Lake Crescent Information

Lake Crescent nestles into the Olympic National Park in Clallam County, Washington, with U.S. Route 101 hugging Lake Crescent’s southern border. East Beach Road follows its far north side, trails flank its southeastern and northern shores, and there is only a three-mile road access to most of the eight-mile stretch of its northern shoreline. Seattle, Washington, is the closest Metroplex at 103 miles east. Port Angeles, Washington, on the Strait of Juan de Fuca/Salish Sea, is the nearest town at about 20 miles east of Lake Crescent’s eastern tip.

Lake Crescent covers 5,127 acres with a largely undeveloped shoreline, an average depth of 300 feet, and an official maximum depth of 624 feet. Olympic National Park operates Lake Crescent through the U.S. National Park Service. Olympic National Park is open 24 hours a day year-round, but some roads, campgrounds, and facilities are open seasonally. The Storm King Ranger Station at Lake Crescent is usually open in summer with information. The roads around Lake Crescent twist and wind, so drivers are asked to respect the speed limits.

Lake Crescent’s inflow water sources are Aurora Creek, Barnes Creek, Eagle Creek, and Smith Creek. Its primary outflow is the Lyre River. Glaciers carved out deep valleys during the last Ice Age, which became natural lakes in this region. Originally, the Lake Crescent Valley drained into the Indian Creek valley and then into Elwha River. Lake Crescent is famous for its brilliant sapphire blue waters and exceptional clarity, caused by a lack of nitrogen in the water, which inhibits the growth of algae.


History of Lake Crescent

Approximately 8,000 years ago, a great landslide from one of the Olympic Mountains dammed Indian Creek and filled the deep valley where Lake Crescent is with water. Many geologists believe that Lake Crescent and nearby Lake Sutherland formed at the same time, but became separated by the landslide. The Klallam, Makah, and Quileute Native Americans originally inhabited Clallam County, Washington. European diseases devastated their populations, but their descendants continue to play significant roles in county history.

The Native American Creation Story of Lake Crescent: Mount Storm King

The Klallam and Quileute tribes along a small river that flowed through the present site of Lake Crescent fought constantly. The disagreements escalated into a great battle that lasted three days. The cannibal giant, Seatco, became extremely angry at the ridiculous fighting. Seatco hurled a gigantic boulder down at the warriors, killing all of them. The boulder was so big that it dammed the river and the water backed up, which formed Lake Crescent.

It is uncertain whether the Lake Crescent was named for its crescent shape or for its proximity to Crescent Bay, which was named by Henry Kellett in 1846. In 1849, John Sutherland and John Everett, two British–Canadian fur trappers, paddled their canoe inland from Crescent Bay. The two lakes they found became known as Lake Sutherland and Everett Lake. Later, Everett Lake was renamed Lake Crescent, which has also been called Big Lake and Elk Lake.

Several types of land grants allowed for Euro-Americans to settle Clallam County, Crescent Bay, and Freshwater Bay. U.S. military veterans, male citizens, and earlier squatters began claiming them around 1850. By the early 1900s, Lake Crescent was the scene of a variety of hotels and resorts, which offered visitors leisure activity, meals, and lodging in a wilderness setting. .

Visitors arrived by train and took a ferry across the lake to one of the resorts or continued on to Sol Duc Hot Springs, 19 miles south today. Mrs. Rose Littleton and Mary Daum owned the famous The Rosemary Inn on Lake Crescent. John Daum, Mary's brother and Port Angeles carpenter built the complex’s rustic cabins and eventually replaced the cabins with eighteen individually crafted guest cottages. The Rosemary Inn Complex is on Barnes Point on Lake Crescent’s southern shore and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Storm King Ranger Station, also known as the Storm King Guard Station and Morgenroth Cabin, is a historic building on the south shore of Lake Crescent. The building has a connection with Chris Morgenroth, an early settler on the Bogachiel River, about 12 miles southeast of Lake Crescent. Chris became one of the first Forest Service Rangers in the Olympic Peninsula, then district ranger of the Olympic National Forest, and an advocate for the creation of the Olympic National Park.

Russell and Blanch Warren disappeared while driving near Lake Crescent in 1929. Their 1927 Chevrolet automobile was discovered in over 160 feet of water under Lake Crescent in 2002. In 1937, a waitress named Hallie Illingworth went missing. Local fisherman found her body three years later. Her killer had weighted her down. Over time her restraints had decayed, which allowed her corpse to float to the surface.

The near-freezing lake temperature completely preserved Hallie’s corpse. Her skin had turned into a substance described as ivory soap. Minerals in Lake Crescent interacted with Hallie’s body fat in a soap-making process called saponification. A jury convicted Montgomery J. "Monty" Illingworth, her husband, of her murder. He served nine years in prison until his parole in 1951.

Olympic National Park Fees & Passes:

Olympic National Park Visitor Center
3002 Mount Angeles Road
Port Angeles, Washington  98362

Park staff is available daily at the visitor center, and by phone. Visitors can buy a pass online or in person.

Once purchased online, passes for Olympic National Park must be printed prior to use. Internet connectivity is limited or non-existent in the park, so printing the permit in advance is required. The pass is accepted at all park entrance stations.

Mandatory Education: Washington State requires that motorized boat operators complete a boating education course and obtain a boating education card.

  • Non-Commercial Vehicle, $30.00: Valid for seven consecutive days and applies to private, non-commercial vehicles with a 15-passenger capacity or less. The pass covers all vehicle occupants.
  • Motorcycle, $25.00: Valid for seven consecutive days. Fee admits one individual on a private, non-commercial motorcycle.
  • Per Person and Bicyclists, $15.00: Valid for seven consecutive days. This fee admits one person without a vehicle, including hikers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Individuals fifteen years or younger are admitted free of charge.
  • Commercial Van-7-15 seats, $75.00: A commercial tour is defined as persons traveling on an itinerary that has been packaged, priced, or sold for leisure recreational purposes by an organization that realizes financial gain through the provisions of the service.
  • Commercial Minibus-16-25 seats, $100.00: A commercial tour is defined as persons traveling on an itinerary that has been packaged, priced or sold for leisure recreational purposes by an organization that realizes financial gain through the provisions of the service.
  • Commercial Motorcoach-26 seats or more, $200.00: A commercial tour is defined as persons traveling on an itinerary that has been packaged, priced or sold for leisure recreational purposes by an organization that realizes financial gain through the provisions of the service.
  • Non-Commercial Organized Group Vehicles 15 seats or less, $30.00: Applies to organized groups such as scouts, rotary, youth groups, churches, clubs and reunions etc. Youth 15 and under are admitted free of charge.
  • Olympic National Park Annual Pass, $55.00: The Olympic National Park Annual Pass is good for entry into the park for one year from the month of purchase. Passes can be purchased at Olympic National Park visitor centers and entrance stations.

Fishing Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent is catch and release only. The Olympic National Park prohibits the use of down riggers and requires that anglers use only artificial lures with single barbless hooks and no more than two ounces of weight. The game fish in Lake Crescent are Kokanee salmon, Beardslee rainbow trout and Crescenti cutthroat. The rainbow trout subspecies, known as the Beardslee rainbow trout, is endemic only to Lake Crescent, and have been known to grow to 15 to 20 pounds in weight, with some at 22 pounds.

Lake Crescent’s Beardsley trout is identified by its unusual head that takes up 1/3 of its body. Beardsley trout spawn in late winter and early spring in only one small area of the Lyre River. The Crescenti cutthroat trout spawn in Barnes Creek. Kokanee Salmon are landlocked in Lake Crescent. Fishing regulations are strictly catch and release, because the Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to increase the native Beardsley and Crescenti trout populations.

Fly-fishing anglers love Lake Crescent. Access to Lake Crescent’s shoreline is good via roads and trails. The anadromous fish populations in the Lake Crescent became landlocked, because fish could not ascend Lyre River Falls, making a barrier in that direction. Over time, the two different subspecies of trout evolved in the lake.


Boating Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent offers a scenic paddling experience for canoes and kayaks. Conditions are best in the early morning hours when winds are most likely calm. Winds come up often in the afternoon and can quickly create waves of a foot or more. Two boat launches are at Storm King Ranger Station and Fairholme Campground. The concession at Log Cabin Resort and Lake Crescent Lodge rents kayaks and canoes. Launch fees apply at some places. Lake Crescent does not have a marina.

Swimming at Lake Crescent provides a cold experience, with 44 degrees the average year round temperature of the water. The best spots to swim at are at Fairholme Beach, near Fairholme Campground, and the East Beach Picnic Area, set on a grassy meadow overlooking Lake Crescent with picnic tables and vault toilets. Alcohol and glass are not permitted on public beaches. Lake Crescent is super deep, and life jackets are recommended for every swimmer. 

Plan your next outing on our Lake Crescent Boat Ramps Map, and keep an eye on the Lake Crescent Level. Find or sell a boat on our Lake Crescent Boats for Sale page.


Lake Crescent Cabins and Lodges

The Olympic National Park offers two lodges at Lake Crescent, one on the north shore, and one on the south shore. The Lake Crescent Lodge is located on the south shore close to Highway 101, and you can camp or stay in style, picnic, rent kayaks, and enjoy excellent dining. The Log Cabin Resort sits on Lake Crescent's north shore and offers a variety of accommodations, including lakeside chalets, comfortable lodge rooms, camper cabins, rustic cabins, and log cabins. Check websites for seasonal opening and closing dates.

Camp David Jr. on the northern shore focuses on youth groups and provides a beautiful setting for many group activities. It was originally a health spa in the early 1900's, and Camp David Jr. preserved much of the history on the site. It is open from April 15 to October 15.

Facilities include:

  • Qui Si Sana Lodge, the main lodge, comes with a fully equipped kitchen, dining hall, arts/crafts room, and restrooms, with showers. A massive fireplace is a cozy location to gather in the evenings. In any weather, the covered porches allow unparalleled views of Lake Crescent.
  • Eight sleeping cabins: Sleeping Cabins are clustered in groups of four. Each cluster is served by a central restroom building. Cabins, with bunks and mattresses, sleep between eight and eleven individuals each.
  • A camp staff cabin is also available.
  • Two group restrooms (ada accessible).
  • A beach cabin can be used by large or small groups, has a small kitchen, full bath, and sleeping area.
  • The WoHeLo Lodge is a rustic log cabin on the lake's edge, mostly used as a gathering place. It is a day-use only facility with no overnight accommodations allowed.
  • Recreation activities include a swimming area, fishing dock, campfire circle, canoeing, and grass playfield.
  • No fireworks, hunting, pets, or RV's.

Find the perfect cabin or lodge on our Lake Crescent Cabins page.


Camping at Lake Crescent

The Log Cabin Resort offers a variety of campsites, including full hook-up RV sites, group tent camping, bike-in tent sites, and limited ADA tent sites and facilities. Log Cabin Resort runs a summer-only RV campground.

Other amenities include restaurant, deli,  paddle boats, stand up paddleboards, canoes,  and kayak rentals, coin-operated washer/dryer, and a general store with beer, wine, sandwiches, ice cream, candy, and seasonal clothing items.

  • Individual fire rings and picnic tables at each site.
  • Centrally located comfort station with toilets and showers.
  • Coin-operated washers/dryers.
  • Maximum 6 people per individual site or 16 people per group site.
  • RV Sites offer full hook up with electricity and sewer.
  • Tent sites include fine-grade gravel tent pads.

The Fairholme Campground on Lake Crescent’s northwest shore offers 87 tent and RV sites with fire pits with grates, picnic tables, potable water, animal-proof food storage lockers, ADA accessible restrooms, and a RV dump station. This park opens from late spring into early fall.

Check out our list of campgrounds and RV parks for your family adventure on our Lake Crescent Camping page.


Trails at Lake Crescent

Pets and bicycles are not permitted on trails, except on the Spruce Railroad Trail. Pets must be kept on a six-foot or shorter leash. Alcohol and glass are not permitted on public beaches. Mountain goats transplanted from southeast British Columbia live on Mount Storm King and the areas surrounding Lake Crescent. Some entity released four goats in 1925. That herd grew to 800 plus, and have stabilized at around 300 goats today. Beware of aggressive behavior from them if you hike up into their range.

Marymere Falls goes through an old growth forest to a 90-foot waterfall. It is 0.9 miles one way with a 400-foot elevation gain.

Moments in Time is a self-guided nature trail through forest and by the lake, ADA accessible with assistance. It is a 0.6-mile loop with no elevation gain.

Mount Storm King has Steep switchbacks that climb part way up Mount Storm King. It is a 4.4-mile in and out with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet.

The Spruce Railroad Trail is a paved, ADA accessible trail hugging the north shore of Lake Crescent on an old railroad bed and includes two historic railroad tunnels. Bikes and leashed pets are permitted. An ADA accessible paved extension leads west on the Olympic Discovery Trail. It is 4.0 miles one way with a 6.5-mile extension, and 100 to 550-foot elevation gain. The Spruce Railroad Trail goes to the popular Devil’s Punchbowl.

The Fairholme Campground Loop goes through an old growth forest. This trail has entrances at the top of Loop B and the campground access road. It is a 0.8-mile loop with an elevation gain of 100 feet.

The Pyramid Peak Trail climbs steeply to a World War II spotting tower with views of the lake. One section crosses a steep landslide. It is 7 miles total with an elevation gain of 2,600 feet.

The Aurora Creek Trail rises steeply up rocky terrain through an old growth forest to Aurora Ridge at 6.8 miles in and out with an elevation gain of 3,220 feet.

Barnes Creek also climbs up to Aurora Ridge through old growth forest. Only the first four miles are maintained. It is 15 miles total with an elevation gain of 4,200 feet.


Things to Do at Lake Crescent

Visit the Rosemary Inn historic district with several historical structures built between 1914 and the mid-1930s. The main property of the district is the Rosemary Inn Lodge, a big frame structure located to the south of the meadow built by John Daum and opened in 1914 by Rose E. Littleton. Twelve guest log and wood-frame cabins, each one unique in design, and several other outbuildings, built between the 1920s and the 1930s, occupy the area north of the lodge The National Park Service bought the property in 1943. In 1946, the dedication of Olympic National Park was conducted at the lodge at Rosemary Inn. The National Park Concessions operated the restaurant until 1951. From 1951 until 1986, park employees used Rosemary Inn and its surrounding cabins as housing.

Highway 101 is a twisty, mostly two-lane road that winds its way from the state capital of Seattle to Washington’s western shores. It provides a picturesque backdrop for an epic road-trip experience. A section of it hugs the southern shore of Lake Crescent. When you buckle up for a Highway 101 adventure through the Olympic Peninsula and along the coast, you can spend three days discovering the cultural uniqueness of the Olympic National Park, regions beyond, and the towns located along its way.

The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is about 19 miles south of Lake Crescent via a winding road around a mountain ridge. This resort offers three mineral hot spring soaking pools and one freshwater pool. The spring water comes from rain and melting snow, which seeps through cracks in the sedimentary rocks where it mingles with gasses coming from cooling volcanic rocks. The mineralized spring waters rise to the surface along a larger crack or fissure.

Plan your next adventure on our What To Do At Lake Crescent page, and the Lake Crescent Event Calendar.


Lake Crescent Weather & Climate

Lake Crescent sees an average of 79 inches of rain, with six inches of snow, and 132 days of sunshine per year. The winter low in January is 35 degrees, with a summer high in July of 70 degrees. July, August, and September are the most comfortable months, and December and January are the least comfortable months in this region.

Keep an eye on the skies with our Lake Crescent Weather Forecast page.


Lake Crescent Zip Codes

Clallam County: 98305, 98324, 98326, 98331, 98343, 98350, 98357, 98362, 98363, 98376, 98381, 98382.


Lake Crescent  Flora and Fauna

Despite their abundance, viewing wildlife at Lake Crescent can be a matter of luck and diligence. Sightings include bears, birds, deer, fish, elk, goats, and marmots. Typical vegetation differs among the different altitudes of the Olympic National Park region and is divided into coastal, lowland, temperate rain forest, montane, subalpine, and alpine ecoregions. Lake Crescent lies in the lowland ecoregion with common trees of Douglas fir, grand fir, western hemlock, western red cedar, and Sitka spruce.

Lake Crescent Email Updates


 

Lake Crescent Current Weather Alerts

There are no active watches, warnings or advisories.

 

Lake Crescent Weather Forecast

Wednesday

Sunny

Hi: 43

Wednesday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 32

Thursday

Partly Sunny

Hi: 43

Thursday Night

Mostly Cloudy

Lo: 35

Veterans Day

Slight Chance Snow

Hi: 43

Friday Night

Mostly Cloudy

Lo: 36

Saturday

Partly Sunny

Hi: 46

Saturday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 35


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