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Spruce
Railroad Trail

Trail Overview

Spoon Rating: 

2

Distance:

8 miles

Elevation Change:

525 ft.

Surface:

Pavement

Amenities:

Vault toilets

Spruce Railroad Trail is located between Port Angeles and Forks and follows the north shore of Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. The trail is a popular destination for families with children and is one of only a couple of trails in the park that allows dogs, so it is often busy. The hike is rewarding – it offers sparkling views of the lake and surrounding mountains, a couple of small waterfalls, wildflowers, cliff faces, and mature forest. The trail has been paved and the parking lot has been improved since I first wrote this guide. The Spruce Railroad Trail is now a much more wheelchair accessible hike. 

This description is from the East Beach trailhead, which is the most accessible trailhead.

The Spruce Railroad Trail, as the name implies, follows an old railroad bed along Lake Crescent. It is a popular destination due to its location and well maintained, generally level trail. If the entire hike is not possible for you, there are many wonderful views along the entire trail; you can turn back at any time and still have a rewarding experience.

From the paved parking area, head up the wide paved trail. It is a bit steep for the first few hundred feet, but it levels out to a gentle grade for about .5 mile without any elevation gain, then gently descends 75 feet in .4 miles to the lake. You’ll pass the first waterfall. Here the trail levels out and you arrive at the first of the old railroad tunnels and the access to Devils Punchbowl.

The trail through the tunnel is paved and not very long, but it does curve so that the middle of it is dark. I often pass through the tunnel without a light source, but it isn’t recommended. If you do not want to go into the tunnel and are up for a bit of a more difficult hike to Devils Punchbowl, you can go left up the footpath.

The footpath is about .10 mile and is a bit steep and narrow with many rocks, ruts, and roots in the way. The first few feet are steep then it climbs more gently to another steep section with many ruts and loose tread. It then shortly and steeply descends to the picturesque footbridge over Devils Punchbowl. It may be crowded here, and there isn’t much room, so you may have to find a place to stand or sit until you can cross. The view is pretty amazing, but it is only one destination on a hike that offers many viewpoints.

From the bridge, the path ascends briefly to a rock outcropping over the lake; you have to step up and over and down the rocks, but it is pretty sure footing. Then it is a very short gentle walk to connect with the main trail on the other side of the tunnel.

If you go through the tunnel and want an easier route to the Punchbowl, you can approach from this way and only have to go over the rock outcropping. But you may be traveling upstream of the hikers coming down.

Shortly after the tunnel the paved trail continues mostly level and offers areas of cool shade and less busy places to sit and look at the lake. At mile 1.5 (about a half mile past the tunnel) you will come to another waterfall and the trail crosses over a stream.  I like to take a moment beneath the Western Redcedar and listen to the falls.

The trail continues another 1.5 miles. It begins to follow the cliffs that line this section of the lake and climbs 75 feet in .10 mile and then descends 50 feet in .10 mile. It continues paved pass some old rockfalls along the cliffs. You eventually come to another tunnel. This whole section is very interesting to the geologically minded hiker with some great views of the lake. The Spruce Railroad Trail technically ends at the trailhead on Camp David Jr Road, but the paved route continues as the Olympic Discovery Trail.

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