Trip Report: Enchanted Valley
Enchanted Valley is an iconic PNW hike due to the presence of a beautiful chalet, built in 1931. At first glance the chalet strikes the imagination and harkens to a rugged, romantic, frontier past. But the relatively large scale of the chalet and quality of the construction reveals it’s true original purpose as a commercial, recreation lodge. It was constructed and operated by The Olympic Recreation Company under a special use permit as a backcountry resort between 1931 and 1942. During World War II it served as an Aircraft Warning Service station with plane spotters stationed there between 1943 and 1944. Eventually the National Park Service purchased all of the holdings of the Olympic Recreation Company and chalet was opened to the public and used as a back country shelter and ranger station up until 2013. Over the years, the Quinault River continued to meander closer to the chalet and by 2014 it had undercut it considerably. The chalet was lifted and placed on runners and a team of horses and mules moved it to the present location. Again threated by the ever encroaching river, it’s final disposition is unclear. The NPS is set to release a final determination in 2021 with high possibility of the chalet being dismantled (their recommendation) or allowed to be taken by the river.
It will be sad to see this historic chalet succumb to the ravages of nature so it was imperative to me to visit it before that happens. Even beyond the allure of the chalet, though, Enchanted Valley is worthwhile destination for a romp. There’s a reason this location was chosen for the chalet, it is stunning! The views are astounding, with spring snow-melts creating waterfalls that tumble more than 4000′ from the peaks to the valley floor. And the wildlife abounds. Of particular note are the ever popular bears that draw many people to the area each spring as the mommas emerge from their long slumbers with cubs in tow. It is not uncommon to see them browsing, slumbering, or even frolicking in the river. Caution is of course advised, but as with most backcountry black bears, as long as you keep your distance and don’t provoke them, there’ll be no need to worry.
This hike will stop a little more than 3 miles short of Enchanted Valley with camp setup at Pyrites Creek. This is partly to shorten the length of the loaded hike but also because permits for Enchanted Valley go quickly. If you decide to camp in Enchanted Valley, be aware that bear canisters are required.