Though this route leads through some of the most pristine and beautiful sections of Olympic National Park, it is often overlooked by most visitors so it's unlikely that you'll pass too many people along the way to the lovely Royal Basin.
Camping permits are a must, and reservations are recommended.
Your route will begin from the Upper Dungeness Trailhead, where for a brief time you'll take the Upper Dungeness Trail
. After about a mile of moderate climbing, you'll continue heading west as the Dungeness Trail bends to the south.
Continuing on the Royal Basin Trail
, your journey will begin in earnest. The trail is lovely, and along the way you'll be treated to most of the highlights of Olympic National Park. For much of the way, you'll be following the Royal Creek as it babbles its way to the Dungeness River. The slope will be mostly moderate, and you'll enjoy the shaded route as you continue to climb. Moss grows in abundance, and you won't believe how many shades of green present themselves. Dense forest gives a feeling of solitude.
Eventually, you'll find yourself approaching the Royal Creek Campground, which is an excellent place for a snack or a break before continuing on. From there, continue your ascent to Royal Lake. You'll have three more miles of a similar steady climb though the scenery will be a great distraction. Enjoy the coniferous forests as the terrain gradually gets more rugged. While you won't be able to see far just yet, you'll have great views of the valley below.
Once you reach Royal Lake, take another short break, or potentially drop off your gear if you're spending the night at the Royal Basin campsite. From here, you'll have many options to explore. Passing the seasonal ranger station leads to a beautiful, hidden waterfall. Continuing on the trail leads to views of glaciers and the surrounding mountains. It's another 1.5 miles to the Royal Basin proper, and though the ascent is a bit more difficult than the preceding trail, it's well worth the effort.
After you've reached the basin, you'll want to take some extra time to explore the area. A beautiful glacier-fed lake awaits, as does Mount Deception. You can continue on to summit the mountain, or return to your excellent campsite.
Visitors will move from a green sub-alpine environment into the alpine, and the flora changes greatly over the course of the route.