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Hiking Staircase Rapids Loop Trail in Olympic National Park, WA

Staircase Rapids Loop Trail

Hiking Lenght: 2.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 574 feet

Hiking Time: 1.5 hours

Staircase Rapids Loop, located in the Olympic National Park (Washington) is one of the most underrated trails near Seattle, most likely because it is a short and relatively easy hike.

However, it is still beautiful and worth hiking if you’re close to the area. I personally hiked this trail with my girlfriend and we really loved it.

Here we will tell you everything you need to know about Staircase Rapids Loop Trail which takes you through a rainforest and provides scenic views. 

GREAT easy hike with exceptional river, creek and mountain views……..

Matthew Frye, Pro Hiker

Where is Staircase Rapids Loop Trail? 

Staircase Rapids location
Staircase Rapids Trailhead

The Staircase Rapids Loop trail resides in the rainforest section of the park on the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula.

While many people consider Staircase Rapids is one of those hiking trails with scenic views near Seattle, you can get to Olympic National Park from Emerald City by driving for about 2 hours.

It is a short drive (about 30 minutes) from the town of Hoodsport, which is a bit of the way down the Hood Canal. The Hood Canal is a narrow waterway that divides the Kitsap Peninsula and the Olympic Peninsula.

It is an area that makes for a good shorter hike for those camping at the nearby Staircase Rapids campground or visiting this section of Olympic National Park to hike Mt. Ellinor. 

How to Get to the Trailhead?  

Staircase Rapids Trail Map
Staircase Rapids Trail Map – Courtesy of

Starting in Hoodsport, take the route to Lake Cushman. Once there, you need to travel along a gravel road on the lake’s east side for a few miles until you reach the Staircase Entrance of Olympic National Park.

There you will see the parking area at the Staircase Ranger Station. Park and walk over the river bridge to the trailhead. The trailhead is clearly marked. 

How Long Is the Staircase Rapids Trail? 

The Staircase Rapids hike is a 2.1-mile hike that follows a loop path. It is a relatively easy trail to complete.

Most hikers will only need to set aside about 1-2 hours for the roundtrip, making it a great excursion for families or visitors looking for a morning or afternoon hike. 

Other hiking trails nearby:

Trail Description 

staircase rapids hike
Staircase Rapids – Courtesy of Jonathan Moreau @ Flickr

Visitors of all types and hiking abilities will enjoy this scenic loop trail that many people can complete in just a few hours. The trail is flat and not strenuous as you only gain about 570 feet of elevation.

Even younger children can complete the hike without an issue. However, make sure to leave your furry friends at home for this one, as dogs are not allowed on the trail. 

The nearby Staircase Rapids campground makes it a good place for families to explore the area on foot.

The trail runs along the path of the North Fork Skokomish River, which allows for great views during the walk and also provides access to the longer North Fork Skokomish River trail.

staircase rapids trail
Staircase Rapids Trail – Courtesy of Jonathan Moreau @ Flickr

Hikers who prefer not to retrace their steps will enjoy that this trail continues in one loop from the beginning trailhead back to the parking lot.  

This area of the park is known as a coastal temperate rainforest, so you will see amazing old-growth Douglas Firs, lush greenery, and mossy rocks everywhere you turn.

It would be best if you also prepared yourself for the possibility of rain and wet sections of the trail. Those should not pose a problem, though, as the trail is flat and the wide gravel paths do not get very slippery. 

Even while raining it’s still nice. Was not expecting WA to look like a tropical rainforest, but it does. Trail is muddy in several areas but passable.

Alana Holland, Pro Hiker
Staircase Rapids loop hike
Courtesy of Nickay3111 @ Flickr

You can choose to make the trail loop in either direction from the trailhead. Most visitors prefer to make a clockwise loop, but if you want to go against the flow, you may want to start the other way.

The trail is very well-marked, so you will not have any trouble following it or concerns about getting lost. 

If you start clockwise, you will begin the hike by heading upstream along the North Fork of the Skokomish River. As you walk the well-marked trail, you will stand in the middle of large trees on both sides.

Every so often, a break in the trees will allow you to see better views of the river or branch off on a smaller path that will lead you to the river’s edge.

Part of the trail includes a newer suspension bridge that crosses the river. You’ll see remnants of the older bridge that the river washed away as you cross.   

Staircase Rapids Suspension Bridge
Suspension Bridge – Courtesy of Nickay3111 @ Flickr

The rapids on the rocky river and waterfalls are beautiful to admire as you walk along and enjoy the scenery. The forest provides a good amount of shade and protects from other elements as well, such as wind.

The trail is usually not overly crowded, so in either direction you choose, you should have some space to leisurely walk, stop, and take pictures. One of the most fulfilling parts of the hike is the silence of the old forest that surrounds you at every step. 

You will return to the Staircase Rapids parking area at the end of the hike. 

Best Time to Hike Staircase Rapids Nature Trail

Hiking Staircase Rapids
Courtesy of Nickay3111 @ Flickr

The Staircase Rapids trail is open year-round, and its conditions are suitable for hiking at any time of the year. We suggest you visit it during summer when you are protected by the forest and it doesn’t feel that hot.

Our Recommendation

Note that GPS is unreliable in this area due to spotty cell phone service, so have another plan for navigating to the parking area, such as a regular map.

GPS devices may also lead you the wrong way and add extra mileage to your arrival from Hoodsport.

Make sure to bring proper shoes and rain gear with you. Although the trail is wide and gravel-lined, it can get muddy in spots and rain at any time.

Just make sure you protect your feet from the possibility of water. We tested and analyzed some great shoes for hiking in wet conditions to save your time.