Olympic National Park
Photo: courtesy of National Park Service
The Half-Baked Plan: Isle Royale National Park, Lake Superior, Michigan
133,781. VISITORS (2008):
$61 one-way ferry from Grand Portage, Minnesota (isleroyaleboats.com
Minong Trail, rugged north shore (28 miles, three days). BONS VIVANTS:
Greenstone Ridge Trail to Rock Harbor (40 miles, five days). BOTH:
Repel lemon-eucalyptus insect repellent ($8; rei.com
THE INSIDER: Jon Preston, ranger in the Hoh Rainforest and 17-year park veteran
THE BOTTLENECK: There are three main temperate-rainforest river valleys in Olympic, the most popular of which is the Hoh. "We get 230,000 visitors a year," says Preston.
THE BACK DOOR: Go to the Queets Valley, 1.5 hours south of the Hoh. "It receives hardly any visitors, partly due to lack of infrastructure and partly due to lack of press," says Preston. "If all the Bigfoots of the world wanted to choose a capital, the Queets would be on the short list." Take Forest Service Road 21, off Highway 101, to the Queets campground. To get into the valley, you have to ford the Queets River. (Call the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles for river-flow info; 360-565-3100.) On the other side, pick up the Queets River Trail and hike into the valley bottom. The trail goes for 16 miles through lush forest with twice as much moss as foliage, and a backcountry permit lets you camp anywhere. (Reserve permits with the Wilderness Information Center; $5 per group.) Preston's recommendation: "Stop at Tshletshy Creek, where giant cedar, fir, Sitka spruce, hemlock, and black cottonwoods are smooshed together," he says. "To rangers, it's a church."
THE LAUNCH PAD: The nearby Kalaloch Lodge overlooks the Pacific on Highway 101 (doubles from $190; visitkalaloch.com).