331 Things to Do – #46 Rail Trail Treks

Hike or Bike to Devil’s Punchbowl on Lake Crescent along the Spruce Railroad Trail, a historic railroad trail on the Olympic Peninsula

Photo by Brittany Gates

Spruce Railroad Trail is an easy to moderate hiking and biking trail that’s also dog friendly. This trail, a part of the 130-mile Olympic Discovery Trail, is a great place for you and your best canine friend to take a hike. As you wander along the four-mile “rail trail,” let the sound of the wind through the trees and the birds calling fade away and imagine instead the sounds of a working railroad meandering through lumber camps harvesting wood for the growing West and for airplanes fighting in World War l. Imagine the sounds of steel screaming on steel, the crack of a giant tree trunk giving way, men calling to each other as the chow bell rings. Let those images fade away and return to the present day trail, which is part of more than 1,600 trail systems supported by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which seeks to repurpose abandoned railroad lines into hiking and walking trails.

This section of the Olympic Discovery Trail starts with a paved path that wanders through an old orchard before it beings to rise up through a dense forest, with occasional glimpses of Lake Crescent. About a mile in, a bridge spans a section of the lake and edges along the Devil’s Punchbowl, a beautiful pool of gorgeous blue water that is still enough to take a dip in. Just a bit further is the first of two old train tunnels that the forest service plans to restore at some point. But beware, the paved path will stop at some point and the trail beyond that can be more narrow with rocky parts in places.

NOTE: There’s a temporary closure for Spruce Railroad Trail for tunnel restoration and trail improvements from now until spring 2017. The trail is closed at the Lyre River trailhead to McFee Tunnel. Look for a wider trail opening this spring for scenic rides and walks along Lake Crescent.