There’s an enduring myth that Lake Crescent in Washington state’s Olympic National Park is bottomless. Of course it’s not. (The maximum depth is 624 feet.) But it’s fair to say that the lake’s pleasures are bottomless. Azure water, so clear that you can see 60 feet down in spots, stretches 12 miles across, set against a backdrop of forested summits and slopes. Lake Crescent Lodge sits back from the water, little changed in appearance since President Franklin Roosevelt warmed himself by its stone fireplace in 1937, the year before he authorized the park’s creation. The lodge was our base camp for exploring a bit of the Olympic Peninsula. But we ended each day by the lake, sinking into Adirondack chairs, watching the water lap against the shore. The tab for two: $474 for two nights at the lodge and $275 for meals.
The nicely appointed guestrooms in the historic main lodge are a money saver if you don’t mind a shared bath and one double bed. We chose the creature comforts in the Pyramid Mountain building, one of three motel-style structures a short walk from the main lodge and water’s edge. You won’t find TV or Wi-Fi, but the lodge lobby has internet access as well as a wonderful yesteryear vibe: Gershwin on the sound system and families huddled around board games.
In the lodge’s dining room, we scored a corner table by a window that beautifully framed the lake in the gathering darkness. The menu favors Pacific Northwest fare. The Dungeness crab spaghetti tempted, but I went for the seafood chowder and got a bowl crowded with tasty catch from nearby Neah Bay. We splurged the next night on the rib-eye, which arrived on a colorful bed of cheesy potatoes, green beans and marionberry bacon jam, a local favorite.
The drive to mile-high Hurricane Ridge is a winding 17 miles, but it’s worth every hairpin curve. From the easy Cirque Rim trail, we saw glacier-clad peaks, meadows dotted with blue bellflowers, and, thanks to a sunny day, the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
THE LESSON LEARNED
The water in Lake Crescent is cold year-round but it’s so crisp and clear — a lack of nitrogen inhibits algae growth — that it seems a shame to deny yourself this exhilarating pleasure. Bring water shoes because the shore is rocky.
Olympic National Park Visitor Center, 3002 Mount Angeles Road, Port Angeles, Wash.; (360) 565-3130. Wheelchair accessible.
Lake Crescent Lodge, 416 Lake Crescent Road, Olympic National Park, Wash.; (360) 928-3211. All facilities on the ground floor of the main lodge are wheelchair accessible, as are some guestrooms in adjacent buildings. The 2019 season runs through Nov. 30. Due to road repaving, traffic to and from Lake Crescent Lodge on U.S 101 may be delayed from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays during September. More information: bit.ly/lakecrescentroadclosure.
Lake Crescent Lodge Restaurant, 416 Lake Crescent Road, Olympic National Park, Wash.; (360) 928-3211