Boulder Lake, Appleton Pass Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington

Boulder Lake - 11.6 miles

Appleton Pass Trailhead

Boulder Lake as seen from its outlet into Boulder Creek

Boulder Lake as seen from its outlet into Boulder Creek

Round-Trip Length: 11.6 miles
Start-End Elevation: 1,825' - 4,330' (4,330' max elevation at lake)
Elevation Change: +2,505' net elevation gain (+3,125' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Boulder Lake - 11.6 Miles Round-Trip

Boulder Lake (4,330') is located 5.8 miles from Appleton Pass Trailhead in Olympic National Park. The lake occupies a steep walled bowl framed by Boulder Peak and Everett Peak in the Elwha watershed.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Boulder Creek Trail rises gently on a graded path to Olympic Hot Springs, where grades steepen to the Appleton Pass Split and up the Boulder Lake Trail to the basin.

Visitors will enjoy hot springs access, excellent fishing and numerous backcountry campsites on the hike to Boulder Lake:


  • Olympic Hot Springs Road is closed at Glines Canyon Dam. You will have to walk the road (4.7 miles) to reach the trailhead. This adds 9.4 miles and over 1000' elevation gain to the roundtrip distance. You may bike this road segment up to the trailhead.
  • The Crystal Creek Bridge is damaged and closed to all users. Alternative routes across the deep gorge and creek are not maintained. Travel at your own risk.


The Boulder Creek Trail rises on a wide, graded path under a fir-hemlock canopy to bridges over Cougar Creek (.3 miles : 1,835') and a second stream (1.3 miles : 2,024').

It crests (1.5 miles : 2,073) and drops to a major suspension bridge over Crystal Creek (2.0 miles : 2,043'). Once across the trail forks (2.1 miles: 2,117'); keep right to stay on the main Boulder Creek Trail (the left fork leads to the hot springs).

It rises to the Boulder Creek Campground where numerous spurs branch off to designated sites - be sure to stay on the correct path.

The main trail exits the Boulder Creek Campground area (2.5 miles : 2,295') and continues through a marsh on sturdy wood platforms. It passes under a tall old growth canopy to the Appleton Pass - Boulder Lake split (3.0 miles : 2,450'). The left fork runs 4.6 miles to Appleton Pass; keep right for Boulder Lake.

The Boulder Lake Trail splits NW and intensifies over N. Fork Boulder Creek with intermittent views of Everett Peak (4.0 miles : 3,365'). Terrain becomes rocky and large boulders appear in the forest through 4,000' (5.0 miles). Steady grades continues before leveling out at the north shore of Boulder Lake (5.8 miles : 4,330').

Boulder Lake is fairly large with an interesting peninsula that provides good views of Boulder Peak (5,672') and extra room for anglers to cast.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N47 59.208 W123 39.113 — 0.0 miles: Appleton Pass Trailhead - 1,825'
  • N47 59.295 W123 39.440 — 0.3 miles: Cross major bridge over Cougar Creek - 1,835'
  • N47 59.143 W123 39.622 — 0.5 miles: Gradual climb through forest - 1,923'
  • N47 58.948 W123 40.254 — 1.0 miles: Gradual climb through forest - 2,035'
  • N47 58.892 W123 40.519 — 1.3 miles: Cross 2nd major bridge - 2,024'
  • N47 58.796 W123 40.703 — 1.5 miles: Crest hill before starting descent - 2,073'
  • N47 58.705 W123 41.171 — 2.0 miles: Suspension Bridge over Crystal Creek - 2,043'
  • N47 58.630 W123 41.173 — 2.1 miles: Split right to stay on trail - 2,117'
  • N47 58.643 W123 41.544 — 2.5 miles: Exit Boulder Creek Campground - 2295'
  • N47 58.464 W123 42.165 — 3.0 miles: Turn right at split begin steep ascent - 2,450'
  • N47 58.284 W123 43.138 — 3.5 miles: Steep and steady ascent - 3,065'
  • N47 58.383 W123 43.636 — 4.0 miles: Challenging climb through 3,365'
  • N47 58.572 W123 44.020 — 4.5 miles: Steady climb through 3,625'
  • N47 58.836 W123 44.427 — 5.0 miles: Approaching final climb to Lake - 3,935'
  • N47 58.773 W123 44.736 — 5.5 miles: Final stretch to Boulder Lake - 4,195'
  • N47 58.662 W123 44.983 — 5.8 miles: Boulder Lake - 4,330'

Worth Noting

  • The Olympic Hot Springs Road is not maintained during winter and is generally closed in winter.
  • The quality of the Hot Springs water is not monitored and may contain harmful bacteria. Bathe at your own rish - nudity is also common.
  • 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.
  • While no trail leads there, Three Horse Lake is a viable destination located in the adjacent valley to Boulder Lake.

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 an $8 per person - per night fee (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.
  • Food Storage: Bear canisters are not required, but are recommended. Bears are common in this area.
  • Fires: Fires are permitted up to 3500'. Fires are not permitted at Boulder Lake, or at Boulder Creek Camground due to re-vegetation efforts.
  • Campsites are not individually assigned and available to permit holders on a first come, first served basis.
  • Camping is not permitted at the Olympic Hot Springs complex. Camp only in designated sites at the Boulder Creek Campground.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is not permitted on the Elwha River, or any of its tributaries including Boulder Creek and North Fork Boulder Creek.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $25 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.

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 10 miles until it dead ends at the parking area for the Appleton Pass Trailhead. 

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

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