Downtown Port Angeles is roughly 22 miles (35.4 km) to the east of Lake Crescent WA, or approximately a 30 minute drive. But, if Port Angeles is not your starting point, then:
Sequim is 37.5 miles (60.4 km) away, or approx. 50 minutes drive
Forks is 37 miles (59.5 km) away, or approx. 43 minutes drive
Port Townsend: 68 miles (109.4 km) away, or approx. 1.5 hours drive
Seattle via Bainbridge Ferry is 102.5 miles (165 km) away, or approx. 3 hours, if the ferry wait is not too long.
About Lake Crescent WA
What used to be "Singer's Tavern" is now Lake Crescent Lodge run by the National Park Service. At Lake Crescent Lodge one can camp or stay in style, picnic, rent kayaks, and enjoy excellent dining.
While the "official" depth has been set at 624 feet by students at Peninsula College in the 1960's, a depth of 1000+ feet has since been unofficially measured by cable-layers.
Over the thousands of years since a landslide isolated Lake Crescent and Lake Sutherland, two trout species have become genetically acclimated to the lakes, and are found nowhere else: Beardslee rainbow trout and Crescenti cutthroat trout.
Fishermen have in the past pulled 15- and 20-pound Beardslee and Crescenti trout out of Lake Crescent.
Mountain goats transplanted from southeast British Columbia live on Mount Storm King and the areas surrounding Lake Crescent. Four goats were released in 1925; their numbers grew to 800+, and have now stabilized at around 300 goats. Beware of aggressive behavior from them if you hike up into their range.
FYI: The ONP has been re-locating these goats to new range in the Cascade Mountains where populations of mountain goats are already endemic. Your chances of encountering goats in the Olympic National Park are low, but not yet eliminated.
Major Traffic Delays Possible Along Hwy 101 at Lake Crescent Throughout 2019
A three-year Highway Maintenance Project is scheduled to wrap up by the end of 2019. A 12-mile stretch of Highway 101 along the south shore of Lake Crescent and a 4-mile stretch of East Beach Road near East Beach are still undergoing repairs, maintenance, and rehabilitation. Significant traffic delays may be imposed during the construction season (March through November), including 4-hour delays. However during the main tourist season (through September of 2019), expect delays of just one-half hour during working hours. Check this link for complete construction details and schedule.
Lodging at Lake Crescent WA
The Olympic National Park offers TWO lodges at Lake Crescent, one on the north shore, and one on the south shore.
South Shore: Mount Storm King Hike - trailhead is along the Marymere Falls Trail
South Shore: Barnes Creek Hike - trailhead is along the Marymere Falls Trail
North Shore: Spruce Railroad Trail (see below)
North Shore: Pyramid Mountain Hike - check trail conditions as this 3.5-mile hike crosses a scree field and is periodically closed if conditions are deemed unsafe for hiking. If open, however, the 2,600-foot climb in altitude will bring you to great views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
A short drive to the west of Lake Crescent WA (less than 2 miles or 3.2 km) will bring you to the Sol Duc River Valley which offers another set of attractions within the Olympic National Park and the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort.
The Spruce Railroad was built in the late 1930's in order to transport spruce trees for use in World War II. The war ended before the railroad line was completed, and the effort was abandoned.
Today, many of the ties have been removed and the rail bed turned into a walking trail.
The trail is 4 miles long one way, 8 miles total.
Total grade variation is just 100 feet, meaning this is an easy hike
Dogs, horses, and bikes ARE allowed
Spruce Railroad Trail has two trailheads: From Camp David Jr Road (off of Hwy 101) at its west end, and from East Beach Road (off of Hwy 101) at its east end.
If an 8-mile hike seems too much, consider parking cars at both ends and then hiking the Spruce Railroad Trail one way, driving back to pick up the other vehicle.
Bonus feature: A long dark train tunnel! Bring a flashlight if you'd like to hike inside the tunnel. Without light, you're liable to trip over debris littering the old rail bed. Tunnel hiking is optional - the Spruce Railroad Trail itself goes past the tunnel opening.
This hike is very scenic; much of it hugs the lake, which can be seen for most of the 4-mile hike.
The trail passes Devil Point which cradles the Devil's Punchbowl. At this area, crossed on a footbridge over the water, rock walls on 3 sides make nearly sheer drops to the water, plunging 100 feet underwater before hitting bottom. On a warm day this is a great spot to climb the cliffs and (carefully) dive, or cannonball, into the Punchbowl.
Sol Duc Valley, just West of Lake Crescent WA
If you've allowed enough time, take a short drive to the west on Highway 101, and then take Sol Duc Road to the left (south), into the Sol Duc River Valley. Within 12 miles of the highway are:
Salmon Cascades (a must-see in October when the salmon run is in full swing)
Several hiking trails in the area, including hikes to Mink Lake and Deer Lake
Lake Crescent WA History
Lake Crescent is an integral part of the history of the west end of the Olympic Peninsula.
To hear the native tribes tell it, Lake Crescent as we know it was formed when Mount Storm King was unhappy with the Klallam and Quileute tribes fighting at its feet. It therefore hurled a mighty rock which became wedged at the outlet of the lake, raising the level of the water.
What we do know is that an enormous landslide split the lake into two about 7,000 years ago. The east tip of the lake became a separate lake, now named Lake Sutherland.
By the late 1890's, agriculture and the timber industry were on the rise, especially in the Forks and surrounding areas, and a slow but steady rise in settlers was occurring.
The Log Hotel was built in 1895 on the north shore of Lake Crescent at the spot where the Port Crescent Road met Lake Crescent, an area called "Piedmont."
In 1900, there were no through-roads connecting Port Angeles and parts east with Forks and settlements to the west. The road from Port Angeles ended at the East Beach of Lake Crescent WA.
People arriving at Lake Crescent either from the north or the east needed to hop on a ferry for transportation to points around the lake.
Ferries stopped at the East Beach, at the Log Hotel on the north shore, at Singer's Tavern (which is now Lake Crescent Lodge), and at Fairholme at the far westerly point of the lake.
By 1922, Washington State Road 9, now called Olympic Loop Highway (Hwy 101), had advanced along the south shore of Lake Crescent. For years it was a dirt road. The entire loop was completed by 1931.
Lady of the Lake
In 1936, events began to transpire that would result in the tragic story of the Lady of the Lake. Hallie Latham of Port Angeles was employed at Singer's Tavern on the lake. She married Monty Illingworth, a drinker and, apparently, a hothead. In a little more than one year of marriage, Hallie was battered and abused on multiple occasions. In December 1937, she disappeared altogether, having run off with another man according to Monty.
Below: a very moody Lake Crescent may have looked something like this on the December day the Lady of the Lake disappeared.
About three years later in 1940, a body floated to the surface of Lake Crescent. The body's outer layers had saponified and turned to soap due to the very cold lake water and 3 years of delayed decomposition.
The discovery of the grisly body made national headlines. The autopsy revealed a violent death, and because she could not initially be identified, she became known to the entire nation simply as "The Lady of the Lake." Months later, clues such as the body's unusual dental work brought its true identity to light.
Monty was eventually found guilty of killing Hallie unpremeditatedly in a rage, wrapping her body in blankets, attaching weights to it, and dropping it into the deepest part of the lake. He spent 9 years in the Walla Walla Washington penitentiary before being paroled.
Lake Crescent WA Photos
Below: Enjoy these photos of our hike along the Spruce Railroad Trail, north shore of Lake Crescent WA. Click on a photo to view all in full size.