DISTANCE: 64+ miles. (I put in an extra mile or two dicking around Humes Ranch and Goblins Gates, which can be avoided if you stay on the Elwha River Trail).
GAIN: 18,019 ft.
MAPS: Green Trails No 134 (Mount Olympus, WA) & No 135 (Mt. Angeles, WA)
DIRECTION: Clockwise. I chose clockwise due to the total absence of water on Obstruction Point Road. I knew this dry patch would be more manageable at the start of the trip than at the end.
-Water. South from Obstruction Point all the way over Hayden and down to the Elwha is a veritable bonanza of creeks and springs, but there is no water on Obstruction Point Road (8 miles); very little water on Long Ridge (10 miles)--with the exception of Long Ridge Camp in the basin below Dodger Point; and little water on Wolf Creek--particularly lower Wolf Creek. For this reason, doing the loop counterclockwise would be brutal. After all, that would mean ascending Long Ridge rather than descending it, and finishing the loop on the dry road rather than starting it there, with full water bottles. Furthermore, there's also no water along the first 3.5-4 miles of the Dodger Primitive Trail, so fill up in the Elwha. I made the mistake of not doing so--because I was preoccupied with finding the trail in the underbrush--and I really suffered as a consequence.
-Terrain. The Hayden Pass Trail was another concern due to the Hayes River fire of 2016, which rendered this most central of passes--without which one can't travel from the west of the park to the east or visa versa--virtually impassable. Since the fire, the Park Service has maintained as much, warning backcountry travelers of the "risk of falling trees, rolling debris and resource damage due to off trail travel in burned areas." Thankfully, trail crews have been making the HPT a major focus this summer, and I'm happy to report that it's now in better condition than before the fire.
-Navigation. As the name suggests, the Dodger Point Primitive Trail--stretching 4.9 miles from Remann's Cabin to the Long Ridge Trail--is indeed "primitive," being largely indistinguishable from a game trail--a clear path here that peters out there. As such, the many actual game trails that cross it are misleading. You need a detective's eye and a bloodhound's nose for this one. It's not for the faint of heart and certainly not to be attempted at night or in poor weather. After fording the Elwha River (at Remann's), venture 30 feet west into the brush, then 100 feet north and you'll see an orange aluminum flag nailed to a tree. This--and others like it--apparently mark the trail, except they are sporadic: some flags are 100 feet apart, some are half a mile. At just under 4 miles in, I lost the trail in a wide alpine meadow, and despite backtracking repeatedly, I simply could not find the trail's continuation. So, knowing I was little more than a mile from Dodgers Point, which is the high point on the ridge, I saw no recourse but to reference my topo and bushwack to the high point. After scrambling 500 feet of meadow--rutted with marmot holes and slippery with slide alder, I emerged under a giant boulder field to the SE of the summit. Although the trail approaches Dodger Point from the west of the summit, my bushwack had gotten me there all the same. With immense relief, I admired the lookout cabin and took some pictures--only to realize, with some consternation, that I had lost one of my maps (Green Trails No 134, which outlines the remainder of the loop) in my scramble. Luckily, I had studied that map pretty closely and was confident of my bearings and remaining legs (Long Ridge, Elwha, Wolf Creek). I wasn't about to down-climb that boulder field looking for it.
VARIATION: A variation of this loop would avoid Dodger Point and Long Ridge altogether, opting instead to follow The Elwha River Trail directly to Whisky Bend and Wolf Creek, resulting in a 56 mile loop with 14,000 in gain as opposed to 64 miles with 18,000.
*There are 2 GPX files because I noticed my watch battery was dying, so I had to switch my Suunto Ambit to a different sport mode—with 5 second GPS tracking instead of 1-second--to save juice.