Spruce Railroad Trail, Lake Crescent - Spruce Railroad Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington
Spruce Railroad Trail - 8.0 miles
Lake Crescent - Spruce Railroad Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||8.0 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||621' - 692' (721' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+71' net elevation gain (+600' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Spruce Railroad Trail - 8.0 Miles Round-Trip
The Spruce Railroad Trail runs 4.0 miles along the north shore of Lake Crescent on the Olympic Peninsula. It follows an historic World War I rail-bed built to facilitate the harvesting and distribution of Sitka Spruce, preferred in aviation construction for its exceptional weight to strength ratio. The railway remained active into the 1950s, when it was abandoned and subsequently re-purposed for recreation.
Lake Crescent is 12 miles long and covers over 5,000 acres with a maximum depth of 624'. It formed as large ice sheets retreated and carved out a massive, steep-walled valley that drained (east) through Lake Sutherland into the Elwha River.
A massive rockslide 7,000 years ago blocked the river valley's outlet into Lake Sutherland, causing water to back up and fill the valley (and thus the lake we see today).
Lake Crescent's notoriously clear waters can be attributed to the lack of nitrogen, which limits the growth of phytoplankton. Clarity and reflecting light give Lake Crescent a unique blue-green hue, and in many places you can see as far as 60' deep.
The Spruce Railroad Trail follows the north shore on mild grades with exceptional views across lake, and a glimpse at industrial history on the Olympic Peninsula:
From the trailhead on North Shore Road, a well-maintained path rises gently inland through red alder and Douglas fir to a crest at .5 miles (721'). It drops back to the lake and follows the shore to Devil's Punchbowl Bridge (1.2 miles : 619').
Devil's Punchbowl bridge leads across a small cove with deep turquoise waters at the base of Pyramid Mountain (3,010'). Unobstructed views now stretch across the lake to Mount Storm King (4,525) on the south shore.
It hugs the shore on an easy, level path with evidence of rockslides along the high walls above (2.0 miles : 621'). At 3.0 miles the remains of a large railroad tunnel can be seen off-trail. Unstable rock and rough footing in this area can be hazardous - stay on the trail and view the tunnel from afar.
The trail continues west along the north shore with excellent lake views. The Lake Crescent Lodge can be seen on the south shore along an alluvial delta created by thousands of years of erosion. Aurora Ridge looms large behind the lodge.
The trail turns inland once again (3.5 miles : 625') and rises through a mixed pine forest to its western terminus (4.0 miles : 692').
- N48 05.601 W123 48.144 — 0.0 miles: Spruce Railroad Trailhead
- N48 05.297 W123 47.818 — 0.5 miles: Crest at max elevation on trail (721')
- N48 04.988 W123 47.258 — 1.2 miles: Devil's Punchbowl Bridge
- N48 04.373 W123 47.494 — 2.0 miles: Rock slide area
- N48 04.035 W123 47.789 — 2.5 miles: Beautiful lake and mountain vistas
- N48 03.894 W123 48.254 — 3.0 miles: Old tunnel through mountain - remain on trail
- N48 03.945 W123 48.751 — 3.5 miles: Trail leads away from lake into forest
- N48 04.076 W123 49.507 — 4.0 miles: End of Spruce Railroad Trail
- Lake Crescent is 624' at its deepest with an average depth of 300'.
- The lake's protected waters are home to Beardslee Trout (a subspecies of Rainbow Trout) and Kokanee - a landlocked species of salmon.
- Lake Crescent used to be called Lake Everett after a Hudson Bay Company trapper who trapped for fur along the lakeshore.
- Lake Crescent is a glaciated lake formed during the Ice Age and is believed to have been connected to neighboring Lake Sutherland until a major landslide separated the two bodies of water.
Camping and Backpacking Information
There is no backcountry or car camping allowed on the Spruce Railroad Trail - however there are established campgrounds in the area. Fairholme Campground Information Location: West End of Lake Crescent Open early April to late October. Amenities * 87 sites (one accessible) * Fire pits with grates, * Picnic tables * Potable water * Animal-proof food storage lockers * Accessible restrooms * RV dump station. The Log Cabin Resort runs a summer-only RV campground.
Fishing is permitted on Lake Crescent. There is no Washington State Fishing License required to fish in Olympic National Park - however, a Washington State Catch Card is required. The lake has unique populations of Rainbow Trout (Beardslee) and Coastal Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki f. crescentii) trout, and also contains Kokanee.
Rules and Regulations
- Pets must be on a leash at all times and may not be left tethered to any object.
- Pets cannot be left in vehicles unattended for any period of time.
- Strict and seasonal specific boating, scuba diving and fishing regulations apply on Lake Crescent.
- There is no camping along the shore or near the waters of Lake Crescent.
Directions to Trailhead
From Port Angeles, Washington, take Highway 101 west to mile marker 232 and turn right at the NPS sign for Lake Crescent - East Beach Road. Take East Beach Road for 3.2 miles then turn left at the well-marked sign for the Spruce Railroad Trail. Continue .8 miles on North Shore Drive to the signed trailhead parking area.
Olympic National Park
600 East Park Avenue
Port Angeles, WA 98362-6798
General Park Visitor Information: 360.565.3130
Wilderness and Backcountry Permit Office (WIC): 360.565.3100
Park Road & Weather Hotline: 360.565.3131
Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center: 360.374.6925
Forks Information Station: 360.374.7566 or 360.374.5877
Quinault Wilderness Information Office: 360.288.0232