If you’re looking to take the leap from day hikes to overnight trips, the Lake Angeles trail in Olympic National Park is a perfect hike for beginner backpackers! It can easily be done as a day hike, but sleeping under the stars next to the peaceful lake makes the experience even more magical.
This guide will tell you everything you need to backpack the Lake Angeles trail – how to get a permit, when to go, and more!
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Table of Contents
About the Lake Angeles Trail
The Lake Angeles trail is pretty consistently steep, but it’s not too bad! While I wouldn’t recommend it to a complete beginner hiker, it’s doable for anyone with some experience.
Lake Angeles Trail Stats
Length: 8 miles (12.87 km) out and back
Elevation Gain: 2486 feet (758 meters)
Difficulty: Moderate – hard
Hike Time: I consider myself to be an average hiker (but a beginner backpacker) and this trail took me 4 hours and 42 minutes to hike. You can check out my hike on Strava!
Leave No Trace
Anytime you’re outdoors, it’s essential that you practice Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that help us understand our impact on the outdoors – because while we usually have good intentions, the environment is more fragile than we think, and one snap-second decision can cause damage to the environment that will take the earth years, even decades to repair.
Leave No Trace means enjoying the outdoors without disrupting nature, as much as it’s possible to do so. Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and how they apply when you hike the Lake Angeles trail!
- Plan ahead and prepare – read this guide, make sure you know have the right gear, and be prepared for any weather.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces – stay on the trail to avoid trampling grasses and plants!
- Dispose of waste properly – don’t leave trash, or anything else, behind. Pack it out! If you’re backpacking, bring a trowel – there are no bathrooms.
- Leave what you find – I know it can be tempting to take a cool rock or leaf, but leave these things where they belong! Animals often use these, and if everyone takes one, the trail won’t be as pretty.
- Minimize campfire impacts – no campfires are allowed at the Lake Angeles Campground.
- Respect wildlife – don’t approach wild animals, and never feed them. There was a bird hanging out at my campsite, and while he’s super cute, make sure not to feed animals – it’s bad for their stomachs, causes aggression, and messes with their natural patterns. This trail also requires that you bring a bear canister!
- Be considerate of other visitors – yield to other hikers, and be respectful – no speakers or loud music.
The Best Time to Backpack the Lake Angeles Trail
Lake Angeles gets a lot of snow in the winter, so the best time to hike is usually May through October. There might still be snow at the ends of this time frame, so your best bet for a snow free, dry hike is June through September! Read trail reports before you go – I hiked at the end of May in 2023, and there was zero snow.
The Olympic Peninsula is also known for frequent rain, so it’s a good idea to be prepared with a rain cover for your tent and some layers just in case!
Don’t Forget Your Pass!
Because the Lake Angeles trail is located in Olympic National Park, you will need a pass to hike. It costs $30 per car, but if you visit national parks often (or at least more than twice a year), I recommend getting an America the Beautiful Pass! It’s an annual pass that will get you into every national park in the country for an entire year, for just $80.
You can purchase either pass on your way into the park, or get an America the Beautiful pass online ahead of time!
How to Get a Backpacking Permit
Along with the national park pass (which you’ll leave in your car at the trailhead), you also need a permit to backpack the Lake Angeles trail. You don’t need this for day hikes, but it’s a must if you’re staying overnight!
The permit is pretty easy to get – the Lake Angeles campground isn’t a competitive spot, so you will most likely be able to get a permit even if you’re planning this trip last minute. Go to Recreation.gov, and you’ll see a page for Olympic National Park wilderness permits. Head over to the “check availability” button, and you’ll need to select a starting area.
Lake Angeles is in the Hurricane area of the park, so select that, choose the number of group members, and scroll down to the Lake Angeles Campsite. Select your dates, click “Book Now,” and then you’ll be asked for more information. For entry and exit points, you will choose the Heart O’ Hills Trailhead for both, unless you plan to make this a longer backpacking trip and continue on to Klahhane Ridge.
Note: You will be asked to choose where you’ll pick up your permit, but it’s no longer required to pick it up in person. The park now allows you to print the permit yourself. However, bear canisters are required to backpack to Lake Angeles, and if you don’t have one you can borrow one from one of the stations.
The permit costs $8 per person per night, plus a $6 flat reservation fee, so it’s $14 for one person for one night.
What to Bring to Backpack the Lake Angeles Trail
When you backpack to Lake Angeles, here’s what you’ll need to bring!
- Tent – somewhere to sleep! I love my super light Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent.
- Sleeping Bag – make sure you have something warm enough! I use this ALPS Mountaineering sleeping bag.
- Sleeping Pad – an essential for a comfy night of sleep! I have this Sea to Summit pad, but am planning to upgrade to a thicker one, like this Therm-a-Rest pad soon!
- Camp Stove – there’s nothing like having a hot meal on the mountain. I use an MSR Pocket Rocket stove, which is incredibly small, along with this GSI Cookset.
- Bear Canister – for this trail, food and any scented items are required to be kept in a bear canister. If you don’t have one, you can borrow one from the ranger station.
- Hiking Shoes – this trail is steep, and often muddy from frequent rain, so make sure you’ve got something with grip. I prefer hiking in sandals and usually wear Chacos, I opted for my Danner boots for more ankle support.
- Layers – it’s going to be colder at Lake Angeles, and it got a little chilly in my tent at night, so a lightweight windbreaker or a fleece is a good idea. For the cold, I love my Columbia puffy jacket – it’s lightweight, and water resistant!
- Backpack – you’ll need a backpack for water and snacks. I use a Deuter backpacking pack, but for a day hike I recommend the Osprey Hikelite 26L.
- Headlamp – a backpacking essential for after dark.
- Hiking poles – the hike is steep, so if you have knee pain going downhill, poles help a lot with that!
- Water – water is a must, always. This hike is steep, so I’d recommend bringing an extra water bottle. I brought my 2L hydration pack and drank the whole thing!
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Directions to the Lake Angeles Trailhead
The Lake Angeles trail begins at the Heart O’ Hills trailhead, in the Hurricane area of in Olympic National Park. If you’re flying in to Washington to explore the park, the closest airport is SeaTac, in Seattle.
Expedia is a good way to find flights and rental cars, I also super recommend signing up for Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) – they send you amazing deals, so you can find cheap flights to Seattle, and to destinations all over the world. The free account is great and totally worth the few minutes it takes to sign up, and I do recommend the premium account too!
If you fly into Washington, you can rent a car through Discover Cars or Rental Cars. But, a great alternative to a rental car is a tiny home on wheels! With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans. Another option for vans is to use Outdoorsy, which is more like Airbnb for campers – you can rent a van, RV, or trailer from a person in the area.
From Seattle, you can either take the ferry (a fun experience if you aren’t from here!) to Bainbridge Island and keep driving from there, or drive south to Tacoma from Seattle then loop back north to get to the Olympic Peninsula. Once you get on Highway 101, you’ll follow it to Port Angeles, and turn onto Hurricane Ridge Road.
Lake Angeles Trailhead Coordinates: 48.0388524,-123.4317874
Backpacking the Lake Angeles Trail
Once you’ve parked and are ready to start hiking, here’s what you can expect on the Lake Angeles trail!
Lake Angeles Trailhead
The parking lot for the Lake Angeles trailhead is pretty small, so to get a spot, I recommend getting there early, or later in the day. A few different trails start here, but you’ll see a sign that points you to Lake Angeles. The trail begins in the forest, where you’ll walk through gorgeous greenery and the serene sounds of the river.
Uphill to Lake Angeles
The trail starts out pretty flat, but not for long! You’ll quickly reach a little bridge over the creek, and from there the trail starts climbing.
The hike is steep – there aren’t very many switchbacks, so you’re going straight up, the entire time. The good (?) news is that the grade is consistent, which is nice because you won’t be surprised by any extra steep sections – but not so nice because you also don’t get any breaks from the uphill trek.
The trail is nice and peaceful, taking you through the woods. There isn’t much else to see, just the trees! After a while, the trees turn bare – this is a section of the trail that was burned a few years ago. But keep climbing, and soon enough, the greenery comes back.
The trail is pretty tiring when you’re carrying a big backpack – but as I slowly got closer, I kept reminding myself that it would be worth it soon enough.
When you get to a section that feels pretty flat for a while, you’re close! You’ll reach a sign that points to Lake Angeles straight ahead, or to Klahhane Ridge to the right. Continue straight to Lake Angeles, and you’ll reach the campsite soon.
Lake Angeles Campground
When I got to the Lake Angeles Campground, I was greeted by a ton of fog. So much that I couldn’t see the lake at all! But I crossed my fingers that the sky would clear up and set up camp.
There are plenty of flat spots around Lake Angeles where you can set up camp – one big open area next to the lake, and a few spots that are a little more private and tucked away. I was the only one here this night (score!), so I chose a spot as close to the water as I could get.
The fog did clear up a tiny bit, but I still couldn’t see much.
I made dinner – a delicious (and not like, camp food delicious – actual I-would-eat-this-every-day delicious) Backcountry Chili from Right On Trek – and then settled into my tent, hoping that I’d get some mountain views in the morning.
The first thing I did when I opened my eyes in the morning was look over to see if the lake was still foggy, and lucky for me it wasn’t! I finally got the views of Lake Angeles – gorgeous mountains surrounding the clear water. You can also swim in the lake, which I had been hoping to do, but it was too chilly for me to try!
After walking around a little for more views of the lake, I packed up camp and headed down the trail!
Hiking Down the Lake Angeles Trail
To get back down to the trailhead, you’ll go back the way you came. If your knees tend to hurt going down, hiking poles can be really helpful since this trail is so steep!
More Adventures Nearby
Have you hiked this trail, or are you adding it to your bucket list? Let me know in a comment below!
For more adventures nearby, you can backpack the 35 mile Hoh River trail to Blue Glacier, or the 17 mile South Coast Wilderness Trail! And if you’re feeling a day hike, Mount Storm King is one of the most beautiful places in the park, or you can walk the easy Staircase Rapids Loop.
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