Washington is a BIG state! And I had a long wish list of places I wanted to visit and hikes I wanted to hike. When planning this holiday at home in France, I never really considered how big Washington is and how long it would take us to drive to each destination or trail head. Hiking Hurricane Ridge was on my wish list but it was almost a 3 hour drive from our base, so we decided to spend a night or two in Port Angeles and make the most of our time to explore some more.
Hiking Lake Crescent Is a Great Day Out
Just a 30 minute drive from Port Angeles, Lake Crescent is the perfect place for a day out; or longer if you wanted. Nestled in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains, it’s about 30 minutes drive from Port Angeles and the gloriously clear waters of this glacial carved lake offers a great destination for both hikers and nature lovers.
Lake Crescent is 19km in length and covers an area of 21 square kilometres… and at its deepest its 658m deep. The lake was formed when glaciers carved out deep valleys during the last Ice Age. Approximately 8,000 years ago, a great landslide from one of the Olympic Mountains dammed Indian Creek and the deep valley filled with water. Local Native American Indian tribes have stories passed down through generations which describe the great landslide, and it is believed that they have occupied these lands for over 13,000 years.
We had a picnic by the shore before heading off to explore. There are many trails you can take, we followed a looped trail through an ancient forest but kept deviating in different directions to go exploring. Some of the trees in this forest are nearly 700 years old! They started growing in the 1300s, long before Europeans landed on these shores.
Lake Crescent has several hiking trails and you can pick up details of these at the Olympic Park Visitors Centre, just outside of Port Angeles. We stopped here first and collected maps and also bought the Parks Annual Pass which ended up being a really great buy; we used this so much during our visit to the US and it saved us a great deal of time and money! The Visitor’s Centre is open almost every day although times vary by season, so check their website before visiting. As well as offering help and information from Park Rangers, you’ll also find exhibits about Olympic’s natural and cultural history, a discovery-room for children and even a showing of the film Mosaic of Diversity. They’ll also provide help with your trip planning, provide trail reports, wildlife dangers, weather conditions and Leave No Trace advice.
There were notices in the Rangers centre about what to do if you spot a bear or a cougar, thankfully we saw neither! Just the beautiful Lake and lots of sun through trees! After collecting our maps we set off to the lake. We’d taken a picnic but if you’d rather eat in the park you can stop off at one of Olympic Parks Lodgings for food too.
There are several trails that are great for folks of all abilities, so after our picnic we decided to follow the Moments-in-Time Hiking Trail. It’s a short self-guided trail that runs through the ancient forest and beside the lake shore. It’s an easy hike that meanders through the woods and offering plenty of opportunity to deviate from the trail and take in the breath-taking views of Lake Crescent and Pyramid Mountain. From the main carpark, walk along the path to the Storm King Ranger Station Lake and you’ll be directed to the trailhead.
Take Your Time and Enjoy The Views
One we started walking we found plenty of picnic areas with tables around the lake, but you will also find them at Fairholme, Bovee’s Meadow, La Poel (seasonal) and the North Shore. If we’d have checked that in advance we might have taken our picnic with us!
When we reached the halfway point we took a path that led off the trail to a wide beach area. Many people were here enjoying the water, swimming and boating. There are boat launches located at both east and west ends of the lake and rowing boats are available to rent from Lake Crescent Lodge. Such a pretty place to spend the day!
We only had half a day at the lake but we wished we’d done our homework in advance and had more time to walk some of the other trails ; Marymere Falls by way of the Barnes Creek trail is a favorite, as is the Spruce Railroad trail. This is a beautiful spot and an unexpected surprise!