Hike to Royal Basin



16 miles

Elevation Gain

3200 ft

Route Type


Added by Rose Freeman

Mossy forests. Turquoise glacial lakes. Rugged peaks. This well-maintained trail to Royal Basin takes you to another world you won't soon forget!

If you're looking for a long day hike or multi-night backpacking trip in the Olympics, add Royal Lake and Royal Basin to your adventure list!  

The first mile of trail along the Dungeness River gains a gentle 300 feet.  When you reach the bridge, do not cross it (the trail across the bridge goes to Marmot Pass in the Buckhorn Wilderness).  Take a right and follow the sign to Royal Basin!

For the next 6 miles follow this soft mossy trail and enjoy the soundtrack of Royal Creek through the hemlock and fir trees. Stay left at the intersection with Mount Maynard and continue up the switchbacks through talus fields, across several small streams, and back into the forest.  Just before Royal Lake the trail passes a green alpine meadow with glorious peaks soaring above.  

At 7.2 miles and 5,100' you will arrive at Royal Lake!  For some, this will be the end of your day trip.  For those with endurance to continue, follow the trail to the right around the lake and past the giant shelter rock one more mile and 700' gain to Royal Basin.  For a short side adventure, take a right at the shelter rock to see the seasonal ranger post and a hidden waterfall!

In early season, be prepared with poles and microspikes and route finding experience for the trail between Royal Lake and the basin.  When you reach the next meadow, carefully cross the unbridged stream and continue straight up the last slope to Royal Basin. 

You've made it!  Explore the basin and discover milky blue glacial tarns just a little higher at 5,800'.  Take in the views of Mount Deception and Mystery soaring above. Stay on the trails and only camp in designated campsites to preserve this area!  A truly unforgettable place.

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over 4 years ago

One of the best on the Peninsula!

This hike is an incredibly beautiful adventure into the heart of Olympic National Park. Enormous trees, moss-covered forest, alpine lakes, and stunning peaks can all be found here. My friends and I did it as a one night backpacking trip in May when there was still quite a bit of snow at both the lake and the basin. The trail seems to clear out quite early of snow all the way up to the lake; it was just our campsites that were still covered in a lot of places. The basin is a really fun place to play and glissade in when there's still snow, too, and we even had a few marmots chirping at us as we walked around! However, we did notice a lot of avalanche sluff and debris, which is a good reminder of how dangerous snow can be. Always watch for avalanche chutes, especially in early spring when snow is warming and melting!


🥇Top Contributor

over 4 years ago

Absolute must for Olympic NP

Royal Basin has been on my to-do list for a while, in part because it's one of the few quota camping areas in Olympic National Park. And after visiting, I can see why - Royal Basin is spectacular! The old-growth on the hike in exemplifies the archetypical Northwest forest, and by the time you reach the basin you're in an entirely different - alpine - world surrounded by massive peaks. Royal Lake is beautiful, but for the best scenery visiting the upper basin is absolutely essential. As far as camping goes, none of the sites (which are delineated on the permits) are particularly large or even especially flat, but the location easily makes up for that. I agree with Nathan's review above that the trail is very manageable (it does climb 2,000 feet, but it's so gradual all the way to Royal Lake you'll barely notice). However, be aware that Mt Deception is definitely a technical climb. One additional tip - if you can't get camping permits for Royal Basin, but are up for a big hike, there is no quota for Deception Basin to the south (hike to upper Royal Basin, then continue on over the shoulder of Deception - this is a very steep and tough scramble, followed by a steep descent!).

🥈 Contributor

over 4 years ago

An Olympic gem...

When Hurricane Ridge is crawling with tourists, and you're able to grab an overnight permit this old-growth to high-country route is phenomenal. Late season is the best time to explore the basin as the tarns and lakelets are all melted out and the bugs cannot survive the chilly evenings. Early season adventurers may want to consider an ascent of the second tallest peak in the Olympic Mountains: Mt. Deception. Competence on steep snow fields and scrambling 3rd class loose rock are amust for this add-on. Don't be scared off by the "advanced" rating. It's nothing more than a jaunt in the park on a well-maintained trail: intermediate at hardest.

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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