Happy Lake, Happy Lake Ridge Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington

Happy Lake - 10.0 miles

Happy Lake Ridge Trailhead

Happy Lake - a popular fishing and backpacking destination in Olympic National Park

Happy Lake - a popular fishing and backpacking destination in Olympic National Park

Round-Trip Length: 10.0 miles
Start-End Elevation: 1,785' - 4,875' (5,300' max elevation at lake split)
Elevation Change: +3,090 net elevation gain (+4,205' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Happy Lake - 10.0 Miles Round-Trip

Happy Lake is a beautiful subalpine lake located in a shallow basin within the Elwha section of Olympic National Park. The trail to the lake is part of the greater Happy Lake Ridge Loop - which features the Olympic Hot Springs, Boulder Lake and Happy Lake. While the loop is generally for overnighters, Happy Lake is easily accessible as a day hike.

Leaving from the Happy Lake Ridge Trailhead (0.0 miles : 1,785'), the trail begins an immediate and aggressive ascent that is unrelenting for the next 3 miles.

The trail quickly rises from a montane forest ecosystem to a subalpine forest - gaining almost 3000' in the first 3 miles. The initial 3 miles are generally unimpresive and unchanging, save the healthy douglas fir forest which canopies the trail.

Upon rising the 3000', the trail finally relents upon reaching Happy Lake Ridge (3.0 miles: 4,676'). 

Happy Lake Ridge makes the ascent worth it. Visible from the trail are Mount Olympus and the interior Olympic Range - as well as Mount Rainier and the western Cascades (3.5 miles : 4,790').

The trail rides the ridge as it enters a subalpine ecoystem (4.0 miles : 4,968'). The trees get smaller and the trail transitions into a tundra-like understory.  

After a final push through subalpine meadows, the trail reaches the split to Happy Lake - also the  apex of this hike (4.5 miles : 5,300').

From the split, the trail switchbacks down 425' in a half mile to Happy Lake (5.0 miles : 4,875'). 

A side trail leads around Hapy Lake to several established campsites which are generally used for the longer Happy Lake Ridge Loop.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N47 59.022 W123 37.530 — 0.0 miles: Happy Lake Ridge Trailhead - 1,785'
  • N47 59.233 W123 37.475 — 0.5 miles: Happy Lake Ridge Trail - 2,210'
  • N47 59.440 W123 37.779 — 1.0 miles: Happy Lake Ridge Trail - 2,745'
  • N47 59.621 W123 38.134 — 1.5 miles: Happy Lake Ridge Trail - 3,210'
  • N47 59.978 W123 38.370 — 2.0 miles: Happy Lake Ridge Trail - 3,681'
  • N48 00.179 W123 38.633 — 2.5 miles: Continue aggressive ascent - 4,190'
  • N48 00.352 W123 39.145 — 3.0 miles: Now on Happy Lake Ridge - 4,676
  • N48 00.410 W123 39.728 — 3.5 miles: Riding Happy Lake Ridge - 4,790'
  • N48 00.315 W123 40.317 — 4.0 miles: Gentle ascent through subalpine meadow - 4,968'
  • N48 00.347 W123 40.892 — 4.5 miles: Split to Happy Lake - turn right - 5,300'
  • N48 00.531 W123 41.208 — 5.0 miles: Happy Lake - 4,875'

Worth Noting

  • The Olympic Hot Springs Road is not maintained during winter and is generally closed in winter.
  • Bear canisters are required for backcountry camping in Olympic National Park.
  • Views of the Elwha Valley dam removal and restoration project are found along the Hot Springs Road pull off about 2 miles before the trailhead. It is the 2nd largest ecosystem restoration project in NPS history.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Permits are required for all overnight stays in Olympic National Park. Contact the Wilderness Information Center (360.565.3100) for backcountry camping reservations, permits, and trail conditions. Visit the WIC: 600 East Park Avenue, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

  • There's a $5 registration fee per group, plus $2 per person (children under 15 excluded). If you don't have access to a WIC, or plan to arrive early or late, call the WIC to arrange your permit ahead of time.

  • You may self-register at the Elwha Ranger Station, located just before the turnoff to Whiskey Bend Road. Permits are not available at the trailhead. The station is staffed intermittently throughout the summer.

  • There are no quotas or required reservations for Elwha Valley. Campsites are not individually assigned, but available to permit holders on a first come, first served basis.

  • Camp only in established sites, which are clearly marked along the trail and on most maps.

  • Food Storage: Bear canisters are not required but, are recommended. Established sites have bear wires.

  • Fires: Campfires are permitted up to 3,500'.

Fishing Information

Fishing is permitted at Happy Lake with a valid WA state fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $15 fee to enter Olympic National Park ($30 annual pass).
  • Pets are not permitted on trails. Pets are permitted in campgrounds and must be leashed at all times.
  • No bikes or motorized vehices allowed on trails.
  • No fires permitted above 3,500'.

Directions to Trailhead

From Port Angeles, take Highway 101 west for 7.3 miles and turn left (south) onto Elwha Valley - Olympic Hot Springs Road. Take the Olympic Hot Springs Road for 8.4 miles to the small parking area and unmarked trailhead on the right side of the road.

Contact Information

Olympic National Park
600 East Park Avenue
Port Angeles, WA 98362-6798

Visitor Information: 360.565.3130

Road & Weather Hotline: 360.565.3131

Wilderness Information Center and Backcountry Permit Office (WIC)

Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center

Forks Information Station
360.374.7566 or 360.374.5877

Quinault Wilderness Information Office

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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