Lake Crescent is one of the most popular areas in Olympic National Park. There are several great hikes around Lake Crescent where you can see stunningly beautiful lake views; stroll through old growth forests; enjoy the tallest waterfall in the national park; and learn more about the ecology of this fascinating place.
This Crescent Lake trail guide has the top hikes in the area, with descriptions, details, and all you need to enjoy the best hikes for you and your trip.
Read on …
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Before we look at each of the top hikes at Lake Crescent Washington, a few practical things to know:
What to Pack for Hiking Near Lake Crescent, WA
What you need will depend somewhat on which hike or hikes you do. The short easy hikes don’t really require any special equipment or clothing. However, you will want to have the essentials for the more challenging hikes.
Some basic things that are always a good idea to have with you when you hike include:
- Good hiking boots or shoes. You could hike the easier trails in regular shoes, but many of these trails have some elevation change and can get muddy after rain, so good solid hiking footwear will help.
If you need to get some, take a look at my Guide to Buying the Best Hiking Shoes/ Boots to help you know what to look for and get some recommendations.
- Trekking poles. These are not necessary for the flat trails, but I really recommend hiking poles for the trails that have some elevation change.
I have these Foxelli trekking poles – they are really light weight, adjustable, and have several tips and grippy handles. Get them here.
- A camera. I love the GoPro HERO 12. It is designed for travel. It’s water resistant and durable and takes photos, video and even does streaming. Check current prices on the GoPro HERO 12 here
- Water. I recommend always taking some water with you when you hike. I love this hydroflask. It’s easy to carry, keeps temperatures well, and comes in multiple colors.
- Day Hike Essentials. Check my list of essential things to take and wear on a day hike to make sure you have everything you need.
Driving Directions and Parking for Lake Crescent Hiking
Spruce Railroad Trail and Fairholme Campground
For the Spruce Railroad’s east trailhead (Boundary Creek Road), from Port Angeles, head west on Highway 101 west for 16 miles and then when you see a sign for the East Beach / the Log Cabin Resort, turn right onto East Beach Road.
After about three miles, turn left onto Boundary Creek Road at a sign for the Spruce Railroad Trail. In less than a mile, the road ends at the trailhead parking lot. There is a restroom available here.
For the Fairholme Campground, head west from Port Angeles on Highway 101 for 27 miles, just past the end of the lake. Then turn right onto Camp David Junior Road.
After about half a mile, you’ll see a sign for the Fairholme Campground on your right. Take the first road to the boat ramp access and park there, or the second right and park in the day use lots above the walk-in campgrounds.
For the Spruce Railroad’s west trailhead (Camp David Junior Road), continue along Camp David Junior Road for about 3 miles to the end of the road. There is pit toilet at this trailhead.
The main Lake Crescent Lake area (Marymere Falls, Moments in Time, Storm King Mountain Trails)
From Port Angeles, head west on Highway 101 for 20 miles until you see a large sign for Lake Crescent. Turn right here.
There are a couple of places to park – at the Storm King Ranger Station or at Lake Crescent Lodge.
To get to the Storm King Ranger Station parking, after you turn off Highway 101, go right at the first junction and you’ll arrive at a horseshoe-shaped parking lot. If this is full, you can go straight at the intersection and there is another parking lot at the boat ramp.
To get to the Lake Crescent Lodge parking, turn left at the first intersection after leaving Highway 101 then take the second right. By the lake, this road curves around through a parking area. If it’s full, go right and there is another small parking area closer to the lodge.
If that is also full, the road that heads back towards the highway has a wide shoulder and you can park there (a field is on your right). Do not park along the main Lake Crescent Road, though. The trail leading to all three trails starts at the end of this small road side parking/ field when it crosses Lake Crescent Road.
The main Lake Crescent area can get crowded and parking can be hard to find from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. If you’re visiting the area for the day, try to arrive early or late to get a spot.
There are restrooms at the ranger station and the lodge.
Guided Lake Crescent Hikes in Olympic National Park
If you prefer to go on a guided tour, there are several tours to Olympic National Park from Seattle that go to Lake Crescent. You will only time for the Marymere Falls or Moments in Time Trails, but you will get the benefit of having a guide explain more about what you see.
This all-inclusive day tour includes pickup/ drop off from downtown Seattle hotels, breakfast, gourmet lunch and the entrance fee to Olympic National Park. Stops include the Elwha River Valley and the Salt Creek Recreation Area for tide pooling (tides permitting), but most of the time is spent at Lake Crescent and a hike to Marymere Falls.
If you want to cover more ground and see more places on the Olympic Peninsula, this tour is jam packed. Stops include Lake Crescent as well as Salt Creek Recreation Area or Dungeness Spit; Hurricane Ridge; Sol Duc Falls or Elwha River Valley (itinerary can vary).
Best Hikes Near Lake Crescent in Washington
1. Marymere Falls Trail, Lake Crescent
- Length: 1.8 miles out-and-back
- Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 400 feet
- Trailhead: There are two trailheads – at the Storm King Ranger Station and at Lake Crescent Lodge.
It’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular Crescent Lake hikes. It’s an easy trail through magical old growth forest to the tallest waterfall in Olympic National Park.
There are two trailheads, but the trails soon converge and continue past gigantic ferns, under towering conifers, and around moss-draped Bigleaf Maple trees. You’ll cross two wooden bridges, including one that is made of the trunk of an enormous tree cut in half lengthwise.
The trail then climbs in a one-way loop to two viewpoints of the 90-foot waterfall.
- If you start at Lake Crescent Lodge, the first sign that you come to that says “Storm King Ranger Station” is the connecting trail for the Moments in Time trail (which is not mentioned on the sign). If you want to go the ranger station, there is a more direct path further along.
- A nice way to do this is to start at the Storm King Ranger Station, hike to Marymere Falls then do the Moments in Time trail on your return then end up Lake Crescent Lodge, before looping back to the ranger station.
- Old growth forest
- Log bridge
2. Spruce Railroad Trail, Lake Crescent
- Length: 11.2 miles round trip out-and-back (2.4 miles | 50 minutes roundtrip to Devils’ Punchbowl)
- Difficulty: Moderate (Easy to Devil’s Punchbowl)
- Elevation Gain: 250 feet
- Trailhead: There are trailheads at both ends of the trail
Starting at the east trailhead, you’ll pass through an old orchard with moss-draped Bigleaf Maple trees before getting to the bed of an old railroad.
In World War 1, Sitka Spruce was used for making airplanes. The Spruce Railroad was built to carry spruce trees from the forest in this area to the sawmills of Port Angeles. The war ended before the railroad was finished, however. Nonetheless, it was used for commercial logging until the 1950s. The trail and tunnels were renovated in 2020.
The first mile or so is paved. A short distance further along is one of the trail highlights, the Devil’s Punchbowl. A long footbridge spans the outer edge of a small bay, the Punchbowl. The sparkling turquoise waters are perfect for a (chilly) dip on a warm day.
Just after this is the first of two railroad tunnels. The longer McFee Tunnel was blasted during World War I. This is a popular place to turn around, but you can continue along all the way to the west trailhead.
The trail runs through forests of maple trees, spruce trees, hemlock trees, fir trees and more. The lake is often seen sparkling on a sunny day like a jewel. There are several places along the trail with access down to the lake.
2.8 miles into the hike, you’ll pass through a second, shorter railroad tunnel, the Daley-Rankin Tunnel. A short distance beyond that, Barnes Point is close across the lake as it narrows, and Storm King Mount frames the lake from behind.
- The east trailhead is better if you plan to hike just part of the trail, especially if you want to turn around at Devil’s Punchbowl. The west trailhead is better if you want to hike the whole trail and also want add in the Fairholme Campground loop.
- If you have two vehicles in your group, you could park at both ends and do a key swap so you can all hike the full trail, but in one direction only.
- The tunnel is very dark. If you plan to walk through it, I recommend taking a flashlight (your camera flashlight doesn’t really cut it). You can pick one up on Amazon here if you need one.
- Pets on leashes are permitted on the Spruce Railroad trail. Biking is also allowed (and a great way to do the whole trail).
- Lake views
- Old rail tunnel
- Swimming at Devil’s Punchbowl
3. Moments in Time Trail, Lake Crescent
- Length: 0.8 miles loop (15-30 minutes)
- Difficulty: Very easy
- Elevation Gain: 9 feet
- Trailhead: Lake Crescent Lodge. There are also connector trails from the Marymere Falls Trail and the Storm King Ranger Station
This is the easiest Lake Crescent trail. It’s a flat loop through a small area of old growth forest on Barnes Point near Lake Crescent Lodge.
The self-guided nature trail winds its way past ferns, nurse logs, rotting tree stumps, and enormous Douglas-fir, spruce, alder, cedar and hemlock trees.
Spaced frequently along the way are interpretative signs explaining key features that you are seeing. These explanations give you a chance to learn more about the forest and connect more deeply with it.
You’ll see large standing dead trees and downed logs of ancient trees that provide essential habitats for dozens of animals. You’ll start to appreciate how trees of various heights and ages, growing over a period of 250 years, provide a multi-layered canopy to the forest.
You’ll notice remnants of logging in this area and learn which trees grow quickly to then provide the right environment for taller but slower-growing trees to take hold.
At one end, the trail runs near the edge of the lake, providing tantalizing views of the blue waters through the trees.
- There are five access points to the loop
- Old growth forest
- Interesting educational signs
- Lake views
4. Mount Storm King Trail, Lake Crescent
- Length: 4.4 miles out-and-back
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Elevation Gain: 2,060 feet
- Trailhead: On the Marymere Falls Trail
This is definitely the most challenging of all the Lake Crescent hikes (WA). With an elevation gain of about 2,000 feet in just over 2 miles, you can imagine that it is a steep climb. However, as long as you are fit enough and well-prepared, it’s also one of the most rewarding hiking trails Lake Crescent has. The views of Lake Crescent will blow you away!
The trail starts on the Marymere Falls trail and immediately starts to climb. You’ll ascend through the conifer forest and then past madrone trees. You’ll eventually start to see Lake Crescent though the trees.
The view of Lake Crescent at the first viewpoint is sensational and this is a popular place to turn around. However, if you’re up for a challenge, you can continue to the actual summit.
This last section is exposed and involves using a handline to pull yourself up and scrambling up rocks on an exposed mountain side. Definitely not good if you’re afraid of heights, but your reward will be bragging rights of making it to the summit – and more incredible views, of course.
- This is a steep, rugged hike. Make sure you have good hiking boots, trekking poles, and plenty of water and snacks.
- This trail can be easily combined with the hike to Marymere Falls (since it starts on that trail anyway) and the Moments in Time Trail.
- Old growth forest
- Incredible views of Lake Crescent from the summit
5. Fairholme Campground Loop, Lake Crescent
- Length: 0.8 miles loop | 25 minutes
- Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 100 feet
- Trailhead: At the top of Loop B and the campground access road
This is an under-appreciated Lake Crescent hike. Olympic National Park has plenty of great campgrounds, but you don’t usually think of them as a hiking destination. This short loop is worth it, though, even if you don’t camp there.
The trail loops around the campground through stunning old growth forest and goes down to the shores of the lake, where there are a few walk-in campsites for those lucky enough to nab one of them. There are several places you can go right to the water’s edge and soak in the fabulous views of Lake Crescent, WA. Hiking doesn’t have to be hard to be rewarding!
- Late afternoon/ sunset is an especially great time for this hike. The moss glows in the golden light and the lake is luminescent.
- Old growth forest
- Lake views
Map of the Best Hikes at Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park
Travel Insurance for Crescent Lake, Olympic National Park
You should definitely have travel insurance when you travel to Olympic National Park. Good travel insurance will cover you for trip cancellation, theft or damage of your property when traveling, medical help if you have an accident while hiking the Lake Crescent trails, or medical repatriation if you need to get medi-vaced out.
A great insurance option is Travelex. It has coverage for all you’ll need. You can compare Travel Insurance plans here or get a quote right now:
Enjoy hiking Lake Crescent, WA!
You might also like:
>> Olympic National Park Guide
>> Marymere Falls Trail Guide
>> Best Hikes in Olympic National Park
>> Best Things to Do in Olympic National Park
>> Best Hikes Near Lake Crescent
>> Hurricane Ridge Visitors Guide
>> Best Hikes at Hurricane Ridge
>> Best Sol Duc Hikes
>> Best Hoh Rainforest Hikes
>> Best Lake Quinault Hikes
>> Best Beaches in Olympic National Park
>> Best Tide Pools in Olympic National Park
>> Best Waterfalls in Olympic National Park
Do you have any other top picks for the best hikes: Lake Crescent, Olympic Peninsula? I’d love to hear about it. Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know (you can also pick up extra planning tips, share your photos and stories with other national park lovers and more).
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James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.
He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and all of the main national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks.
Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.
As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.
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