See one of the world's best Salmon runs and a beautiful waterfall, on the Sol Duc River.
The Sol Duc River is in the stunning Olympic National Park in Washington State, and is an incredible place to watch annual Salmon runs in early Fall, or visit a popular waterfall.
The headwaters of the Sol Duc River originate in the Olympic Mountains, running for 78-miles towards the Pacific Ocean.
The river flanks the 13-mile Sol Duc Road, before traveling west along Highway 101, then southwest beyond the township of Sappho, flowing into the Quillayute River 5-miles before the ocean at Rialto Beach. The nearest towns are Port Angeles and Forks (roughly 50-minutes away). You could also stay at two wilderness lodges; Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort (10 minutes away) or Lake Crescent Lodge (30-minutes away).
3 best places to see the Sol Doc River
1. Visit the Salmon Cascades viewing platform.
The Salmon Cascades is 7-miles off Highway 101, down Sol Duc Road. After visiting the Salmon Cascades, you can drive further down Sol Duc Road to see other attractions like Sol Duc Hot Springs and Sol Duc Falls. Always check current road conditions, because Sol Duc Road is often subject to closure after storms.
It's just a short walk from the parking area on Sol Duc Road, to the main viewing platform overlooking the Salmon Cascades.
Salmon Cascades gives you a front row seat to watching Coho Salmon make their incredible journey upstream on the Sol Duc River, to the spawning ground of their birth. This usually occurs in early fall (late September thru early October). You can also see Steelhead Trout in Spring (late march thru may).
The Coho Salmon return to the Sol Duc River after 7 years out in the ocean, and jump up a set of raging cascades to get to their final destination. They are anadromous fish, able to thrive in both freshwater and the saltwater of the ocean. Fortunately the Sol Duc River has never been dammed, so there is a plentiful supply of salmon. A new movement is underway to remove dams on this pristine streams that flow from the Olympic Mountains. Most recently a dam was removed from the nearby Elwha River in 2011, ensuring that salmon numbers will increase from 3,000 to an astounding 300,000!
Salmon Cascades is hugely popular with photographers, waiting for the salmon to become airborne as they leap up the cascades on their journey up the Sol Duc River.
Even if you can't spot the salmon, the raging waters of the Sol Duc River are an attraction in itself.
Peer down into the depths of the green waters, to watch salmon resting in calmer waters to build up their strength, before continuing their journey.
It's advisable to stay behind the viewing platform, especially if you have young kids.
2. See the magnificent Sol Duc Falls.
The Sol Duc Falls is the most popular waterfall in the Olympic National Park, and is located on the Sol Duc River. The trailhead to Sol Duc Falls is located 6.6 miles from the Salmon Cascades, down the Sol Duc Road.
It's a moderate 0.8 mile hike (one-way) to the Sol Duc Falls, with some stairs at the start of the trail. The trail travels through lush, temperate rainforest, with a stream crossing across a footbridge, before descending to the viewing platform that sits across the canyon overlooking the falls. Here's a more detailed description of this gorgeous trail, with tons of photos!
The Sol Duc River continues on its journey down the falls, past the Salmon Cascades, and out to the Pacific Ocean.
3. Hike the Lover's Lane Trail
If you'd like to see even more of the Sol Duc River, hike the 6-mile loop between the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and the Sol Duc Falls. Start at the resort, following the trail upstream along lush forests of Hemlock and Dougals Fir, before crossing the pedestrian bridge at Sol Duc Falls, then looping back to the resort. You can learn all about the Sol Doc Hot Springs Resort here, including lots of photos (the resort is closed over winter).
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