Olympic Peninsula: Queets River

The Queets is a great beginner river on the Olympic Peninsula, WA. It’s one of the state’s last real “wild” rivers, meandering through and unpopulated, roadless old-growth valley along the Pacific Coast.

Access: the trail is unmaintained. You’ll need to bushwack or play trail-tracker to get upstream. The remnant trail runs along the North side of the river, opposite the trailhead, so you’re best off jumping in the boat immediately and paddling across the river, then proceeding up from there.

Hazards: Wood. The river actively meanders, meaning it’s still toppling old growth spruce & cedar into its waters in the natural cycle. Be alert for sweepers and logjams. Otherwise, there’s one mellow Class 2 rapid and some riffles.

Depth: varies seasonally. The Queets is a good size river in the rainy season, and navigable throughout summer.

Weather: Rainy, cloudy, occasional sun. The Queets sits near the Hoh rainforest, between the Pacific Ocean and the olympic mountains. Recommend some warm clothing and a raincoat.

Temperature: A little chilly. Partly fed by olympic snowmelt.

You can basically hike as far as you like up the Queets Valley, all the way into the heart of the olympics, but even 15 or 20 miles up you’re still in rainforest and hills, so it’s not a fast trip into the high peaks. It’s good for a day hike or overnight going up, then a fast float out. Technically, you could also look at doing a long approach to the mountains (perhaps Olympus), play in the high country, then use rafts to make your epic trip out a lot easier and more stylish.

Perks for the Burly: The the Queets is near the Washington Coast, meaning you can go play in the surf afterwards. Technically, you could float all the way to the ocean, but you’d end up a long, long ways from your rig if you only have one. In any case, the surf can be fun for the experienced and prepared. I usually find 2-3 foot swell.

A couple friends and I were thinking of putting in (my raft) at the Queets campground and going all the way out to the ocean. We’re not that experienced but all able bodied young guys - do you think that’s a reasonable idea?


I do - but I’ve never run that lower section. Looking at the map, I think it would be a really nice float. Klaloch lodge is out at the ocean there, so you can get a beer or coffee or burger when you get out, too.

I just hiked down the upper Queets (wishing I had my Packraft! But alas, I was working!). I just wanted to mention a few significant rapids.

There are some small rapids in the upper reaches of the Queets, mostly of the drop/pool variety. They appeared to be class II or II+. The Queets is beautiful in this upper section, as it sits in a 100’-150’ wide and 40’-80’ deep gorge for several miles. The bushwhacking was STRENUOUS!! Lower, but still high on the Queest, the largest rapid begins near the confluence of the Queets and Kilkelley Creek. This section was a huge boulder garden that looked very fun and technical. The rapid was continuous for close to 1 mile. It appeared class III+ or even IV.

It is possible to access the Queets from Bear Pass (on the northern edge of the Bailey Range). There is a significant waterfall (marked on the map as “Falls”) that I did not scout. This would be a very interesting place to explore!

The Queets is an amazing packraft trip. I did it 3 years ago and want to go back really bad. There was some wood and class III rapids, but manageable. The trail and river are fairly remote and the beginning portage makes it more isolated. We saw a ton of elk and bear on the trail and river. Below is a link to some video I shot of the trip.


Jon D

I paddled the Queets from just below the confluence with Paull Creek to South Beach campground, which is about 2 miles north of the mouth of the river, then did a bike shuttle back to the NF Quinault. I carried one nasty class IV-V rapid with a lot of wood in it, and carried around a few log jams lower down. There were a few Class III rapids in the upper stretch, but it was mostly class I-II. It is an AMAZING old-growth rainforest.

Ben thanks for sharing about your trip. I’ve run the queets a handful of times, most recently this fall, but have only hiked up 7-8mi (estimating) before putting in. Never up from Paull crk.h Curious if you went recently, and if so what the condition of the queets river trail was in? Also, did you get dropped off at queets river campground? Is there access to the upper areas of the queets from the NF Quinnalt? I didn’t really understand the bike shuttle route you mentioned.

Hi Robie,
I dropped my bike off at the South Beach State park, then parked the car at the Skyline Trailhead, on the NF Quinault (North Shore Road past Lake Quinault). Hiked the Skyline Trail to Lake Beauty (needed crampons in July), then cross country down to the Queets. Paddled down to the ocean and up along the coast to South Beach State Park. The Queets Trail looked pretty overgrown, but I was only on it for the portage.

Hello Shaggy and others… I’m new to this forum but looking forward to getting more involved… Been packrafting for 2-3 years now…

Does anyone know or recall what flow rates should be for the awesome queets trip to be feasible? I’m hoping to do this with some friends around September 6-9ish and would hike down from Skyline Ridge, put in the upper queets, (near Paul Creek) then float to the road. Historical flows look ok for that time frame, but I am curious is anyone has any numbers from their trip.

Any thoughts much appreciated!

Tim H