Sol Duc Valley
If the beauty of the Sol Duc River running through old-growth forest wasn’t enough of a reason to visit the valley, there’s a hot springs resort, a three-legged waterfall, and a platform built for the sole purpose of watching salmon.
Sol Duc Hot Springs
Along the Sol Duc River twelve miles down Sol Duc Road, you’ll find healing waters of hot springs. Native American legend tells how the springs were created by dragons.
“Once there were two dragons. One lived in the Sol Duc Valley and the other lived in the Elwha Valley. Neither dragon knew of the other’s existence. One day they were both out exploring the forest when they came face to face on top of the ridge separating the Elwha and Sol Duc Valleys. They exploded with anger as each accused the other of invading its territory.
“The fight was brutal as the dragons thrashed and ripped at each other to win back their territory. After years of fighting and clawing at each other, they grew frustrated. Their strength was evenly matched and neither could win. The dragons both admitted defeat and crawled back to caves in their respective valleys and are still crying over being defeated. The dragons’ hot tears are the source of the hot springs in the Elwha and Sol Duc Valleys.” Source
Today, the Hot Springs Resort is best known for its soaking pools, hot tubs, and a swimming pool that are heated with the hot springs. The resort is situated in a valley carved by the Sol Duc River.
Sol Duc Falls
Called the most beautiful falls in Olympic, and situated just a few miles from Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and Campground, Sol Duc Falls is a treasure year-round. Unlike other falls on the Peninsula, you view it from above on the brink. In the autumn rainy season and early spring runoff this falls can be spectacular as it booms beneath your feet.
The hike to the falls is a short and easy one. From the parking lot, the walk through old-growth forest to the falls overlook is just a mile, taking you from the hot springs resort through campgrounds and finally to the falls.
Salmon Cascades Overlook on the Sol Duc River
Salmon, trout, and steelhead are born in the Sol Duc River, but spend most of their lives in the Pacific Ocean before returning to spawn. Chinook and coho salmon ascend the Sol Duc in late summer and spawn in late fall, while cutthroat trout and steelhead run in the fall and winter and spawn into the spring. The salmon actually smell their way upstream, in search of the same waters where they hatched from the gravel a few years before. Stand on the riverside platform to watch the fish leap the Salmon Cascades.
In the spring, they return to complete their lifecycle in the snow-fed waters of the Sol Duc River. After several days the exhausted salmon die, but their life carries on in the gift of nutrients their carcasses bring to the forest and its creatures.
The Sol Duc Valley is located in the northwest region of Olympic National Park. Just 40 minutes west of Port Angeles, turn off Highway 101 onto the Sol Duc Road. Sol Duc Road is open year-round weather permitting.