Mileage: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain/Highest: 30/170ft
Map: Lake Sylvia or USGS Montesano
Favorite Eats After Hike: Pack A Cooler
We were driving back from a weekend at Cape Disappointment when the sign for Lake Sylvia State Park caught my eye. We had just attended a talk by Craig Romano who had included it in his updated Olympic Peninsula book. I have driven past here a million times coming from the beach and never thought to check it out. In an effort to avoid hitting any I-5 traffic and being rather hungry, we decided this was a good time to visit.
Looking for a place to cook up lunch, when we arrived into the park we stayed to the right around the lake and parked at a pullout with picnic tables that looked out at the water.
It was the last place to park before there were cones and a sign that said the road was closed so we figured it was a good place to stop.
While here, we found out that the campground had been shut down when we went to use the bathroom facilities. There is a water leak and the park staff believe it was caused after the earthquake the area had about two weeks ago. The only set of working bathrooms is now on the other side of the lake by the playground and swimming area.
It was only 3pm and with plenty of rare sunshine left due to Daylight Savings, we decided to check out the trail that goes along the lake and the covered bridge that we had seen in Romano’s presentation. The trailhead for the west side of the Lake Sylvia loop trail was beyond the cones, so we started the short walk to meet it.
On this section, the trail runs along the road so you can opt for the road or the gravel/dirt path. We passed the campground area, as well as two biker/hiker campsites all of which were empty and quiet.
The trail marker states that this side of the loop is graded as moderate, mostly because of uneven terrain and not for elevation gain.
I was a little worried as my favorite hiking partner is recovering from a torn meniscus two weeks ago but he did just fine.
He was glad to actually be on a trail and not just “window shopping”, referring to the rather tame hikes we’ve been on since his injury.
There are multiple foot bridges, stairs and plenty of slick, muddy spots to keep you watching your step. The trail is lined with several places to stop and enjoy the lake view, including some nice hand carved benches. That was one of the things I enjoyed about this trail, the smooth rails and other features were polished and irregular, giving the impression of care and love for the trail.
Lake Sylvia was once an old mill pond and harkens you back to long ago times with its moss covered trees and water moving slowly among the cattails. At this end, the water is shallow and more like a marsh with some running rivulets from the creek than a lake.
The covered bridge was about half mile up the trail and in good shape, as in it was not covered with graffiti and still smelled like its cedar board construction.
We had some fun taking pictures here and peeking through the small windows cut into the sides of the bridge.
At ¾ of a mile, you cross over a bridge and onto a connector road to take you over to the east side of the lake and loop. Turning left, it is just a few hundred yards up on the left.
Arriving at this trailhead, we realized we might be in trouble finishing the loop.
The trail is an old road here that runs parallel and level to the lake and as in previous reports, is mostly an extension of said lake. This was the creek…
…and this was the trail. We were okay for a short distance walking on the side but eventually had to give up and take off our shoes.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be: it was a gravel road and we weren’t walking in sinking muck but just murky water. However, it was COLD.
But there was no way we were admitting defeat and turning around, even if our feet were pink and icy. Plus, the injury was starting to complain so we needed to take the shortest route back to the car.
This last little bit of the loop is the “easy” side because it is an old abandoned road but the views are less obstructed and we had plenty of fun watching floating geese and salamanders swimming in the water (in the center of the picture),
enjoying the bright yellow flowers of newly emerging skunk cabbage,
and noticing small details like old corroded metal culverts.
At the end of this side of the loop, we came out at the bridge over the lake and the swimming area and we had the miracle of blue skies.
We both observed that we were glad we had come when the campground was closed because the beauty and tranquility of the area was enhanced with the peace of empty campsites.
Crossing the bridge, it was just a short walk back to our car, which you can do on the trail or on the road. This turned out to be the perfect ending to our weekend.
Directions: Drive west on Highway 12 and take the exit for Montesano. From here, signs guide you to Lake Sylvia State Park, but in case you miss them, turn right onto Main Street, then make a left on Spruce Avenue. Make a right on 3rd Street, which turns into Sylvia Lake Rd, and drive 1.2 miles to Lake Sylvia State Park. Proceed past the park entrance booth and park at the pullout area before the white gate. You will need a Discover Pass.