Aurora Ridge Trail is a 29.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Port Angeles, Washington that features a river and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October.
The Aurora Ridge Trail is one of the less popular trails in the Olympic National Park system. Topping out at just under 4,800 feet the ridge never rises above the tree line. Consequently the majority of the hike is in the forest save for two meadows and several exposed hillsides. The trail itself is more of a suggestion than an actual trail and in the meadows the trail totally disappears. Also, water is a scarce resource on Aurora Ridge. As the ridge has no glaciers, the water supply is totally dependent on the snow pack which tends to melt off early in the season. Since this trail does not receive much foot traffic it also doesn’t receive much in the way of trail maintenance. Be prepared to find a way over, under, or around numerous blowdowns. In sunny areas the trail is obscured by heavy undergrowth. On the plus side, if you like solitude in the back country, your chances of encountering another hiker on this trail are extremely low.
I started from the trail head located on the Sol Duc Hot Springs road. I hiked to the Aurora Divide Trail and took the Aurora Divide Trail down to Barnes Creek and then followed Barnes Creek to the Storm King Ranger Station located on Lake Crescent. The entire hike was 26 miles with a total elevation gain of 6,000 feet.
The trail begins an immediate ascent through a second growth forest of Red Alder. It soon transitions to an old growth forest of fir, hemlock, and cedar. The trail meanders up hill on the south side of the ridge with one short foray to the north side where one can hear the traffic on Hwy 101 but no views of Lake Crescent are visible. After 6 miles the trail reaches the junction with the Eagle Lakes spur trail. Keep to the right. The trail wanders through the forest on the south side of the ridge for 2 more miles before finally emerging onto an exposed slope which gives the hiker a first unobstructed view of the North Fork of the Sol Duc river valley and of Aurora Ridge. The trail quickly returns to the forest and after another mile connects with a short spur trail to Sourdough Camp. The Sourdough spur trail climbs a short hill and reaches a small meadow. Across the meadow, the remains of the Sourdough shelter lie in a pile next to a relatively level spot where one might pitch a tent. In the north west corner of the tent area is a faint trail which, in the spring and early summer leads to a small trickle of water. On the north side of the meadow is another faint trail which leads to Sourdough Mountain. This spur trail climbs the hillside and comes out at a smaller meadow at the base of the west wall of Sourdough Mountain. The trail continues past the cliff base and circles around to the back side of the mountain which presents an easy slope up to the summit of Sourdough. Good views of Aurora Ridge, the Bailey Range, and the Sol Duc can be had. Leaving Sourdough Camp the trail descends a short series of switchbacks. The trail continues along the south side of the ridge and connects with the Aurora Creek trail. If the hiker does not want to brave the meadows and the primitive trail ahead, Aurora Creek offers a shortcut down to Hwy 101.
Continuing east the trail passes through more forest. The forest thins and the trail crosses several small meadows until it reaches the large meadow below Aurora Peak. At this point the trail disappears completely. The grade of the hillside is 76% and to add more of a challenge, the meadow is home to marmot colonies. The way across is riddled with marmot boroughs many of which are hidden by the tall vegetation. If you are traveling east to west the trail in the trees at the edge of the meadow is obscured by a blowdown. Tree limbs and other debris cover the trail making it difficult to see. Your best bet is to head for the location N48° 01.259' W123° 48.831' and look beyond any debris piles. Heading east, try to keep your elevation at about 4,300 feet and aim for N48° 01.341' W123° 48.605'. The break in the trees where the trail resumes is relatively easy to find. Half way across the meadow Mt Olympus appears in the distance to the south. Exiting the meadow the trail meanders in and out of the trees disappearing in the open areas and becoming more apparent in the shady places. At 15.5 miles the trail begins an ascent that ends at the crest of the ridge. It then follows the ridge on the north side for about .2 mile. One can see glimpses of Mt. Storm King through breaks in the trees. The trail then again crosses the crest and dumps the hiker into the bear grass meadow at N48° 01.035' W123° 45.908'. Stay high, close to the trees and continue east. The trail resumes at about N48° 01.035' W123° 45.856'. The trail pretty much stays in the forest from this point on. Leaving the bear grass meadow the trail follows the crest of the ridge for a short distance and one can finally glimpse a view of Lake Crescent in the distance. The trail eventually intersects the Aurora Divide Trail. Turn left a
We did the 6 mile trek to Eagle Lake. it is fairly strenuous if you're backpacking, because you will do a lot of hiking uphill on the way out there. You will see the difference in the forest as you gain elevation, and it's all very beautiful. We found a spot to stay overnight by the lake. There is a stream so we had a perfect source of running water, but there isn't really any flat land so it's challenging to find a spot for a tent. There was also a fire pit. This is a secluded place in the woods, and there are no services or facilities.
Not much to say other than great Olympic Wilderness experience. Great views!
I really enjoyed this trail. Accessed it by using Barnes Creek Trail.