Miles away from the hustle and bustle of the I-5 Corridor, Washington’s second deepest lake hides to the 17 miles west of the beautiful city of Port Angeles. Serving as a gateway to the Northern Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles usually boasts it’s gem of Hurricane Ridge, but don’t be fooled, Lake Crescent should be a major tourist draw. Home to popular trails, swimming spots and amazing views, Lake Crescent also boasts a lodge that is second to none. Lake Crescent is located near 2 great trails that are family friendly and host amazing views. Both the Spruce Railroad trail and the Marymere Falls trail will give you a great day hike, or a romantic getaway with memories to last a life time.
Built in 1916, the Lake Crescent Lodge seems like it belongs more in the alpine hills of Europe than it does in the Rain Forest of the Olympic Peninsula. However, once viewing this picturesque cottage, one easily falls in love with its location and rustic settings. The lodge, which sits on the banks of Lake Crescent, is perfectly situated to explore the northern Olympic Peninsula during the day, and staying in a relaxing, quaint cottage for the night. The Lake Crescent Lodge recently was put on the list of lodges that the National Park Service will be remodeling, making this lodge even more attractive and hospitable in the future.
From the Lake Crescent Lodge, a quick walk will place you at the Storm King Ranger Station, giving you views of Mount Storm King and Pyramid Peak, which used to be a World War II spotter cabin to watch for Japanese aircraft that may attack Puget Sound. Looking like the fjords of Norway, Lake Crescent sits at the bottom of these small, rugged peaks. The log cabin style Storm King Ranger station, when open, will give you the history of the area, as well as provide some pretty fantastic pictures of the region. It is by this ranger station that the Marymere Falls trail is located.
Well-marked, easily followed and basically a flat walk through the dense forests of the Northern Olympic Peninsula Rain Forest, Marymere Falls is awesome. At 1.5 miles round trip, this trail is less of a hike and more of a walk. Half a mile down the trail, a fork appears, and if feeling adventurous, you can go climb Mt. Storm King, which is a 3.8 mile round trip hike in which you gain 1700 feet. At 2400ft, Mt Storm King offers fantastic views of Lake Crescent, as well as a great picnic spot away from the throngs of hikers on the Marymere Falls trail. However, if you decide to go to the falls and battle the crowds, you will be greatly rewarded. After you cross the new metal bridge over the river, the last 400ft of the trail climbs pretty steadily along a ridge, leading you to a great view of Marymere Falls. Take your time walking up this railed path, enjoy the greens of the rain forests and soon you will be given a breathtaking view of a small, yet gorgeous waterfall. At a height of 90ft, this waterfall is impressive in its simplicity.
After a short hike back to the Ranger Station, you still have time to hop in your car and drive about 4 miles west until you get to Camp David Jr. Road, which is home to the Spruce Railroad Trail. The Spruce Railroad Trail, which was built as a working railway during World War I, was going to be used to transport Spruce trees to Port Angeles to build airplanes during the war, however, before the railway was completed, the war ended and the forests was not harvested. The trail is long, but flat, making it perfect for the family in nearly any weather. At around 8 miles round trip, it is long, but the plus side is that it is one of the few trails in any National Park that allows dogs and bikes. While there are a few places where the hillside has come over the trail, it is completely safe and well-marked.
On the Spruce Railroad Trail, one can see many things, ranging from scenic views and railroad tunnels to deep swimming holes and abandoned telegraph poles. One of the highlights of the trail, aside from the caves that used to be railroad tunnels is the Devil’s Punchbowl. A popular swimming hole in warm weather, the Devil’s Punchbowl is the ideal swimming hole. At nearly 100ft deep right next to the cliff, it is a safe place for swimmers and divers to jump for joy into an alpine lake. The severe drop off at Devil’s Punchbowl isn’t limited to that area, as Lake Crescent itself is officially 600ft deep, but some recent studies have placed it over 1000ft deep, making this hidden gem even more mysterious.
Overall, the Lake Crescent area is so diverse it is best for a three day weekend, but you can do it over a day, albeit a long day. Driving up from Olympia, you can hike both trails, site see and have a few good meals and get back home in less than 12 hours. While this may seem a bit much, the views, the drive and the experience to enjoy one of Washington’s most underrated areas is well worth the trip. Do it this weekend, do it on your day off…do it now and enjoy Lake Crescent before the crowds arrive this summer!
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