THE SPRUCE RAILROAD Trail is open and plenty busy. If you want to enjoy some amazing views of Lake Crescent, it’s best to come as early in the day as possible.
I decided to check out the refurbished trail on a muggy day last week. This was midweek during the Fourth of July holiday.
I was initially dismayed when I pulled into the eastern parking lot at the Spruce Railroad Trailhead and found there was a group of at least 30 to 40 bicyclists getting ready to ride the trail.
These older cyclists were apparently part of a traveling group as I saw license plates from all around the country in the parking lot.
This is great for local tourism, not so great if you’re looking for a semi-wilderness experience.
Fortunately, there’s not much need for me to harp on it, because the group didn’t dawdle and quickly took off down the trail. I waited 10 minutes in the parking lot before I headed out on foot and I never saw the group again for the rest of the day. Perfect. I always feel that groups that large should break up into smaller groups and take off on staggered starts to not completely dominate a trail. Just my two cents. But, truth be told, I didn’t have to deal with them all that much.
Anyway, this is a great excursion to get out on the lake and in the woods. And less than 30 minutes from Port Angeles. What a idyllic place in the world this is.
The new trail up to the McFee Tunnel is quite wide, almost wide enough to be a road. It was a bit odd for a hiking trail; it reminded me of hiking on old fire roads around Montana that had been turned into trails. Every once in a while, a fire truck would head down those trails, usually to clear out dead brush, so I half-expected a fire truck to come down the trail at the lake.
After the McFee Tunnel, the road-like trail narrows into a real foot trail and you actually start feeling like you’re a bit in the wilderness, with gorgeous views of Lake Crescent the entire way. There’s little beaches about every couple of hundred or so yards if you want to scramble down the bank and sit by the lake for a while.
The trail wasn’t terribly busy, I probably saw 20 or 30 people the entire day, but I started off pretty early in the morning and the crowds were definitely picking up later in the day. I only saw one motorboat (towing someone skiing on a contraption that looked like a stool on skis), one sailboat and one canoe. Awesomely peaceful. I’m so glad I didn’t see that massive group of cyclists again that day.
Again, this was on a very busy midsummer week, so to get that much peace and quiet just 30 minutes outside of town is a great outdoors experience.
Just remember, the further you hike, the more the crowds will thin out, so keep going if there’s too many people. The earlier you go, the better. I suspect a lot of people hike to the McFee Tunnel or the Devil’s Punchbowl Bridge and turn back.
I did a pretty leisurely hike. I went east down to the second tunnel — The Daley Rankin Tunnel — then turned back to the parking lot. That’s only about a 5½-mile total hike. Going all the way to the eastern trailhead is 3.7 miles, so a roundtrip would be a healthy 7.4-mile hike. On a muggy day with threatening skies [I got lucky, it never did rain], I didn’t feel like getting that far from the trailhead, but I’ll be doing it later this summer.
The work done this spring is part of an ongoing project through 2019 to upgrade the trail. Paving the length of the trail is set to take place in the final phase. So, if you like narrow, bushy trails, sounds like this summer if your last chance for the stretch past McFee Tunnel. The trail is being improved to accommodate cyclists, hikers, horse riders and the disabled.
There’s two easy routes to the western trailhead. One is west of Port Angeles on U.S. Highway. Take the East Beach turnoff just before Lake Crescent. The trailhead is 3 miles down the road with signage. Or you can take State 112 to Joyce, turn at Crescent School down the Joyce-Piedmont Road, which after 4 miles hits East Beach Road. Turn right on East Beach Road and the trailhead is a few hundred yards down the road.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]