These two trails start out in the Heart of the Hills about a third
the way up the road towards Hurricane Ridge.
They are not the most spectacular trails in the Olympic National Park,
they offer a sense of the forest and a sense of great accomplishment.
trails climb from the same parking lot, both trails pass through the
rain forest green, and if you go far enough, both trails will take you
to Klahane Ridge. We greatly prefer the
Angeles Trail. It is easier than the Heather Park Trail, and it leads
out to Lake Angeles, which is pretty in its own right, and surrounded
high green mountain walls.
UPDATE August 27, 2006: We had an amazing new experience up at Lake Angeles. We went swimming. We've been climbing the two thousand feet and then some to Lake Angeles for over five years, and each time we would get to the lake, climb the rock that sort of looks like the one that Psyche sits on in the old Schweppes logo and then turn around and march back down. This time, we noticed something different. There were people out in a canoe on the lake. We had seen tents and other hikers and even campers up at Lake Angeles before, but never anyone on the lake. We decided to wander around a bit longer, and while we wandered south from Psyche Rock, trying to keep close to the lake, one of the canoers, dressed for swimmng, told us something we had never realized. There is an easy way to get into the lake for swimming, or canoeing. A bit past the southernmost campsite, there is a path to the lake where the lake bottom is not all sloggy and muddy, and that this is the best place to get into the water. We had to try it. Indeed, the lake bottom was not sloggy or muddy, though the little stones underfoot made us wish we had packed our dive socks. Still, we were soon sloshing around in the lake, enjoying the fantastic views of the mountain wall that surrounds much of this body of water. In late August, the water was brisk and cold, but no longer frigid. It was totally refreshing, and the aches and pains of our ascent quickly vanished in the cold water. Already, we are planning our return trip, with dive socks and a towel, and hoping the weather holds so we can take another high country swim.
UPDATE July 8, 2004: There
is a new bridge over the river. The park service has built a new bridge
from scratch (actually logs). It is bigger and wider and an excellent
substitute for the old one.
UPDATE April 27, 2004: There
was a lot of wind damage along the Lake
Angeles trail. Most of the trunks have been sawed, but you sometimes
have to detour a bit to get around some of the big upended stumps. The
little bridge is was damaged by a falling tree, but the main log is
still sturdy, even if deformed. Do be careful as the handrail is
missing. We heard that the Lake itself is accessible with little or no
snow, but we have not confirmed this, so don't be surprised if you run
Take Race Street south from route 101 in Port Angeles. There are large national park signs to follow. Drive past the park visitor center on your right and then bear right at the next fork up towards Hurricane Ridge. When you see the park admission gate ahead, take a right turn, and go down to the end of the road. Here are the trailheads for both trails.
The Lake Angeles Trail is a mysterious trail. As soon as you leave the parking lot, you are swallowed by this cathedral in the woods with its tall trees and luxuriant ferns. Follow the trail along the stream, cross left at the bridge and begin your ascent in earnest. Right now you are perhaps 1900' above sea level. In an hour and a half or perhaps two hours you will be over 4000' by the shores of a glacier fed tarn. This in itself is an amazing feeling.
The nave continues as the trail rises inexorably, but not uncomfortably. At no point on this trail will your knee make contact with your chin as happens on certain other trails. The footing is good, and the trail is rarely muddy. This means you can look into the woods for blossoming trilium and Indian pipes. The scents of the trail change with the trees, ferns and fungi.
We can almost always make it to the bridge at the third way point, where the melting glaciers above race underfoot. Early in the season you can tell when the snow in the high country is starting to clear and the water brushes the beam of the bridge, while at other times it might be several feet lower. If you are exhausted, this is a good place to rest and decide if you want to turn around.
After this point, the climb resumes in earnest. The vegetation underfoot thins and the trail seems to be a series of high ceiling corridors through the forest. The trees form patterns that shift and change as you climb onward. The trail turns and grows steeper, then turns again and levels a bit, or perhaps this is an illusion induced by exhaustion and pending collapse. There is another turn and another passageway, but now there are mosses underfoot, and here and there a rocky outcrop with a sampling of stunted alpine vegetation. This is a good sign, the lake is near.
The trail levels at the lake near its outlet. High ahead you can see the face of Klahane Ridge and Mount Angeles. The trail continues higher, but we have never been in shape to continue. Here we head on towards the campground and more views of the lake and mountains. Then, after we have looked our fill and rested our weary thews, we realize we are lost. No matter how carefully we keep track of the landmarks - this fallen log, that broken rock - we usually have to thrash around in the woods a bit before finding the trail back down. Leaving a trail of bread crumbs might work, but it didn't help Hansel and Gretel.
We probably take this trail once for every dozen times we take the Lake Angeles Trail. It is not the steepest trail in the park, but it is steeper than the Lake Angeles Trail, and it doesn't have a neat lake to hike up to. We have been told that if one is persistent and can endure its rigors, one emerges at a charming alpine meadow, Heather Park. We have never made it much past the dubious Half Way Rock, a climb of over 2000', but with few rewards. You might think we would be consoled by reaching the half way point, but according to various guide books and other hikers, Half Way Rock is not even half way to Heather Park, either in distance or in elevation. Still, it is one of the few prominent landmarks on this trail and was probably given its name by either desperate hikers on the verge of losing hope or some marketing types.
Take the Lake Angeles Trail unless you are feeling very energetic. Both trails have wonderful forest, but the Lake Angeles Trail is prettier, and offers you several goals to climb for. Save Heather Park for your penance. (Now, there's a marketing idea!)
Bring lots of water. Both trails are steep and tiring.
If you wear glasses, consider getting some Cat Crap or other anti-fogging goop to put on them. This is especially important on rainy days.
If you want to swim, head to the southernmost campsite at Lake Angeles, and continue following the lake as best you can. There is a an easy access to the water, and the water is wonderful. Bring dive socks and a towel.