When the Offpeakers asked around for fun places to visit near our new home in Port Angeles, Washington, Lake Crescent was mentioned several times. On a bright morning we drove 17 miles west on Highway 101 to see for ourselves.
Lake Crescent is a deep vivid blue reminiscent of Caribbean Ocean water. The color is due to a lack of nitrogen that prevents the growth of algae that obscures other lakes. Crescent is large with a length of 12 miles and surface area of 5,000 acres as well as being one of the deepest lakes in Washington state.
This Olympic National Park lake is popular with boaters and kayakers. People drop in for a snapshot and linger, walking along the shore and going out on the pier to marvel at the clear water.
Our primary interest was the network of hiking trails leading from the lake. Our first trail was an easy but beautiful hike to Marymere Falls.
A fast two mile trek, the Marymere Falls trail is one of the most well traveled paths in the region. The trail begins at the Storm King Ranger Stations, skirts the lake, ducks under the highway, and then takes you back in time. Huge moss covered trees and ferns remind you of the heavy rainfall this area receives.
The air is cool and heavy. The trail beckons you but there is so much to see in all directions. The more adventurous can branch off to other longer trails (Barnes Creek, Storm King), but we wanted to see Falls Creek plummet down its granite course.
A couple of fun bridges (you can alternatively bound from rock to rock if you choose) later and it is time for a brief ascent up switch backs and stairs. The payoff is a gentle but pleasing 90 foot high cascade.
Climbing to the higher viewing area provides more exercise but a poorer photo opportunity. Now that this goal was achieved, we quickly followed the same route back to find our next adventure. We loved the hike and recommend that you include it in your Olympic National Park visit.
With this as a warm up, the Subaru took us to the east side of the lake’s East Beach Road in order to hike the Spruce Railroad Trail. The Spruce Railroad trail skirts the northern edge of Lake Crescent. This trail primarily follows the route of a railroad line worked on during World War I. This line was intended to open up new areas of spruce to log to support the war effort. Fortunately the war was ended before the route was fully complete, saving the forest but wasting all the hard work of the construction crews.
The workers had even nearly finished a large tunnel through solid rock. While the work did not result in a usable rail line, it has evolved into a nice hiking path. The trail is an easy 8 mile round trip. As this was a railroad grade, there are few hills. The first people we saw on the trail were mountain bikers, followed by people with happy dogs. Several spots on the well groomed route accessed sandy beaches on Lake Crescent.
Just as we were wondering if the water was too cold for bathers, an impressive group of athletes appeared swimming smartly. Dressed in wet suits, this appears to be a normal occurrence as we saw two other (admittedly less rigorous) groups of swimmers.
Further on, we crossed over a steel bridge next to the Devil’s Punch Bowl. Our timing was perfect as we saw a young lady scale the rock cliff along the lake and, after a big of preparation, jump at least 25 feet down into the mesmerizing blue water. As maybe expected, she surfaced sputtering “COLD!!!!” amid our applause. On our return, a motorboat full of anxious swimmers arrived and tied up at this popular point. Our hike continued. The tall timber shaded us from much of the direct sun.
We almost walked right past the tunnel. It is nearly closed on the leading side and situated well above the foot path. A quick scramble got us a the edge of the tunnel and we just had to walk through it on the jumble of fallen rock and remnants of timbers. Much manual labor was expended for this relic. We cheered their achievement and our joy to be enjoying this beautiful area.
Overall the hike was fun and scenic, just as advertised. If we get active with our bikes this will be one of the early off road trails we will enjoy owing to its gentle grade, proximity to Port Angeles, and fun scenery. Hiking these Olympic Peninsula trails is great to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors. What are some of your favorite hiking areas? Share them with us, we promise not to litter!