Olympic National Park is known for it's diverse landscape ranging from coastline to rainforest to alpine meadows. You can start your day with a hike through old growth forests, gazing up at enormous 650 year old spruce trees, and then end it watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean with your toes buried in the sand. Or you might want to tackle some of the longer, more challenging alpine hikes found at Obstruction Point which offer spectacular views of glacier covered mountain tops.
The drive to Obstruction Point alone might offer enough of a challenge for some. With it's single dirt lane and sheer drop offs it's not a drive for the timid. But the 7.5 mile drive has it's rewards...beautiful panoramic views of the mountain peaks. It's also the home to several trail heads which will lead to some of the most scenic alpine areas in the park.
Hiking the 3.8 mile out and back trail to Grand Lake from Obstruction Point can be done in a few hours but you might want to take some extra time to enjoy the lake. It's a well marked and well maintained trail that traverses open tundra and a razor thin ridge offering exceptional views. It's also very exposed, as opposed to hiking in the rain-forested areas of Olympic, so care should be taken due to potential sun exposure. This is definitely a hike where extra water, sunscreen, affordable sunglasses and a bandana or hat would be warranted.
The trail descends rapidly after about 2 miles. It's a long descent with many switchbacks, and challenging to say the least. Obstruction Point sits at 6,125' in elevation while Grand Lake, your destination, is at 4,755'. Depending on the time of day you start you may be fully exposed as there are not many trees at this elevation. Patches of snow may also be encountered so be sure to check the National Parks website for current trail conditions.
Once you reach the lake, which is well marked, you can enjoy a picnic lunch or even some fishing. Taking time to rest your legs is a good idea because there's a good bit of climbing to do on your return trip. Grand Lake does have a few back country campsites but you must register with the park rangers should you plan to overnight there. You'll actually have two options to hike back to the parking area at Obstruction Point. The first is to backtrack and hike up the steep incline you just came down. The second is to take the slightly longer---at 4.7 miles---but less strenuous Badger Valley Trail.
Badger Valley Trail meanders along a creek and is quite wooded. It then crosses a meadow and ends in a set of switchbacks and fairly steep incline. Just when you're sure you've had enough and can't go on you'll take a left (where there is an unmarked junction) and find the parking lot less than a quarter of a mile away.
It's a rewarding hike that will test your knees as much as it tests your mind. You'll still have that 7.5 mile, white-knuckle drive back, not to mention the 17 mile drive down Hurricane Ridge, but the sense of accomplishment will make the drive that much easier. And don't forget, you can always reward your effort with a celebratory drink at Sol Duc Lodge and a nice recovery soak in the Hot Springs... all within the boundaries of Olympic National Park.