Silver lake is a common name for alpine lakes but in this case I am referring to the one near Mount Townsend in the Olympic Mountains in Washington State. It lies in a cirque at the head of the valley that Silver Creek runs down. The lake itself can be reached either from forest road 2860 to the north or FR 2870 to the east.
Perhaps the best way to approach Silver Lake is from the east as the first 3 miles of the trail is shared with the trail to Mount Townsend. In fact, it is a good idea to start on this trail with no particular desire to go to either destination. Once you climb out of the lower elevations, away from Townsend Creek and thick evergreen stands, you will pass a rather substantial waterfall and eventually reach a col where the trail splits. Take a look around. Good weather, continue up to Mount Townsend for some views of the San Juans, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and if it’s that rare, crisp winter day, even Mt St Helens. Cloudy weather, then descend back to the south and Silver Lake.
The hike down to Silver Lake is blessedly gradual and once you are down in the valley you will actually climb back up to the cirque where Silver Lake sits, all easy hiking. In the winter, the scenery is particularly gorgeous with the stunted trees covered in snow and the lake frozen over with a layer of billowy white, undisturbed by any prints. Summer is equally appealing though and as most hikers are headed to Mount Townsend, this can be a nice quiet detour for a hiker seeking solitude in the summer.
Assuming an approach from the east take Penny Creek Rd off of Highway 101 and follow the signs to the Mount Townsend trail head. If you have some extra time, park at the lower trailhead and visit Sink Lake on the way up.
Silver Lake, Olympic NP, WA