Dec. 28, 2011

Olympic National Park Daytrip #5 – Lake Crescent

As the fifth and final daytrip in our Olympic National Park series, we we've saved the best for last! In fact out of the five hikes we've featured, Lake Crescent may likely be the location that you will most want to return to time and time again. Lake Crescent Arguably one of the most idyllic spots in the entire Pacific Northwest, the fjord-like Lake Crescent, is over eight miles long and is one of Washington State's deepest lakes. The lake is located entirely within the Olympic National Park and is known for its brilliant sapphire blue waters and exceptional clarity (caused by a natural lack of nitrogen in the lake which inhibits the growth of algae). Getting There: From Pacific Beach, follow Highway 109 to the Moclips Highway. Head East to Highway 101. Travel north on 101 for approximately 95 miles (past Forks). Turn left on Lake Crescent Road and follow for 0.4 miles to the lake. Lake Crescent Map Geologists believe that the lake was created centuries ago by an earthquake which triggered a mass of landslides from the surrounding mountains. The result was two lakes, Lake Crescent and its neighbor, Lake Sutherland rather than the one lake that existed before. The "official" depth of the lake was recorded in 1970 after a depth survey was done, however the instruments used could not record measurements beyond a depth of 624 feet, but that number became the official depth of the lake as recorded by the National Park Service. More recently, instruments have shown depths in excess of 1000 feet (the maximum range of the equipment used at that time) but the actual maximum depth of Lake Crescent is still unknown. Lake Crescent TrailsLake Crescent Trails View Lake Crescent offers a variety of small hikes and activities in the summer time near Lake Crescent Lodge as well as two full-day hikes to choose from. Click here to download the Crescent Park Trail Guide from the National Parks Association which outlines the hikes and facilities available around the lake throughout the year. Be sure to check out the Lake Crescent Lodge while there as the structure itself is well worth a visit. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open May through October. Also, the lodge is a great place to enjoy a meal (as well as the lake view) after a day of hiking. Originally called the Singer's Lake Crescent Tavern, it was built mostly between 1914 and 1916 by Avery J. Singer and his wife Julia as a fisherman's retreat. They spared no expense in its construction and the construction bills totaled nearly $50,000 which amounted to an immense fortune in their day. The Singers sold the resort in 1927 and the resort changed owners once more before being sold to the National Park Service in 1951. A variety of renovations have occurred since the Singers built the lodge, however, the lobby's stone fireplace, hardwood floors, and furnishings are original and five of the seven original guest rooms are still in operation. Lake Crescent Lodge Although ferries and steamboats once traversed this lake regularly in the early 1920's, powerboats are now banned but you can rent rowboats and kayaks ($5 an hour) from the Lake Crescent Lodge during the summer. After floating around the lake for a few hours, you might end your day with either the Moments in Time Nature Trail or the Barnes Creek trail. The Moments in Time Nature trail is a 0.8 mile loop trail with hard-packed surface which offers views of the lake, old-growth forest and former homestead sites. It can be reached from either the Lake Crescent Lodge or from the Storm King Ranger Station via a 0.3 mile trail. Also at the Storm King Ranger Station is a popular mile-long hike following the Barnes Creek trail leading up to the famed Marymere Falls. This 90 foot cascade has been a tourist destination since the early 1900's and The Storm King Ranger Station where the trail begins is a charming cottage that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for lush patches of Vanilla leaf and other forest flowers. Marymere Falls TrailBarnes Creek Bridge - Marymere Falls If you are looking for a more invigorating hike during your trip to Lake Crescent, hike up the trail toward Marymere Falls, then fork off left and hike up the steep Mount Storm King Trail. Experienced hikers will be enjoy this challenging 4.2-mile trail that climbs 1700 feet. Once leaving the trail to Marymere Falls, you'll travel under a climate-controlled old-growth canopy. As the trail ascends steeply and quickly you will leave the dampness of the forest and the terrain will become fairly dry. After 1.4 miles (which feels more like 3), you will reach a lookout where a stunning view of Lake Crescent opens up directly below. A second viewpoint can be found in another 0.5 mile and 400 feet of elevation gain. The lake is hidden from the second viewpoint, but the valley below is fully revealed. Although this is an incredibly rewarding hike, be sure to avoid this trip during stormy weather and always keep an eye on children due to the exposed ledges. Crescent Lake Mt Storm Creek Trail
For a slightly less demanding hike than the Mount Storm King Trail, head around the lake to the north shore where you will find a stretch of abandoned railroad grade open to hikers and mountain bikers called the Spruce Railroad Trail. After parking your car, you'll start by travelling through an old orchard and huge moss-draped maple trees before the trail drops down toward the lake shore to the old railbed which was created during World War I. The Sitka spruce trees in the area were at the time, highly coveted for airplane manufacturing and the line was designed to transport them to Port Angeles Mills. Ironically, the Great War ended days before the line was completed but The Spruce Railroad did serve commercial logging interests for thirty-five years. In 1981 the National Park Service converted 4 miles of the original 36 mile railbed into trail. Lake Crescent TrailDevil Punch Bowl With a microclimate of warmer and drier conditions than areas just a few miles away, the Spruce Railroad Trail is a good hiking choice for an overcast afternoon or a for a winter hike. Although it runs close to the shoreline, the trail often remains high above the lake. There are numerous opportunities to enjoy views of the crystal-clear water below, however they are occasionally obscured by a canopy of giant firs, hemlocks, and scaly-barked madrona trees. On your journey, you can find the entrance to an old railroad tunnel (although it is advisable to stay out of it) as well as "The Devils Punch Bowl", easily the trail's most scenic section and a popular swimming and diving spot in the summer. At the end of the trail, take some time for a snack and to rest up before enjoying the trek back to your vehicle. We hope that you've enjoyed our journeys from the Washington Coast to these five different Olympic National Park destinations. Let us know which of the five day-hikes we've featured is your favorite we look forward to seeing you out at the beach (and on the National Park trails) in the New Year!
By: Ivo Andov    Comments: 1
Thanks for posting, we really liked every detail you have provided here. Going to olympic national park tomorrow and would definately visit the crescent lake after reading your blog :)
Ravi May 3, 2013 6:40pm

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