[Featured Image Description: The Lyre River flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The river is bordered by rocks, and waves from the Strait meet the river. The mountains of Canada are in the distance.]
The Lyre Conservation Area is located 20 miles west of Port Angeles, where the Lyre River flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The 280-acre area is a conservation project of North Olympic Land Trust with other local partners. The area offers an easy hike through diverse forests – from restorative clear cuts to old growth trees – to the estuary at the mouth of the river. It is a wonderful place for bird and wildlife watching. The trail is dog-friendly.
Spoon Rating: A slightly difficult two spoons. It is a 2 mile out and back trail with an additional a .5 mile side loop along the Strait and through older forest. There is a total of 250 feet of elevation change with the loop. The changes are very gentle, with one short section that is a 10% grade.
Trail Description: The trail is a former logging road, and is heavily compacted gravel road bed, mostly flat for the first ¾ mile. From the parking area, step around the gate that is to the left, beyond the trailhead sign. The space around the gate is large enough for a compact walker, but it is tight. From here, the trail moves through an open area that is re-growing from clear cut. Roses and other flowers line the trail, and birds flit through the grasses. There are two short declines of less than 5 paces.
You will then enter the forest, starting with second growth mixture of Western Redcedar and Douglas Fir. There are many old stumps with new growth, and plants carpet the forest floor. You will come to another short decline of less than 10 paces, and shortly after is a picnic table beneath the redcedars. Rest here if you like and enjoy the sounds of the forest.
From the picnic table, the trail starts to ascends ever so slightly on a 3% grade, without any measurable gain for a couple hundred feet. There is another bench on the left. From here, the trail starts to descend to the water. As you round a curve, the forest canopy opens slightly into mature forest, and you can hear the waves. The road curves slightly twice more, losing 25 feet of elevation in ¼ mile, about a 3% grade.
You will then come to the steepest section of the trail. On a sharp curve, the trail descends 75 feet in under ¼ mile, a 10% grade. At the bottom of the hill there is a portapotty (a small one – not accessible and difficult for large bodies). Cross the level, tightly planked wooden bridge over a creek and enter the open grassy area along the strait. Here the trail changes to looser gravel leading to a picnic table and information sign. The picnic table is a nice place to sit and listen to the waves, enjoy the sun when it makes an appearance, and watch for eagles.
Past the picnic table the trail turns to trodden grass and wanders along the strait for less than ¼ mile. Follow it around and look for the sign pointing to the trail through forest. The forest trail is less than 0.5 mile footpath through mature and old growth forest. There are many Sitka Spruce (rare in this area of the Peninsula) and large Western Redcedar and Big Leaf Maple. It is level with one large root to step over at the end. It brings you back out just past the bridge.
There are several places to walk down to the water. The shore is covered in rocks of many sizes and they can be loose or slippery. Tread carefully if you decide to go down. Most of the access points require a step or two down.
Cell Phone Reception: Yes.
Pass/Entry Fee: None.
Getting There: The Lyre Conservation Area is ancestral land of the Klallam people. From Port Angeles, drive west 3 miles on Highway 101 and turn right onto Highway 112. Continue for 14 miles on this paved two land, mostly straight road. Turn right on Reynold Rd – it is a sharp turn onto one lane paved road. Continue for less than half a mile. There are two parking areas – the first you come to will be small gravel areas on either side of the road. Continue to a larger dirt parking area at the end of the road.
From Forks, head north on Highway 101 to Highway 113, turn left. Continue for 10 miles – the road has a few big curves. Turn right on Highway 112. This road is very curvy and people tend to drive too fast, so take it slow. It is a beautiful drive though. Continue for 24 miles and look for signs for the Lyre River Campground. Reynolds Rd is AFTER the campground turnoff.
Nearby Alternatives: The Olympic Discovery Trail is a mostly paved, wheel-accessible trail (though some of the parking areas are not accessible). There are many trailheads around Port Angeles.