Buckhorn Wilderness in Washington

Olympic National Park
> Nature
> Buckhorn Wilderness

Buckhorn Wilderness

Situated in the northeastern area of the park, Buckhorn Wilderness, divided in two by the Dungeness River, offers more than 44,000 acres of lush lowland forests, trails for hiking, and several majestic peaks to ascend and admire.

  • More than 60 miles of trails for hiking and backpacking 
  • Many of the trails accommodate equestrians as well 
  • Excellent location for climbing 
  • Buckhorn is prime elk hunting territory

What can I see and do at the Buckhorn Wilderness? 

Hiking/Backpacking: There are 2 trails that provide access into the northern portion of the Buckhorn Wilderness – 9-mile-long Gray Wolf Trail, which follows the Gray Wolf River into the park; and the shorter 3.1-mile Slab Camp Trail.

There is another 60 miles of trails in the southern portion of the Buckhorn Wilderness, most of which are described as strenuous to difficult due to the rugged glacier-carved valleys and the very deep canyons here. Most people access the area via the southern trails.

Best for experienced hikers, some treks in Buckhorn are accomplished on day hikes while others demand a backcountry overnight stay. 

Horseback Riding: Many of the 60 miles of trails here can accommodate equestrians including the Gray Wolf Trail and the Upper Dungeness Trail. Many are best suited to experienced riders due to the rough terrain often encountered here. 

Mountaineering: There are several snow-capped peaks in Buckhorn Wilderness but the most popular climb is definitely the area’s namesake, Buckhorn Mountain. It actually has two peaks: the southwest is considered a Class 2 scramble and includes some use of hands, while the other peak has a few exposed Class 3 sections where roping together may be necessary.

Also consider the trip up Mount Townsend, another popular trek for day hikers. Though it has lots of switchbacks, the well-worn, nicely-maintained path is quite accessible and the views along the way and from the summit are breathtaking.

Hunting: Many hunters head to Buckhorn to go elk hunting, and a “High Buck” hunt happens here each fall as well. However, High Buck territory is rugged and the sport should only be attempted by those with some mountaineering experience. All hunters must have a valid Washington State hunting license.

Where is the Buckhorn Wilderness?

The wilderness area is best accessed via one of these 4 trails in the southern portion – Big Quilcene, Upper Dungeness River, Tubal Cain, and Tunnel Creek Trails. Other smaller trails also lead into Buckhorn. The Big Quilcene River and Tunnel Creek trailheads are close to the town of Quilcene, and the Upper Dungeness River and the Tubal Cain Trails begin a few miles from Sequim Bay Park. Pick up a detailed trail map before you embark on any hike.

How much does the Buckhorn Wilderness cost?

Exploring the wilderness is free!

Who can I call if I have more questions?

For questions about hiking, mountaineering, and to learn more about wilderness regulations, call the Hood Canal Ranger District in Quilcene at 360-765-2200.