Lake Crescent is a gem within the Northwest’s Olympic National Park. This sparkling sapphire-colored lake is encircled by rolling, heavily forested hills and teeming with flora and fauna so prolific you’d think you were in Narnia.
It’s so beautiful and emblematic of the surrounding wilderness that upon staying at what was then Singer’s Tavern (Now Lake Crescent Lodge), President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to authorize the creation of the park.
Because of its proximity to Port Townsend—it’s only about 18 miles west of the town—the sole drawback of a trip to the lake is the likelihood that you’ll run into many other lake goers. The expansive surrounding wilderness and opportunities to seek solitude are many, and as if you needed more reasons to get to Lake Crescent, below are our top five.
There are a myriad nooks to call your own when you settle down for a night beside Lake Crescent. Towering redwood cedar and lodgepole pine comprise your roof if you choose to stay at Fairholme Campground. There’s no way to reserve a campsite, so be sure to arrive in the morning to claim your stake at one of several picturesque lakeside sites. Better yet, plan a midweek trip during the shoulder season and nab one of the sites situated on the far northeast end of the site and you’ll find yourself sipping coffee in lakeside solitude.
Even if the aforementioned tent-in-dirt scenario is preferable, there’s something about staying in a quaint lakeside cabin or cottage that feels like a scene from a classic. Historic Lake Crescent Lodge serves up just that, boasting 55 rooms that are dispersed among cabins, cottages and the historic lodge. Much of the original early-1900s construction is in tact, and if you prefer the Fairholme under-the-stars approach, you can alternately swing by and have a bite or a beer with a view at the lodge.
The final lodging option is Log Cabin Resort nestled into a northeast bay of the lake. It’s family-friendly, serves up more casual amenities than Lake Crescent Lodge, and is better for longer stays.
Almost every site you can pull into along Lake Crescent offers kayak, canoe, SUP, and other watercraft rentals. It’s impossible to situate yourself along this 12-mile-long lake with a view of the whole, and it serves up a wealth of corners to poke around and remote bays to explore.
Additionally, it’s shrouded in the persisting myth that it’s bottomless. Though modern technology argues otherwise (the official depth registers around 650 feet, second only in Washington to Lake Chelan), the myth was maintained for much of the 1900s when the Navy was testing sonar outfits and couldn’t register a depth. Still, a depth that’s two stories deeper than Seattle’s Space Needle is incredibly deep, and it’s a trip to find yourself in the middle of the lake bobbing above it—it’s highly recommended.
What’s a trip to the Olympic Peninsula without a hike to a waterfall? Marymere Falls is but a quick walk from Lake Crescent Lodge to the Storm King Ranger Station which, when open, offers information about the history of the area and displays historic pictures.
From the ranger station, a 0.75-mile jaunt will deliver you along a wide, flat, well-marked trail to the impressive 90-foot falls. This is a popular gem, and for good reason. Falls Creek forces its way through a gap in the cliff and tumbles down into the forest below. Often, when it swells in the spring and early summer, you can hear the roar of the tumbling falls echoing off the surrounding walls.
Looking for a more challenging endeavor or a bird's-eye view? Catch Mount Storm King Trail as it forks off 0.5 miles along the Marymere Falls Trail for a steep 4.4-mile climb to sweeping vistas.
If the jaunt to Marymere Falls is your style, be sure to tick the Moments in Time Interpretive Trail off your list during your visit to Lake Crescent. The hike is situated adjacent to the Barnes Creek and Marymere Falls trails and if desired, it’s easy to link all three.
This short half-mile walk serves a surprising number of vistas, from lake views dominated by the 3,000-foot Pyramid Mountain to valleys blanketed in wildflowers to dense forests. There are a number of benches along the way for those hoping to prolong their stay. Stay long enough and you might catch a glimpse of chatty Douglas squirrels, eagles, deer, woodpeckers, and a number of other woodland species.
Stay at west-facing Lake Crescent Lodge (or post up for a beer) in the late afternoon and chances are you’ll catch a thundering sherbet sunset. Across the lake, the setting sun kisses the water’s gentle waves and the tops of the tall pines and cedars that tower over it. As the light slowly fades and the sky melts into darkness, it gives way to an immense blanket of stars.
Regardless of where you are situated on the lake, the light pollution from the nearby towns can’t quite make its way to compete with the stars over Lake Crescent. Stay over on an especially calm night and you’ll find that the reflection of the vibrant Milky Way starkly reflects in the placid waters.
The Olympic National Park is one of America’s most beautiful treasures—you’ve really got to experience it in any capacity. A stay at Lake Crescent, though, is a must if you’re in the area. This “bottomless,” sapphire-blue haven for paddling, hiking, and staying the night is tops, and should sit high on your to-do list.