Growing up on the Olympic Peninsula, I had heard plenty of people talk about Lena Lake. They would talk about the great views, how many awesome people they met and how I had to go see it for myself. Being the typical Pacific NorthWesterner, I ignored them all. Thinking to myself, “Why should I go to everyone else’s favorite spot?” And “If that many people liked one area, then it must not be as special as the places I like.” I wish I could go back in time and tell myself that Lena Lake isn’t like the other places. No, Lena Lake is like walking through the Wardrobe and entering Narnia. Lena Lake is where The Hobbit should have been filmed if Peter Jackson wasn’t so lazy to actually leave his home. Lena Lake is not crowded like Yosemite in the 90’s or Old Faithful in Late July. Lena Lake is an example of everything that the Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula should be, a balance of accessibility and the wild of the East side of the Olympic Mountains.
Lena Lake is popular, as this snarky WTA review points out. (Link to the not so flattering description: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/lena-lake) I understand that some people hate hiking around others, but Lena Lake demonstrates that there is a huge demand for great trails on the Olympic Peninsula. Lena Lake has a paved road to the trail-head which for a trail with this much diversity and amazingness, is rare. Those of us that live here know that some of the best trails start at the end of a rough, sometimes washed out forest service roads. Usually, the best hikes are off of roads that never get plowed, making the snow melt something we all desire. Lena Lake breaks the rules. A paved road to the trail-head just 1 hour and 15 minutes away from downtown Olympia, and a short round trip trail to a high alpine lake at the foot of The Brothers peak, sitting high up at 6,841 ft.
The trail is pretty basic, with some steady incline on amazingly maintained trails. This is not a hike for all. It has been described as a thigh, calf and quad burner, but honestly it wasn’t as bad as others I have reviewed. People often take their kids on this hike, granted, the kids did seem pretty bad ass. The trail starts with switchbacks, and soon continues to more switchbacks. You do get a reprieve from the switchbacks with wildflowers, giant ferns and towers trees overhead. Soon, the switchbacks start leveling out and you get to a wooden bridge over a now underground stream. Moss covered boulders sit along the riverbed, with dark green ferns and deep brown trunks and fallen logs allow you to fully see the Olympic Peninsula’s true beauty. At the elevated wooden bridge, with smooth rails you can have a snack, take in the sounds, smells and sights. Take some time to explore to the section just below the bridge, where the stream finally comes out from hiding in a small, but pretty series of falls.
Past the bridge, the trail continues to climb, switchbacks resume, but broken up by giant boulders and all seems right with the world. Your legs might be tired, but you need to keep following the trail. The sound of running water enters your ear drums, and soon you come to a smaller, but equally pretty wooden bridge. During the Spring months, a picturesque series of tiny falls, mixing with ferns and moss, flow down below your feet. In the summer months, this creek is much dryer, but don’t worry, you are almost to the lake. Continue hiking and, after rounding a corner, you see Lena Lake in her full gorgeousness. This rock is a great place to have a rest, but from here, the trail drops straight to the lake and to the campsites and bathroom. Yes, this trail has a bathroom at the lake. No, it doesn’t have a sink, but it does have toilet paper, usually.
For those adventurous, continue past the Lower Lena Lake and either continue to Upper Lena, or go where I go and head toward The Brothers Base Camp. Up the trail, you soon leave the people at Lena Lake behind and enter into The Brothers Wilderness. Hands down, The Brothers Wilderness is a must see and experience. The trail isn’t as nice as or as well maintained as the Lena Lake Trail. As of April 20th, 2013, numerous downed trees made for some interesting moments, and a slide has taken out part of the trail. Don’t let that stop you from exploring the area. Even with snow on the trail 1 mile in, the creek, the moss covered boulders and the smell of cedar and the Olympic Peninsula made this hike perfect. This section, 1 mile from the masses at the gorgeous Lake Lena, you enter an environment that should have been the setting for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tolkien himself would have wanted this area to be the forests. I can’t properly describe the beauty of this area. The best I can do is to tell you that I am breaking some hidden code on the Olympic Peninsula, where sharing amazing places is forbidden, to let you know that you HAVE TO COME HERE.
Lena Lake and The Brothers Wilderness are must see areas. Yes, a hiker will have other people on the trail, but like you, these people want to experience nature. This is where Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts go to fall in love with nature. This is where first camping experiences happen. Lena Lake and the Brothers is the place where true wilderness memories are made on the Olympic Peninsula. If you are looking for a place to stay, a place to hike almost all year and a trail that you will fall in love with, Lena Lake is for you. If you want that mountain lake trail that you day dream about while stuck in the office, Lena Lake is for you. Come out, hike to the lake and beyond and tell me that the Olympic Peninsula isn’t the best place in the world.
Here are the details:
Distance in Miles/Elevation Gain in Feet
Lower Lena Lake: 5mi/ 1300ft
The Brothers Base Camp: 11mi/3,000ft
Upper Lena Lake: 14mi/3900ft
Yes, but use leashes at all times
Yes, but kids must be in good shape and can carry their own water and gear. Also, leashes not needed.
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