down to the water to get different angles of the falls. Use caution especially as you near any edges of the falls.

Return back down the same trail for the short version or take the Lover’s Lane trail all the way down to the hot springs resort.

Nearby: The Salmon run cascades

*Make sure to stop by the Salmon run cascades as well for a glimpse of salmon and trout swimming up river. The fall will bring more viewing possibilities, but even in August I watched at least 10 fish make the 6 foot jump up the cascades in about 30 minutes.

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If you’re a fan of waterfalls, mountain passes, and Lord of the Rings, than the Devil’s Punchbowl hike is for you. It’s a shorter hike that leads to the base of a 430 foot (131 m) roaring waterfall and is situated right off the main road through Arthur’s Pass to the west coast. The hike itself will only take you 1-1.5 hours RT and will take you across 2 beautiful bridges and through lush vegetation. It’s a safe hike rain or shine with the steepness of the trail being negated by slip protected stairs.

Trail information:

Distance: 1.8 miles/ 3km RT
Elevation gain: 200 feet
Time: 1 hour + for exploring

Parking Area: 140 West Coast Road

The drive from Christchurch is a beautiful one. At only 2 hours, it packs in some beautiful farm lands, mountains, braided rivers, and interesting rocky hills (ie. Castle Hill). From Christchurch, take highway 73/76 (13.9km) until it turns right and becomes old West Coast Road. You’ll follow that all the way (133.5km). You’ll know you are getting close when you cross the long 1-way bridge across the Waimankariri River and the turn off will be on your right just on the other side of town. (Look for Punchbowl Road)

Don’t use google maps as it will take you just past the turn off for the actual parking lot (speaking from experience) At the trailhead there are some portapotties but otherwise no facilities. You’ll start out walking up river to a visible bridge. You’ll cross 2 long bridges in short succession and follow the trail from there as it heads up wooden boardwalks and multiple stairs. There aren’t any trail splits or conflicting signs making this a very easy trail to follow.

About our hike:

As we drove from Christchurch, we noticed clouds overhead and high winds in the area which deterred us from our longer hike of the day- the Bealey Spur track. However we were not deterred from hiking to the Devils Punchbowl since for one, it is considered inspiration for some of the waterfalls used to create Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings and for two, it’s just an incredible looking waterfall.

Once at the Trail head, we practically ran against strong winds to the crossing of the first bridge which has no wind protection. Aka it kind of sucked. Once we were across those bridges however the trees broke the wind for us making for an easy, albeit wet, hike. It only took us 30 minutes up and though thoroughly drenched at this point, we still took a few minutes to stand at its base and take it all in before a quick 30 minute jaunt back to the car.

I can only imagine how resplendent this waterfall is in the sun, but for now I’ll take our memories of running across bridges to find shelter from the wind, learning my rain jacket was not indeed water proof, and gazing up at the tallest waterfall of our trip.

See also my articles on:

Guide to Arthur’s Pass National Park

Guide to hiking Mount Sunday

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