Lake of the Angels (Putvin Trail)
ElevationAscent: 3,280' 1,000 m
Descent: -3,279' -999 m
High: 4,914' 1,498 m
Low: 1,653' 504 m
GradeAvg Grade: 19% (11°)
Max Grade: 61% (31°)
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“One of the greatest, steepest and most majestic destinations in all of Olympic National Park.”— Doug Scott
At 1.3 miles, the trail meets an old forest service road, now grown over. Heading downhill along this path, the trail soon meets the main trail to Lake of the Angels.
Over the course of the next 1.5 miles, the trail gains 1,630 feet in elevation, mostly through wooded areas, up a ridge, eventually leading to a headwall. The headwall is the reason most never make it to this lake, but that is because of misleading trip reports making it seem like a death defying scramble. Instead, the sections of the trail right before and the actual headwall itself are manageable, if you trust yourself and are safe. The headwall has a bad reputation, but it is underserved. Every single time I have taken this trail, the headwall is always a sign that I am almost done with serious elevation gain for awhile. Climbing up the sturdy roots and juggy rocks is easily done, as long as you are patient and smart. The headwall can be done by most visitors of moderate ability, especially after the serious steepness and loose dirt/rock trail leading toward it.
Past the headwall, the trail levels of a bit in comparison to the craziness of the last section, leading through a small valley and over another ridge before arriving in the Valley of Heaven. The Valley of Heaven can be confusing to those unfamiliar with the area, and route finding skills are needed during the majority of the year. However, before the trail gets a bit hard to follow, take some time and enjoy the view of the Pond of the False Prophet. With clear waters that often reflect the snow peak in the distance, stopping here for pictures, a drink or two and a snack is something I highly recommend.
As the trail weaves through the muddiness of the valley, keep an eye out for trail markers and the path. Most trails do lead to the right area, but the general rule of thumb is to continue Northwest, where the final climb will take place. Before the last elevation gain, the trail finally enters Olympic National Park, as marked by a sign. Past the sign, you must gain another 338 feet of elevation over 7/10ths of a mile, something many weary legs will not want to do. While your thighs, quads, lungs and brain may be screaming at you, the view as you round the final corner and see the Lake of the Angels will reenergize you and make it all worthwhile.
Lake of the Angels isn’t big, taking around 10 minutes to circumnavigate, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in stunning beauty. Home to mountain goats, marmots, and stunning views of Mount Skokomish and Mount Stone reflecting off the clear water, the area around Lake of the Angels gets more breathtaking with each trip, and each new view to discover. As your stamina and familiarity with the trail increases, take some time and do what I do
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Land Manager: USFS - Olympic National Forest Office