Spending A Day In The Beauty Of Wynoochee Lake

Step into the feral beauty of the Olympic Mountains with a day trip to the smooth-as-silk sapphire waters of Wynoochee Lake

Wynoochee Dam

Wynoochee Dam

Located on the southern hip of the Olympic Peninsula, the Wynoochee Dam was built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1972. It provides flood control, irrigation and industrial water storage for Aberdeen. The dam regulates the flow of the Wynoochee River and formed Wynoochee Lake.

Wynoochee Lake swimming area

So if you’re looking for scenic and secluded outdoor options in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains, this man-made lake is one of the finest in Grays Harbor County. In fact, those willing to tackle the 35-mile winding drive from Montesano are rewarded with a treasure trove of seasonal outdoor activities and opportunities ranging from camping and swimming to hiking and fishing.

Wynoochee Lake day-use sign

Amenities

In summer, Coho campground is open for tent and RV camping. A limited number of yurts are also available. They overlook the lake and are heated, furnished and sleep up to six people. Bring your own bedding. The campground is located on the west shore of the lake.

Picnic tables dot the landscape above the designated swimming area. Dive in if you’re part polar bear. The water will raise goosebumps but can be refreshing on a sun-filigreed summer afternoon. Dry off and munch lunch as you drink in pristine views of the epic greenery that is Olympic National Forest while listening to the purl of the lake and choruses of birdsong.

Anglers can try hooking rainbow trout and whitefish. A boat launch is also available. Below the dam, the winding Wynoochee River offers world class salmon fishing.

Wynoochee Lake Shore Trail sign

Wynoochee Lake Shore Trail

If you’re a hiker, consider the 16-mile Wynoochee Lake Shore Trail. Designated a National Recreation Trail in 1979, the Wynoochee Lake Shore Trail starts near the day use area at the north end of the beach/dam area. The long version runs 16 miles around the lake through a lush old and second-growth forest. It features occasional eye-popping views of the saw-toothed peaks of the Olympic Mountains and sheltered coves. 

The trail is rated as moderate and is also mountain bike friendly. Leashed dogs are welcome. Note that cell phone service may be spotty, so plan accordingly. A payphone is located near the day use entrance.

Wynoochee Lake

Wynoochee Lake changes clothes during winter. Gone are the sun-soaked days of summer and the cherry-cheeked breezes of autumn. It can get cold fast as temperatures plunge and the lake dons winter garb. Wynoochee Lake can also get a fair amount of snow in winter. Released from refrigerated slumber in spring, Wynoochee Lake’s surrounding hills and mountains sport shaggy coats of green. The best window for choice hiking is between late July and October.

Wynoochee Lake National Recreation Trail sign

Whatever the season, the name “Wynoochee” comes from the Lower Chehalis place name /xʷənúɬč/, meaning “shifting.” For a pleasant “shift” from the hustle and bustle of everyday busyness, visit this splendid lake on a weekday. You’re likely to have the trails, campground and lakefront picnic tables all to yourself.

Olympic National Forest sign at Wynoochee Lake

Wynoochee Lake is about an hour’s drive from Aberdeen. (The city owns the dam.) Take the Devonshire Road exit off Highway 12, just west of Montesano. Cross Devonshire Road, then cross Pioneer Avenue. Continue on Wynoochee Valley Road/FR 22, following signs to Wynoochee Lake. (If you have an older Gazetteer Atlas or are using Bing, the road is labelled Wynoochee Rd.) After about 35 miles, follow signs to Coho Campground. Take a left, then a quick right toward the campground. 

Kristine Lowder

An avid hiker and third generation Rainieraholic, Kristine Lowder is also a voracious reader and multi-published author. When not out on the trails, Kristine writes book reviews for several media outlets. Her idea of "paradise" is a sun-soaked day atop Mazama Ridge with her husband, Chris, or hiking most anywhere with her Border Collie mix, Kimber the Magnificent. Follow Kristine on Instagram: @mtnaerie You can read her blog Pages & Paws or find her on Facebook at Kristine Lowder, Writer

1 Comment

  1. Vaughn Svendsen on May 28, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    Thanks for the nice write-up. I didn’t know about this park previously. Gonna have to plan a visit.

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