Backpack to Lake Angeles

Rate this Adventure Washington Heart O' the Hills Trailhead

Added by Nick Lake

  • Distance: 7 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: ~2,400 ft.
  • Duration: 5 hour dayhike or an overnight
  • Aquamarine subalpine lake full of brook trout
  • Beautiful craggy mountain views

Lake Angeles is, rightfully, a popular day hike and overnight backpacking option, as its one of the larger, more accessible lakes in Olympic National Park. It can be done either as a moderate day hike with a refreshing swim and picnic lunch or a relaxing overnight with gorgeous views and reliable fly-fishing.

Begin at the Heart O’ the Hills trailhead, accessed via the turnoff from Hurricane Ridge Road directly before the park’s entrance station. The trail winds through mountain forest for the first mile following the Ennis Creek bed before crossing the creek and heading east over a knoll. After a second creek crossing, the trail cuts back southwest and begins a steady ascent of the ridge on the west side of a canyon through abundant Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock interspersed with Western Red Cedar.

The well-maintained trail continues on a steady upslope with only a few areas of relief for the next two miles, the forest’s serenity and stillness broken only by the pulsing of your heartbeat in your ears and the shuffle of your boots on the dirt track. Just past mile 3.5, a sign indicates your arrival at your objective and the path levels out, passing through the outlet of Lake Angeles’ precipitous basin. Scrubbier subalpine firs have begun to mix with the larger montane forest from below and steep, craggy cliff walls rise above the lake on three sides.

After passing through several established backpacking sites, continue exploring along the western shore of the lake or (carefully) scramble across the logjam at the lake’s outlet and scamper up the far bank to reconnoiter the eastern side. Voracious brook trout bite even in the middle of a sunny day, though finding room for a back cast can be a bit tricky and requires considerable wading or a deft perch on the logjam. Keep an eye out for mountain goats on the cliffs above the lake.

The water is cold but inviting on a hot day and a small, forested island in the middle of the lake, reminiscent of a miniature Crater Lake, provides a target for intrepid swimmers. Spend the night at one of the many backcountry sites or, after enjoying the lake, brave the grueling 2.9-mile ascent to Klahhane Ridge or head back down on the steady descent to the trailhead.

Tips:
  • Lake Angeles Trail can remain snowbound into June which, combined with some steep snow slopes, can make the use of an ice axe and self-arrest skills necessary
  • Permits are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry. Backcountry permits can be obtained for $5 plus $2/person at the Quinault and Lake Angeles Visitor’s Centers. For more information about backcountry permits, visit the Olympic National Park wilderness camping permit page here
  • Lake Angeles is a popular backpacking destination and good sites can fill up fast. Get an early start to ensure a great spot to spend the night
  • Black bears are common in the Lake Angeles basin and as such bear canisters are required. They can be rented for a small fee at the Lake Angeles Visitor’s Center
  • A fishing license is not required to fish at Lake Angeles. Brook trout are an invasive species in most of the alpine lakes in the park and most rangers will encourage you to remove as many as possible from the lake. Click here for more information about fishing in Olympic National Park

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Swimsuit
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Bear Canister (suitable trees for tying up food are tough to find around the lake)
  • Binoculars
  • Fly rod
  • Tackle
  • Camp stove (fires are not permitted in Lake Angeles basin)
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Activities:

Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Swimming

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

7 Miles

Elev. Gain:

2400 Feet

Features:

Forest
Lake
Romantic
Scenic
Swimming Hole
Wildlife

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Added by Nick Lake

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