Marymere Falls, Lake Crescent

Marymere Falls is a 90 foot waterfall in beautiful old growth forest with multiple creeks and a mossy ravine. It is located at Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. The trail follows the lake before entering old growth forest and then climbing to an overlook of Marymere Falls. It is often referred to as an easy hike for all abilities – I disagree with that assessment. The first section is listed on the Olympic NPS website as accessible, hard-packed surface but there are a couple of troublesome areas. This guide for disabled travelers and hikers in Olympic National Park gives you a more accurate and thorough description.

a compact gravel trail leads into the woods. A brown sign on the left reads Marymere Falls Nature Trail 1.5 miles round trip. No pets, weapons, or vehicles.Spoon Rating: Two spoons for the first ½ mile, which gains >100 feet in elevation. It is accessible for rugged wheelchairs. Standard manual chair users may struggle. The surface is mostly compact earth and gravel, but there are two areas of incline and uneven ground which may be difficult. Five spoons for the complete hike to the falls, which gains an additional 250+ feet in less than 1/2 mile.  It is very steep and slippery in places with over 120 stairs.

Trail Stats: Distance: 1 mile accessible, 1.5 miles total. Elevation Gain: 451 ft Max Grade:  22 on accessible trail, max 99 total. Typical Surface: compact gravel. Width: accessible trail is 3-5 feet, rest of trail 1-3 feet. Special Notes: 45 stairs to falls, 76 stairs leaving falls.

 

Trail Description: The trail begins at the Ranger Station. It starts out level, over 3 feet wide, on compact gravel. In about 50 feet the trail declines on uneven ground with trees and a small drop-off to your left. There is lake access on the left.

 

 

 

The trail levels out and curves to the right, entering a short tunnel under the roadway. Here the trail rises for a distance of ~40 feet; the ground is uneven with loose gravel on one side and worn pavement on another. The trail then levels out to a wide compact gravel path. You have the road on one side with a narrow buffer of trees (you can hear road noise) and a hill on the other as you move deeper into the forest. There are a couple of fallen logs and stumps to rest on along the way, but no benches.

In about ¼ mile the trail leaves the road and begins a very gradual incline (probably imperceptible to non-disabled hikers). You will come to a sharper incline for ~25 feet and then a signed fork in the trail – continue straight. Continue on another slight incline. You will find yourself surrounded by old growth trees and may be able to hear the creek.

The next 1/8 mile is a bit more difficult. The trail starts to roll slightly and then you come to another signed fork in the trail with a huge boulder on the left – continue straight. The trail slopes and rolls and there is a steep drop off on the right. You will then come to an overlook on the creek – a gravel section on the right that juts off the trail, giving you a partially obstructed view of the creek. You are surrounded by huge trees. There isn’t a good place to sit, but it is quite peaceful. This is the end of the “accessible” trail – turn around here if you are not continuing to the falls.

The trail to Marymere Falls starts out similarly to the rest. Continue past the overlook. The surface becomes more compact soil and gravel with rocks in the trail – watch your step. It rolls three times, with two inclines shorter than 20 feet, then comes to another fork. Head right down a steep 10 foot decline. Traverse a small rise in the trail, and then you will come to a giant old growth cedar. Enjoy the tree; be careful of the roots in the trail.

The trail then meets the creek with a nice place to get close to the water if you choose. There are no places to sit here but it’s a nice place to take a break. From here the trail curves left and meets a wide, sturdy footbridge over the creek with two steps on each side. Keep right after the bridge. The trail then becomes more and rugged and narrow. The path curves along the creek with a dip in the trail and a sharp, eroded drop off on one side before coming to a rough narrow footbridge with six steps. There are rails and the bridge is well supported.

a rough hewn wood foot bridge with six steps and rails crossing a creek, leading to more stairs.
Narrow, rugged footbridge

 

Now the trail begins to climb steeply on many stairs. Take 17 stairs to a steep switchback and then 13 more stairs. The trail becomes a loop to see the falls – go left at the fork for the fewest stairs. You will be following the side of the cliff, with the creek below you and rails most of the way. Traverse a steep incline ~80 feet long and you’ll catch your first glimpse of the waterfall. Take 6 stairs. The trail curves left and continues climbing. Take 9 narrow, uneven stairs that curve around a tree – you may have to twist sideways a bit to pass. You are then at the overlook of the falls. It is a lovely, secluded amphitheater with the creek far below you, surrounded by forest with mountains rising on every horizon. There is no place sit, but there are rails to lean against and you could rest on the stairs.

 

 

You have two options: you could go back the way you came for fewer stairs, but if its busy you run the risk of running into people and there isn’t anywhere to step aside. Or you could complete the loop and get another view of the falls, but there are far more stairs and slippery areas.

A steep set of wooden stairs with railing on one side and a hill covered with roots on the other.
First set of steep stairs leaving the falls.

The loop trail continues on a series of switchbacks: there are 52 steep, narrow, uneven steps with a high rise. You then come to the upper overlook; to access it you head left up a slight hill. There is a bench here. To continue on the trail go right. There is skree (loose gravel on the trail) as the trail starts descending steeply without any rails. Watch for rocks and a couple of wooden barriers set into the trail. The trail then narrows as you cross roots and take 7 stairs. Pause here a moment and take in views of the surrounding mountains. Continue on a steep switchback with 17 stairs. You’ll then be back at the beginning of loop – continue straight and retrace your way back.

A graph showing the elevation change of the trail.
Elevation profile of the Marymere Falls trail.

Cell Phone Reception: Pretty good in the beginning, none near the falls.

Pass/Entry Fee: National Park entry fee or America the Beautiful pass.

Getting There: The trailhead is at the Storm King ranger station at Lake Crescent. From Highway 101 at Lake Crescent, turn at the sign to located at mile 228. Turn right at the 4-way stop and follow the road straight to the parking area. There are three accessible parking spots about halfway around the loop, near the restrooms, but there are no curb cuts; the parking spaces have a slightly lower lip to the sidewalk. I don’t remember seeing any potable water and I didn’t check out the accessibility of the restrooms.

Nearby Alternatives: Bovee’s Meadow has nice views of the lake accessed by a level grassy area. Turn left at the 4-way instead of right and follow the road to the parking area.

Lake Crescent area of Olympic National Park is traditional lands of S’Klallam/Klallam and other tribes.

Last updated: September 6, 2019

2 thoughts on “Marymere Falls, Lake Crescent

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    1. The section that is that steep is not considered accessible – only the first section, before it crosses the creek. But even that has some trouble spots.

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