Silver Lake, Mount Townsend Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington

Silver Lake - 10.4 miles

Mount Townsend Trailhead

Silver Lake (5,375') from its northern outlet

Silver Lake (5,375') from its northern outlet

Round-Trip Length: 10.4 miles
Start-End Elevation: 3,250' - 5,375' (max elevation 5,645' at ridge crossing)
Elevation Change: +2,125' net elevation change (+3,250' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Silver Lake - 10.4 Miles Round-Trip

Silver Lake (5,375') is located 5.2 miles from Mount Townsend Trailhead in the Buckhorn Wilderness on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula. This large alpine lake casts a deep emerald hue and is popular with backpackers and anglers.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The route shares the first 2.9 miles with the Mount Townsend summit trail, then splits west over a small pass and drops into the Silver Creek drainage. Silver Lake sits at the head of the valley, which drains NW into the Dungeness River. 

While the Mount Townsend summit is heavily traveled, those who choose Silver Lake will find decidedly more solitude and airy alpine landscapes deep in the backcountry:

The trail begins on steep switchbacks lined by Pacific rhododendron, Douglas fir and western hemlock (.5 miles : 3,615'). It enters the Buckhorn Wilderness (.9 miles : 4,010') and gradually opens to subalpine meadows on the south flank of Mount Townsend (1.5 miles : 4,570').

Switchbacks continue up Mount Townsend with views that stretch across Puget Sound to Mount Rainier and Mt Baker (2.0 miles : 4,860'). The trail winds its way up to Camp Windy (2.6 miles : 5,195'), where you'll find several backcountry campsites and a set of nearby glacial tarns at the base of Welch Peak (6,000').

Shortly past Camp Windy is an unmarked split for the Silver Lakes Trail (2.9 miles : 5,445') - turn left. The Silver Lakes Trail rises to a small pass (3.15 miles : 5,645'), then drops on long switchbacks into the Silver Creek valley. This open stretch on west-facing slopes offers great views across the drainage (3.5 miles : 5,480'). 

The trail crosses to the west side of the valley (4.0 miles : 5,165') and bottoms (4.5 miles : 5,025') before starting its final ascent (5.0 miles : 5,310'). The trail turns south and on the final .2 miles to the outlet of Silver Lake (5.2 miles : 5,375'). A well-defined social trail leads around the east shore to several backcountry campsites and good fishing spots.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N47 51.368 W123 02.157 — 0.0 miles: Mount Townsend Trailhead - 3,250'
  • N47 51.517 W123 02.296 — 0.5 miles: Aggressive switchbacks up mountainside
  • N47 51.653 W123 02.412 — 0.9 miles: Enter Buckhorn Wilderness - 4,010'
  • N47 51.614 W123 03.140 — 1.5 miles: Breaks in forest reveal southeastern views
  • N47 51.673 W123 03.189 — 2.0 miles: Continue switchbacks - view quality increasing
  • N47 51.468 W123 03.457 — 2.6 miles: Camp Windy - 5,195'
  • N47 51.551 W123 03.525 — 2.9 miles: Turn left at unmarked trail split
  • N47 51.445 W123 03.736 — 3.15 miles: Cross ridge into Silver Creek Valley - 5,645'
  • N47 51.335 W123 03.759 — 3.5 miles: Descending east wall of valley
  • N47 51.206 W123 03.875 — 4.0 miles: Trail crosses valley floor
  • N47 51.003 W123 03.985 — 4.5 miles: Trail bottoms out - begins ascent to lake
  • N47 50.832 W123 04.099 — 5.0 miles: Final push south up the west side of valley
  • N47 50.689 W123 04.235 — 5.2 miles: Silver Lake (5,375')

Worth Noting

  • There is no fee required to park at the Mount Townsend Trailhead.
  • This is a very popular trail - expect to share it with others, especially on weekends.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry camping is permitted within the Buckhorn Wilderness.

Established backcountry campsites can be found at Camp Windy along the Mount Townsend Trail, as well as around Silver Lake and Silver Creek Valley.

Self Registration is required at the Mount Townsend Trailhead.

Fishing Information

Fishing is permitted and abundant at Silver Lake and Silver Creek. The Buckhorn Wilderness abides by all Washington State Fishing Regulations. License is required.

Rules and Regulations

No pass or fee is required to access the Mount Townsend Trailhead.

The following is not permitted in the Buckhorn Wilderness:

  • Groups consisting of more than 12 persons and/or 8 head of livestock.
  • Starting and/or maintaining open fires, such as camp, cooking and warming fires above 3,500'.
  • Gathering wood for starting and/or maintaining open fires or stoves above 3,500'.
  • Tethering of livestock to trees and/or other vegetation, except for incidental use not to exceed 30 minutes.
  • Possessing and/or transporting unprocessed vegetative matter such as hay, straw, grass or grain. The use of pelletized or certified weed-free feed is required in all National Forests in the Pacific Northwest. This helps prevent the introduction and spread of invasive plants.
  • Caching or leaving equipment, personal property or supplies unattended for a period in excess of 24 hours.
  • Possessing or using any form of wheeled vehicle for the purpose of transportation of such things as people, equipment, personal property, supplies and game.
  • Possessing or using a motor vehicle, motorboat, motorized equipment, hang glider or bicycle.

Directions to Trailhead

From Quilcene, travel 1 mile south on US Highway 101 to Penny Creek Road. Take a right. Follow Penny Creek Road staying left at the “Y” (mile 1.4) to the Forest Service boundary and paved Forest Service Road 27.

Continue on Forest Service Road 27 another 9.3 miles to the fork in the road with Forest Service Road 2750. Bear right (remaining on the paved road) and travel for another 4.2 miles then turn left onto Forest Service Road 190 and follow that road .6 miles to the well marked Mount Townsend Trail #839 parking area.

Contact Information

Olympic National Forest

Supervisor's Office
1835 Black Lk Blvd SW
Olympia, WA 98512
(360) 956-2402
TTD (360) 956-2401
Hours: 8-4:30, M-F

Hood Canal Ranger District - Quilcene

295142 Highway 101 S.
PO Box 280
Quilcene, WA 98376
(360) 765 2200
TDD (360) 765 2200

Trip Reports

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