Spruce Railroad Trail Hike – Olympic National Park

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Spruce Railroad Trail Hike

Spruce Railroad Trail Hike – Olympic National Park

We had the opportunity to visit the northern Olympic peninsula this past weekend & I have to say it’s one of my very favorite locations in Washington as it really has the best of all worlds with the beautiful beaches, gorgeous Olympic mountains, crystal clear lakes & so many outdoor possibilities. The towns of Port Townsend, Sequim & Port Angeles are so fun & quaint to visit, too.

One of my favorite areas up in the northern Olympic peninsula is Lake Crescent & we tried out the Spruce Railroad trail to get a different perspective of Lake Crescent as this is on the north side of the lake. This is a trail that you can either bike or walk/run, as it’s paved. It is very stroller friendly & wheelchair friendly as the elevation gain is only 250 ft total. It is very wide & great for distancing,  too.

Don’t forget to check out our tips for visiting Olympic National Park beaches & where to stay in those areas, too! The Spruce Railroad hike would make a great stopping place on your way to visit the beaches if you need to get out & stretch your legs.

Spruce Railroad Trail Hike 

In the tunnel at Spruce Railroad Hike

Photo Credit: friend Misty

Location:  Lake Crescent / northern Olympic Peninsula (near Port Angeles)
Miles: total hike mileage is 5 miles one way – however we went to the tunnel & around to the Devil’s Punchbowl & back & it was 2.5 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 250 ft
Pass Needed: National Park Pass (there are no gates here in this area of Olympic National Park, so you can either purchase in Port Angeles at the Olympic National Park visitor center or buy online & print off before you go.
Parking: Large parking area
Restrooms: There is a vault toilet
Pet Friendly: Yes – this is within Olympic National Park, but they do allow dogs on this trail (a rare National Park trail you can find that will allow dogs)

Spruce Railroad Trail Walk

The Spruce Railroad trail was just recently updated at the end of 2020 & it is very well maintained now as a paved path for both hikers/runners & bicyclists. This section of trail is 5 miles one-way, so it’s up to 10 miles round-trip if you choose to do the whole trail. It was a joint project with both the Olympic National Park & Clallam county as part of the Olympic Discovery Trail, which is a multi-use trail that begins in Port Townsend & finishes at the Olympic Coast in La Push.

The trail was once used as a railroad to haul Sitka spruce trees from the forest to the lake. The trees were first logged to be used for manufacturing aircraft for World War 1 & then for commercial logging. Once it became part of the Olympic National Park, they turned it into a trail.  That’s why it’s so wide,  perfect for multi-uses, such as bicyling, running & hiking. It is also wheelchair accessible & stroller friendly.

This is a trail that you can really choose how long to make it – the full round-trip hike (out & back) is 10 miles, but you can choose to do a shorter version of it. We chose to do a shorter version of the hike to see the main attractions – the tunnel and then the Devil’s Punchbowl area, a still pool that is such a vibrant color of turquoise.

Tunnel for Spruce Railroad Hike

For the section we did, it was around 2.5 miles. We started at the East parking lot  (there is a west & east parking lot on both sides of the trail) & hiked through beautiful forest with large, mossy trees for at least a mile, coming to a short tunnel. A flashlight (or the light on your phone) is helpful for the tunnel, but it is short enough that we were able to walk without on, but on an overcast day, I think you’d need one more.

HIke to Devil's Punchbowl at Lake Crescent

Once you walk thru the tunnel, there is a dirt path to your left that will take you around closer to the lake and then you will come to a small bridge which spans the Devil’s Punchbowl area. While the main Spruce Railroad trail is stroller/wheelchair friendly, the spur trail off to Devil’s Punchbowl is not. It is narrow dirt path that runs along the shores of the lake back around the outer sides of the tunnel. In this area, before & after Devil’s Punchbowl, there are multiple areas where you access the lake – perfect for dipping into the water to cool off on hot days.

Devils punchbowl at Spruce Railroad Trail

Photo Credit: friend Kelly 

When you come to the bridge, this is the Devil’s Punchbowl, a little pool of water that is such a gorgeous shade of turquoise blue. It is a great photo opp with the bridge & the pool of water. Unfortunately for us, it was packed the Saturday in August that we went. Not only were there people on the bridge, but there were people floating in the pool & some brave souls who were climbing up a steep rock face to jump off into the pool. (This made me so nervous – eek!) So, unfortunately we did not get any cool shots of the pool with so many people, but I’ve heard that it’s unusual for it to be that busy, except a busy summer weekend.

Whether you choose to go the entire length for a nice, leisurely long hike or you just choose to go visit the tunnel & Devil’s Punchbowl, this is definitely a trail that is not to miss! It’s so peaceful & serene in the woods & with the wide walkways, even if it’s a busy summer afternoon like when we visited, you will not feel crowded at all. It’s also a great place to bring those bikes for a mostly flat trail to enjoy. {If you have little ones, just keep an eye on them with bicyclists if you are walking.} On a beautiful day, the turquoise blue waters will absolutely sparkle too! 

Where to Visit Nearby:

Lake Crescent East Beach (1)

East Beach at Lake Crescent – This beach is a public beach at Lake Crescent, with a vault toilet & decent parking (although if busy, people will park up the hill). It’s a great spot to enjoy the lake, kayak, SUP (stand-up paddle board) & more. There are both picnic tables & fire pits. It is also wheelchair accessible as it’s flat access to the beach. This is in Olympic National Park, so does require a National Park pass.

Marymere Falls Hike – This trail starts at the Mount Storm King ranger stations near the Lake Crescent Lodge. It’s 1.8 miles & 500 elevation gain to this pretty waterfall in the woods. It’s a very popular hike for those visiting the Lake Crescent area

Mount Storm King Hike – This is more of an advanced hike to Mount Storm King as it’s only 4 miles but over 2000 ft of elevation gain. The views are amazing of Lake Crescent, but be prepared for ropes near the summit & it’s very exposed (meaning drop-offs).

Sol Duc Falls Hike – This is another easy hike for families with 1.6 miles & 200 ft of elevation gain. It’s over 30 minutes up into the forest from Lake Crescent

Salt Creek Recreation AreaThis is a county campground which has a day use area, which will give you access to the most amazing tide pool areas. You will need to drive through the campground to the loop of campsites that runs along the cliffs & you’ll find the parking area there. It’s a small parking area, so you may need to park further back in the larger day use area & walk through.

Mouth of the Elwha River Beach  – this is a sandy beach at the mouth of the Elwha River. There used to be dams along this river which were removed last in 2014, and since then,  this has become a nice, sandy beach with public access.

Olympic National Park Beaches – check out our post with tips on the best Olympic National Park beaches to visit from Kalaloch in the south up to ShiShi Beach to the north. We also have suggestions on where to stay around Olympic National Park.

Port Townsend – We love to visit this quaint, Victorian village by the sea. This is also a ferry location if you are coming from the north, you can go to Whidbey Island & then take a ferry to Port Townsend to access the northern Olympic peninsula. They have so many fun shops & restaurants. Plus, there are some great beaches nearby like Fort Worden & Glass beach, where you can hunt for agates.

Places to Stay Near Lake Crescent:

Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympic National Park is a central location to explore the mountains and the beaches of the park

Lake Crescent Lodge – This National Park lodge is definitely the closest location as it’s right on the shores of Lake Crescent. We loved visiting this cozy lodge which looks like a big farmhouse . There are hotel rooms & cabins to rent & there is a great beach for kids to swim, float, kayak & more. There are large windows inside with views of the lake from every angle. It’s a great place to head for dining, too, with pretty views of the lake for breakfast, lunch & dinner. This would make a great base for exploring by staying here.  They offer kayak, canoe & paddleboard rentals & also offer guided boat tours too.

Log Cabin Resort – This is another National Park Service lodging right on Lake Crescent.  They offer everything from Lakeside Chalets, rooms in the lodge, a variety of different cabins, RV sites & tent camping sites.  They offer boat, kayak & paddleboard rentals at the resort so you can explore the lake, too.

Sol Duc Hot Springs – This would be another amazing place to stay within Olympic National Park. It is a lodge, but also offers RV spots & campground for tents.  It’s located 12 miles up into the heart of Olympic National Park from Lake Crescent. They offer outdoor pure mineral water hot pools, as well as beautiful trails all around like Sol Duc Falls, old-growth rainforest & more.

Olympic Lodge – Port Angeles – We stayed here a few years ago & really enjoyed our stay. It’s a great location for either Hurricane Ridge or visiting Lake Crescent which is about 30-40 minutes away from Port Angeles. They have a heated outdoor pool & hot tub and even though it’s off HIghway 101, there is a green space behind it & it felt nice & peaceful.

Port Angeles KOA campground

Port Angeles KOA – This is where we just stayed for a weekend as a base to explore the northern Olympic peninsula (Lake Crescent, Salt Creek, Sequim & Port Townsend). It is right before Port Angeles along Hwy 101 and they offer tent & RV sites as well as cabins. There is an outdoor pool, plus they have activities like an Ice Cream social, Root beer floats & wagon rides for the kids. It is right next to the highway, so there is some road noise especially if you are in a tent, but overall, it was a nice place to stay.

Campgrounds Near Lake Crescent:

Fairholme Campground – Lake Crescent – This is a first-come, first-serve campground with 88 sites with flush toilets. It’s a beautiful location off Hwy 101, but right on the shores of the lake. But you will definitely need to get there early if you are wanting a summer weekend. There are flush toilets & potable water.

Klahowya Campground – this is located near Port Angeles on the Sol Duc river.  It’s located 10 minutes away from Lake Crescent & also first-come first serve with vault & flush toilets.

Salt Creek County Campground – this does full up fast as it’s such a popular campground – there is a RV section that is more open & then a section that is for tents & smaller trailers which is more nestled in the woods & on the cliffs above the tide pools. The main advantage to this campground is the amazing tide pools you will have access to! Highly recommend a visit to the campground or at least the day use area. The day use area to visit the tide pools is thru the campground, though, so just be prepared for cars coming thru the campground to access it.

Crescent Beach RV Park – This is right across the street from the beach which is popular with surfers.  It’s a beautiful beach to visit, but the campground is just a large open area, as we just drove thru there. So not much privacy if you are in a tent. But you can’t beat the beach access/views. This is located west of Port Angeles near Salt Creek Campground

The other locations we mentioned (above) with cabins & camping:

    • Log Cabin Resort
    • Port Angeles KOA
    • Sol Duc Hot Springs Resor

Have you been to the Spruce Railroad trail? Or Lake Crescent – let us know how you liked it! 

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