Ollalie Creek Camp offers a walk through old growth woodland, colorful blooms and berries to an isolated creekside campsite perfect for solitude or connecting to the stunning Cowlitz Divide and iconic Indian Bar.
The junction to the forested Ollalie Creek campground is found 2.7 miles up the Cowlitz Divide Trail off Stevens Canyon Road just inside the southeast entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.
The official Cowlitz Divide Trail actually starts 0.3 miles below Stevens Canyon Road off the Silver Falls Trail, but most hikers park in a pullout along north side of Stevens Canyon Road. Look for a sign for the Cowlitz Divide Trail on the south side of the road.
Starting from the pullout and heading north, this oft overlooked trail saunters along an understory of vanilla deer leaf, bunchberry, false Solomon’s seal, and Oregon grape. Giant Pacific silver firs and Western hemlock are sprinkled along the way, some over 500 years old and contorted into unique formations.
Ollalie means “berry” in Chinook jargon and refers to the true star of this trail; tasty huckleberries are abundant later in the season. Vine maple and cascade azalea can also offer bursts of contrasting color to the verdant environs.
Crossing a meager stream on a wide, worn log at 0.75 miles, the trail soon adjusts on a gentle switchback at 3000 feet. As you pass through weathered cut logs, notice their girth as evidence of the ancient trees that once reached to the sky. Watch your step as loose rock collects around the knotted roots exposed as steps where water runoff erodes the soil in the trail.
Approaching Ollalie Creek at 1.6 miles, the trail turns west to run parallel as it gains elevation. Here the forest brightens and has a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees provided by the gap in the forest canopy over Ollalie Creek and its canyon. You can hear its cascading waterfalls off to your right as you continue to climb.
Hop over another small stream at 2.5 miles and then the trail levels out to reach the junction with Ollalie Creek Camp at 2.7 miles. From here a side trail to the right curves and crosses Ollalie Creek on a jumble of logs and arrives at the campground at 2.8 miles and 3940 feet of elevation.
The group site and bear hang are presented first with the toilet located another 250 feet up a trail to the left. To the right, the two spacious individual sites can be found creekside before the terrain narrows.
Enticed by scrumptious huckleberries, you may be content with lounging around your camp or dipping into the cool of the creek in this quiet corner of the national park. For those with more fortitude, resuming up the Cowlitz Divide Trail to another creek crossing and a set of switchbacks will have you intersect the Wonderland Trail in 1.7 miles for a total of 4.4 from the trailhead. Taking a right, another steep mile will have your walk undulating on the ridge of Cowlitz Divide and soaking in view after view of Mount Rainier and her surrounding peaks.
WTA Pro Tip: Accessing Cowlitz Divide via Ollalie Creek is half a mile shorter than the Nickel Creek trailhead with significantly less people for most of its length. Ollalie Creek Camp also makes a great alternate campsite for completing the Wonderland Trail.