Driving Directions: Drive US 101 one mile south from Quilcene and take a right turn onto Penny Creek road. At the time of our hike, this road sign was bent and unreadable. From the highway, Penny Creek is at the top of a slight hill, it heads straight while the highway veers slightly left. Once you're on Penny Creek, and the road splits, take the left fork, which becomes FS Road 27. When the road enters Olympic National Forest, the surface changes from 2-lane gravel to very nice 1-lane paved. Continue ascending via FS 27 (the info says 10.6 miles, our odometer said 12.8) until you reach a spur road signed "Mount Townsend Trail" - Ignore this road unless you want a longer hike - hiking from that lower trailhead will add about a mile one way and 400 feet of elevation to your hike. Continue on FS 27 for about one mile ahead to another fork, and take the gravel road to the left (FS 27 continues to ascend to the right).
The trailhead (probably very crowded at midday on a summer weekend) marks the end of the gravel spur. You will need a NW forest parking pass $5, and these are not available at the trailhead. The passes can be purchased at the Quilcene ranger station, which is on the right hand side of the road, between Quilcene and Penny Creek Road. Check with them for hours and availability. The trailhead has no facilities, there are no bathrooms there, or along the route. The hike is 8.4 miles RT, with an elevation gain close to 3000 feet. The trail is smooth, and in good shape. It ascends steadily, switchbacking upwards. Your legs will get a bit of a rest midway up, as for a while the path has a much gentler grade. After the cutoff for the Silver Lakes Trail, it steepens a bit again. Once the summit ridge is attained, the views are incredible. Following a spur trail to the right, you can ascend the south summit (elev 6280'), or continue about 0.5mi further to another short spur to the lower north summit (6212') and linger for lunch while taking in the views that stretch for miles in all directions. To the south, Mount Constance and The Brothers can be discerned. To the southeast lie the heart of the Olympic Mountains. To the west (and down) is the Dungeness river valley. To the north and northwest, one can see the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the mountains of Vancouver Island. To the northeast, the Hood Canal Bridge and Mount Baker can be seen with ease. And almost directly east there is Glacier Peak and more of the cascades.
When we hid this cache, the weather forecast was for clearing skies and a temperature of 76 degrees. We were surprised to see clouds hugging the peaks as we headed towards Quilcene, and remarked that the sun was going to burn through later in the day than expected. At the trailhead, it was cool, and I looked through the car for a jacket in vain. Headed up in t-shirt and jeans. (Cotton kills) I was remembering my last hike, when I fried in the heat and suffered dehydration. Carried about 50 pounds of water, plus the cache in my pack. We ascended through a slight mist, that got thicker as we rose. It became apparent that we would not have our views today at the summit. The forest is lovely, though, and surreal in the mist, and the wildflowers were abundant. We had gotten a late start, and met several groups headed down, who were all sensibly clad in Gore-tex, but we summited alone.
We spent 45 minutes in the drizzle up top, in the meadow directly below the south summit, looking for just the right place to put the cache. After ruling out places that would be under too many watchful eyes on a sunny weekend day, when it can get very crowded, and ruling out places that would involve trampling pretty little plants, there were few sensible choices left, and I was starting to shiver. Hypothermia in August, how stupid! I hate to just shove a cache under a tree, but that’s exactly what we did. It’s in a small grove of trees, which Mr. B. believes are juniper. He brought home a sample to look up to try to be sure. He took a picture of me at the cache site, mostly to have a picture of the trees for identification, and I am standing there dripping, my hair as wet as if I had just come out of the shower. The cache is not intended to be hard to find, the hike, the views and the flowers are the point here. Satellite reception was good, and the first coordinates I took seemed to hold true. Please try to re-cover it well.
On the drive home, we marveled at the blue skies everywhere. Mr. B. suggested that we go back and try the summit again, but, uh..... no. Some other day! Please enjoy!
Some of the information on this page came from the Washington Trails Association website.