One of the most important activities on any itinerary in Washington is spending time in the great outdoors. With thousands of miles of forested land, rich rainforest and a history that’s inspired countless stories, a day trip to Grays Harbor should include a history hike.
Kestner Homestead Trail
Very few homesteads from early settlers in Grays Harbor remain intact, with one of the exceptions being Kestner Homestead in Quinault. Visitors of all ages can participate in the interpretive 1.5-mile roundtrip Kestner Homestead – Maple Glade Trail. Begin at the Quinault Rainforest Ranger Station and immediately be immersed in deep-green forest. Your hike will then lead you to the 1800s Kestner and Higley family homestead featuring a well-preserved barn, various out buildings that still stands and equipment in remarkable condition.
Johns River Cemetery
History buffs and lovers of all things spooky will jump at the opportunity to visit an old pioneer cemetery atop a secluded hillside near the Johns River Wildlife Area. The trail leading to the Johns River Cemetery is roughly 1.6 miles each way and located near the Ocean Spray cranberry plant where two access sites provide different starting points between Markham and Ocosta. Follow the former logging road through old growth forests and wetlands before heading up a hill to where the cemetery is perched. Here you’ll find roughly 20 gravesites, some of which belong to the pioneering families of Grays Harbor and date back to the early 1800s.
Lake Sylvia Trails
Logging history is a common theme throughout most of the west coast, and it goes without saying that Grays Harbor’s historic past rings to the same tune. Uncover what life resembled on a logging camp while hiking the five miles of trails at Lake Sylvia State Park where the Luark Homestead built a water-powered sawmill in 1871 marking the first in Grays Harbor. The dam at the end of the lake was built in 1909 to provide the growing city of Montesano hydro-electric power and water. The interpretive trails are family friendly and wind through the deep forested land and follow along an old logging railroad line by the west shore of the lake. During your hike, marvel at 20th century logging artifacts that help transport you into the past.
Elton Bennett Trail
Grand Avenue, Hoquiam
Stray a bit from the historical logging trails in the county and you’ll find the peaceful Elton Bennett Trail. Its namesake, Elton Bennett (1910-1974), is one of the area’s most well-known artists that once resided in Hoquiam. Still sold today, his beautiful artwork displayed what life was like on the Harbor and around the Pacific Northwest. The 0.5 mile Elton Bennett Trail is situated just down the hill from where Bennett’s A-frame art studio sat and weaves visitors through a short trail through picturesque wooded nooks and crannies, over small trickling streams and wooden boardwalks to gently pay tribute to the artist that had such a deep love for the area.
Working Forest Interpretive Trail
Positioned 28 miles north of Montesano is Wynoochee Lake and Dam. Being set in a sometimes-forgotten area, locals and visitors in the know consider it a true hidden gem. Upon arrival, pull off and park to check out the signage offering in-depth information on the massive 175-foot-tall, 1,028-foot-long dam built in 1972 to supply water to the pulp mills. To begin the Working Forest Nature Trail, start at the Coho Campground’s Loop B. Totaling in at 0.5 miles, the trail is an excellent accessible option that offers history of the area.
Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail
South Shore Road, Quinault
Multiple interpretive signs and a total of 0.5-miles on the Quinault Rainforest Nature Trail make this looped trail through massive old growth forest an ideal family-friendly hiking day trip. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and a tranquil waterfall. Quiz your children on the many types of trees and vegetation blanketed by thick layers of green moss year-round thanks to the ample rain in the area.
Aberdeen Historic Homes
Broadway Street, Aberdeen
Throughout all of Grays Harbor County, impressive homes built during the turn of the century and decades-long timber era still stand as a testament to the character of the hardworking souls that hand-crafted them. The sheer number of historic homes in the county led a 1987 survey by the State to refer to this collection of homes as “the richest in the state.” Many of these homes can be found in Aberdeen, where walkers can begin their trek anywhere on Broadway Hill. Stroll past the many homes in picturesque neighborhoods, including the over 9,000-square-foot 1905 Aberdeen Mansion. Walk throughout this portion of the city and check out the incredible architectural wonders that have witnessed over a century of memories.
Preachers Slough Interpretive Trail
Preachers Slough Road, Montesano
For those looking for a more challenging historic hike, plan a day on the Preachers Slough Interpretive Trail. The over 3,000 acres of wetland area create the perfect habitat for the plants and animals (including osprey and bald eagles) that call Grays Harbor home. Throughout the Preachers Slough Interpretive Trail, interpretive signs have been carefully added to include history on the local salmon habitat, Native American tribes, history of the area and information on the railroad trestle that once ran on this side of the slough. While the hike is seven miles roundtrip, visitors always have the option to turnaround to shorten the day.