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Mount Townsend - Silver Lakes Traverse

Olympic Peninsula > Hood Canal
47.8576, -123.0946 Map & Directions
14.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
3,200 feet
Highest Point
6,280 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Hikers approach the summit of Mount Townsend on a stunning day. Photo by Lance McCoy. Full-size image
  • Mountain views
  • Established campsites
  • Old growth
  • Summits
  • Lakes
  • Rivers

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Who doesn’t love a secret passageway? While the hordes gain Townsend from Quilcene side, sneak up on them from behind, then continue to Silver Lake for lovely camping and wandering opportunities. Continue reading

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Hiking Mount Townsend - Silver Lakes Traverse

Who doesn’t love a secret passageway? While the hordes gain Townsend from Quilcene side, sneak up on them from behind, then continue to Silver Lake for lovely camping and wandering opportunities.

Although you’ll likely have company at Mount Townsend, this route offers solitude to get there, along with some sweeping views, plus steeps to work those quads!

Park at the Tubal Cain trailhead and walk up the road to a trail signed “Little Quilcene Trail #835” on the left. Not one to lull you into a false sense of ease, the trail starts off climbing steeply and stays that way for two miles. There's a sign at the beginning of the trail warning hikers that the grade gets up to 40% in places before the first junction--it's a burner, to be sure. Just before the junction with the Mount Townsend trail, break out onto a ridge and take in your first of many expansive views.

Catch your breath and look for the Tubal Cain trail across the valley before dipping back into forest before arriving at a signed junction 2.3 miles in. Here, leave the Little Quilcene Trail, proceeding straight on the trail signed for Mount Townsend. You'll hike through subalpine forest and wide open talus slopes dotted with shrubs as you progress 2.4 miles to the summit of Townsend. Your progress is still upward, but at a much more merciful grade than the previous two miles. Just past the wilderness boundary is a fork in the trail. Either one gets you to the summit, but the right-hand trail is a more direct route.

If you take the left fork, you’ll reach the second summit first, then continue to the first, generally more peopled summit. Either high point is an ideal spot to dump your pack and enjoy a leisurely lunch while taking in the panoramic views of Olympics, Hood Canal, Cascades, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Port Townsend, Seattle, and more. After chowing down and taking your photos, head south down the "main" Townsend trail toward Quilcene.

Descend about a half mile, down several switchbacks on the south flanks of the mountain before reaching a junction signed for Silver Lake. The sign is on a tree that you may miss coming from this direction, so keep a sharp eye out to your right as you descend. The way to Silver Peak shoots off at the bend of a switchback, so instead of continuing downhill, go straight onto the trail toward Silver Lakes. From here, it's 2.5 miles to Silver Lake.

Ascend through a notch, then switchback down into the woods and traverse along the valley wall, crossing Silver Creek and heading back uphill just a bit until you reach a beautiful, calm lake. After you set up camp, there are plenty of exploring options, including a second lake over the ridge across the creek.

After enjoying the campsite, head back to civilization via the same trail you used to get here.

WTA Pro Tip: Need those last minute items before you head off, or craving Cheetos and a cold pop when you’re done? The best gas station/convenience store with real bathrooms (flush toilets, TP and soap) is the Longhouse Market & Deli & Gas Station, conveniently located on US 101 just south of Louella Road.

Hike Description Written by
Meagan Mackenzie, WTA Correspondent

Mount Townsend - Silver Lakes Traverse

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 47.8576, -123.0946 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

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WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

Take Hwy 101 to Louella Road just south of Sequim Bay State Park. Turn left at the T onto Palo Alto Road. After about 6 miles, bear right at a junction onto FR 2880. The road goes down steeply to cross the Dungeness River. In just over 1 ½ miles, turn left on FR 2870 (signed for Dungeness trails). In 2 ½ miles, keep right at a junction to stay on FR 2870. Drive 10 miles, passing the Dungeness trailhead and last toilet stop, to the Tubal Cain Trail parking area on the right. The trailhead is up the road a ways on the left.

More Hike Details


Olympic Peninsula > Hood Canal

Silver Lake (#842), Little Quilcene Trail (#835)

Olympic National Forest, Hood Canal Ranger District

Guidebooks & Maps

Custom Correct Buckhorn Wilderness

Buy the Green Trails Tyler Peak No. 136 map

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Mount Townsend - Silver Lakes Traverse

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