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Spruce Railroad Trail — November 2009

By Erin Meier

The next time you are on the Olympic Peninsula this is a great hike to check out, particularly if you haven’t been to Lake Crescent yet. The trail winds along the north shore of Lake Crescent for approximately 4 miles before it runs into North Shore Road. In the autumn you will see a stunning display of trees on the hills surrounding the lake from the Abies grandis to the brightly burning Acer macrophyllum.

The first half mile or so of the trail runs through a pleasant lowland forest. At one point the forest floor is entirely smothered by broad swaths of Polystichum munitum growing in lush verdant glory beneath the striking whitish-gray trunks of Alnus rubra. Keep your eyes peeled for the first of two collapsed railroad tunnels, although further exploration is not recommended. As the trail descends to the shore, you will get an unhindered view of Mount Storm King. Near the shore of the lake you will find familiar plants such as Carex rostrata and Scirpus lacustris.

One of the principal highlights of this walk is the Devil's Punchbowl. After a mile you will cross a bridge over this lovely swimming hole that sparkles in a bright milky shade of turquoise on sunny days. Arbutus menziessi perch precariously on the surrounding boulders. Look for grasses such as Vulpia bromoides or the fern Pityrogramma triangularis which thrives in crevices and on rocky slopes. As I clambered over the boulders on the lakeshore, I found some Sedum spathulifolium emerging from a gravelled nest.

As you move farther along the trail dodging Gaultheria shallon, Mahonia nervosa and Lonicera ciliosia you will tromp along cliffs providing excellent views of the lake. At approximately three miles you'll reach the second railroad tunnel. During the fall with the often inclement and always unpredictable weather of the northwest, you’ll find this a pleasing exploration of both woodland and shoreline flora.

Directions: From Seattle, drive to Edmonds and take the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry. Follow Highway 104 to Highway 101 west to Port Angeles. Around mile marker 232, take a right onto East Beach Rd. Follow this road for a little over 3 miles, just past the Log Cabin Resort. On your left you will see a sign for the Spruce Railroad Trail.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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