June 16, 2021

Hike 13: Staircase Rapids Loop

By Linda Hilburn
Hike 13: Staircase Rapids Loop
2.1 miles
Ancestral Lands of the Twana/Skokomish, Coast Salish, and S’Klallam
Olympic National Park Pass Required
Toddler hiking

Staircase Rapids Loop is a super easy trail that clocks in at around 2.1 miles (All Trails: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/washington/staircase-rapids-nature-loop-trail-four-stream-to-north-fork) . The elevation gain is nonexistent and most of the trail is gravel. It is in a highly populated hiking area with a large parking lot and campground. This makes it the perfect hike for anyone that feel hesitant about heading into the wilderness solo with the kids. You get all the beauty associated with the Olympic National Park, but the security of knowing that you aren’t far from the parking lot if you need to go quickly whether due to an unexpected boo-boo or a toddler tantrum. 

Drive to Staircase Rapids

Let’s begin with the drive out to Staircase Rapids. It is quite a bumpy one. You’re looking at several miles on gravely pothole filled roads running parallel to Lake Cushman. It is gorgeous, but it is also a rocky ride. Be sure you feel comfortable driving on this type of road and have a vehicle you don’t mind hitting a few bumps in. 

The Wrong Turn

If you follow the directions in All Trails, you will end up in the wrong location. Do not, do not go over the lake bridge pictured above. You will end up in a different hiking area with fewer trails. We parked, hiked up the highway to a rockslide and a few miles past before we realized we were in the complete wrong location, but the views were fabulous. You want to go straight towards Staircase Rapids. If you arrive at your destination and you do not see a cute ranger station, large campground, and several parking lots. You are in the wrong place!

View from the road
Rock Slide
child taking in view

Once we arrived at the actual location, the trailhead was very easy to locate. The hike itself is incredibly flat and easy for even the smallest hiker. There are loads of gorgeous large trees, crystal clear water, and mushrooms galore. 

Stairs Gorgeous forest

clear water

huge stump

Our little hiker loved all the stumps, log bridges, and the suspension bridge that are along this trail. It has tons of “wow” factor for toddlers. There was even a small portion of the stream he was able to stop and toss rocks, an all time favorite activity. I will warn that there was a single log bridge crossing that I wouldn't have felt comfortable allowing the kid to cross solo. So just be aware that it is there. 

Suspension bridge
child throwing rock

All in all, we were huge fans of this area. From the incredibly beautiful lake to the snowy mountain backdrop this area is absolutely beautiful and well worth the drive out. 

Happy Hikers

For this hike, I really went back and forth on where to donate before deciding to donate to Discover Your Northwest. I felt really torn about donating to an organization that’s prime mission is to promote the discovery of “public lands” that have been stolen, but it also teaches and encourages stewardship of these locations, which is vital. But, I saw no information on their page showing that they make it a point to involve or let indigenous peoples lead, so it gave me pause. In the end, it was the only non-profit I found that involved the exact area we were hiking, but it is a problematic choice. You can read a bit more of why here: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/indigenous-communities-and-environmental-justice/ After visiting this location if you feel called to donate as well you can do so here: link

If you know of a better organization that is connected to the Lake Cushman/Mount Skokomish area  to donate please do not hesitate to reach out to me.