Olympic National Park – Crescent Lake
On the way back from Cape Flattery, my parents took KC and I to see Crescent Lake, in Olympic National Park. Two years earlier, KC and I had visited the park, but mostly explored the Hurricane Ridge area (which is amazing and would highly recommend hurricane ridge to anyone visiting Olympic National Park for the first time) and so they took us to the lake. The lake, they were explaining to us, is so clear that you can see to the bottom and is a crystal blue color. They described the lake as beautiful and peaceful. When we arrived to the lake, there was a rainstorm passing through, with wind and rain both disturbing the surface of the bluish-grey water. Despite the on-going storm, the lake was still beautiful and had a calming effect.
You can find more information about Lake Crescent here.
Olympic National Park – Olympic Hot Springs
Despite the late hour for hiking (it was 4PM), we decided to hike to the Olympic Hot Springs along the Olympic Hot Spring Trail. Like the Cape Flattery Trail, this trail has a gentle slope (up to the hot springs) and is developed and well maintained. Even though the maps show the trail distance as 2.5 miles one way or five miles round trip, based on time and approximate hiking speed, I suspect that the distance is closer to three miles one way and six miles round trip. There are a couple stream crossings with bridges, all of them safe, and one of note (I will discuss in more detail later).
The road up to the trailhead overlooks the Elwha River, where the Elwha Lake used to be before the deconstruction of the dam. Back in March 2013, when KC and I first visited the Olympic National Park, this area was closed due to the deconstruction, and we weren’t able to hike the Olympic Hot Springs trail. At that time, we had a small glimpse of the drained lakebed, freshly drained and full of silt. Even now it still contains a lot of bare ground and silt, but some plants are growing, coloring parts of the previous lakebed green and yellow.
We started the trail, keeping a fast pace to make it back to the parking lot before it got dark. The first mile or so of the trail cuts through a pine forest, leaving the trail surrounded by tall pine tree forest on both sides. We passed through the forest, with clouds covering and uncovering the sun above. The air was brisk and had the scent of fresh rain. Occasionally we would pass by a burbling creek, adding to the atmospheric sounds. I felt grateful that I have the opportunity to hike this trail on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.
As the trail continued past that first mile, the left side of the trail gradually revealed that we were on the side of the mountain and we could start to see into the valley below. We passed over some creeks on bridges and other smaller creeks by jumping over them or jumping from rock to rock across.
At some point we came across a large roaring creek with a bridge. Approaching the bridge, we could see a “closed” sign, but with no explanation as to why. We were never able to figure out why the bridge was closed – it looked completely in tact and well maintained. However, below and next to the well-maintained safe-looking bridge, someone set up what looks like a footbridge consisting of one long log about 18 inches wide with branches nailed to it as a makeshift handrail. Even though this footbridge is lower, it is still five feet above the rushing water. Upon seeing this bridge, I thought there was no way my parents would want to cross this bridge. To my shock, my dad and Kathy didn’t even hesitate; they walked right up to the bridge and without a complaint, crossed the bridge. I underestimated their sense of adventure.
Before we saw the hot springs, we were able to smell the sulphur. We came across the first pool, about six feet in diameter and about a foot deep. My parent’s friend at the café told us that the best pool is a little further from the first pool, down the hill to the left. After a bit of searching, we found it, but it was unfortunately occupied by a group of girls. KC started walking off in another direction and I followed him, to see what caught his attention. We left my parents a little at the bigger pool, talking with the girls. What KC saw was steam coming out of hillside. When we approached the hole, it looked like an underground steam room. There were concrete pillars at the opening and the whole “room” looked like it could have been a basement at some point. We called my parents over to take a closer look.
A few days later, I would pick up a book in a tourist store while waiting for a ferry that showed pictures of the historic Olympic Hot Springs Resort. The hot springs were discovered in 1892 and were subsequently developed. The resort opened to the public in 1909 and closed in 1966. Log cabins and pools where built as part of the resort, none of which are still standing. Besides the concrete foundations, there’s little evidence that there was ever a resort over the hot springs.
I excused myself to go find a hidden bush (no outhouses around) and hiked back up to the trail. Now that I’ve seen the concrete hole, I started paying better attention to what was around me and found more concrete foundations. How many buildings were there? Eventually I found a little side trail and a private spot. While looking around, to insure privacy, I noticed more steam coming out of the hillside a little ways above me. After finishing, I hiked up there and found a hot springs pool about eight or ten feet in diameter, about a foot deep. I called to KC to bring my parents, who were a little less excited thank KC and I were about this hot spring pool. A few drops of rain hit KC and I as we took off our shoes and rolled up our pants to test out the water by standing in it. As soon as I put my foot in, I got a surprise: only top two inches of water was warm! The bottom layer was cold! I’ve never found a hot springs before with heat layers; typically, the waters mix for a temperature in between. KC and I could tell that my parents were tired and wanted to return back to the car, mostly because they said as much. So we got out, rolled down our pants, and put on our shoes. Even though my parents didn’t get in the hot spring water, they enjoyed the hike and I deemed this good family bonding time.
I would recommend the Olympic Hot Springs Trail as an easy hike, even with what seemed like an extra half mile. The trail is well maintained and there are good views. However, having been to many hot springs, I would not recommend the Olympic Hot Springs. All the hot spring pools were relatively shallow and the hottest pool felt like body temperature water.
You can find out more about the trail and hot springs here.