Hike to Lake of the Angels

8 miles 3400 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Greg Balkin

Perfect alpine lake under Mount Skokomish. Dense forest, muddy marshes, and snowy mountains. One of the best lakes in the Olympics.

The trail up to Lake of the Angels, known as the Putvin Trail, starts out pretty mellow with a gradual uphill climb. Your first marker will be an old roadbed at around 1.4 miles, but you'll need to cross two ravines before making it there. It's thick forest with gorgeous views in the clearings, so make sure to give your legs a break before the serious uphill starts.

Throughout the next 1.7 miles, you'll climb nearly 2,000 feet of switchbacks and steep inclines. It can get a bit slippery after rain, so take your time going up (and more importantly coming down). About 1/4 mile in, you enter Mount Skokomish Wilderness. Soon after, the trail hits a headwall with no way to get around but going up. A yellow rope has been tied in by a fellow hiker; however, you can make it up by using various handholds on the rock.

Once you're past this point, you have a bit of a break as you walk through the open meadows and marshes. Soak in the views as you cross Whitehorse Creek, then push up the final snowfield to the lake. The trail is steep, but relatively easy and much shorter than what you just pushed up.

You made it! Awesome. Enjoy this rad lake and take a lunch break near the shore. Skip some rocks, explore the little waterfalls, and relax. If you're really feeling up for it, hop into the lake and freeze in the glacier water. During the summer time there can be some marmot and mountain goat activity, so make sure you don't leave your food out in the open.

On your way out (or in), you'll pass some signs for The Danger Zone. If you're in need of some fireworks or just want to say hi, this was our favorite little stand to stop at.

Getting there: Head north on US 101 from Olympia. 14 miles north of Hoodsport, turn left onto Hamma Hamma River Road (FR 25). Continue for about 12 miles and you'll see the trailhead on your right. You'll need to display a Forest Pass, so make sure you've got one on you.

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A Challenge With Quite The Payoff!

First on the scene to the Putvin trailhead at 7:15 AM. The Putvin Trailhead #833 is located 12 miles up the Hamma Hamma River Road (Forest Road 25), past the Lena Lake parking area and after you travel ~5 miles on unpaved road. Be on the look for a turnout for parking on the left and the trailhead on the right. The first part of the trail is moderate, so enjoy it. You will reach an old road and see a new trailhead sign stating you have 2 miles to go. From here, the trail climbs aggressively ALL the way up to the lake. A true thigh burner and you will be drenched in sweat. Difficult hike up, with some extra steep areas and scrambling needed, but very achievable for those who love a challenge and are in better shape. There are a few tips to keep in mind so you don't stray from the trail: 1) after you complete scrambling up what some refer to as the "Headwall," look for a small rock cairn to the left. 2) after you pass the first pond, TURN LEFT. You will see cairns, a flag on a stick and a make-shift log foot bridge. Cross this and then TURN RIGHT - you will see a small flag on a tree. You may cross other areas in the meadows and on the trail that you need to pay attention, but just look for the most prominent path and cairns. The beauty of this hike is mesmerizing. And the setting for Lake of the Angels is gorgeous! I will say that the lake itself didn't quite live up to my expectations, but it's still a pretty alpine lake. Saw 3 grouse on the hike up, frogs and tadpoles in the many ponds along the way, 3-5" fish rising in the lake...and the highlight of the trip: mountain goats!! I had the pleasure of watching a family of 3 (saw 8 total) up-close. Bugs weren't too bad, all things considered. Horse flies, deer flies and some mosquitos were definitely present at the lake, so apply bug spray. Bugs intensify the closer you are to the goats. My total time on the trail was 4 hours (2.5 up; 1.5 down). At least 7.5 miles (if not more) roundtrip. Overall, such a memorable trip - loved it!

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