Buckhorn Lake, Tubal Cain Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington

Buckhorn Lake - 10.8 miles

Tubal Cain Trailhead

The emerald green waters of Buckhorn Lake (5,095')

The emerald green waters of Buckhorn Lake (5,095')

Round-Trip Length: 10.8 miles
Start-End Elevation: 3,250' - 5,095' (max elevation 5,185' at split to lake)
Elevation Change: +1,845' net elevation gain (+2,065' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Buckhorn Lake - 10.8 Miles Round-Trip

Buckhorn Lake (5,095') is located 5.4 miles from Tubal Cain Trailhead in the Buckhorn Wilderness. This glacially fed lake is nestled high in the Copper Creek Valley down the north slope of Buckhorn Mountain (6,956').

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Buckhorn Lake is fairly small and hemmed by steep walls and thick timber, but ideal for those seeking light crowds during peak summer months. It's also the last reliable water source for backpackers heading over Buckhorn and Marmot passes:

The Tubal Cain Trail heads south past several backcountry campsites and the Silver Creek Shelter before turning west and south again into Copper Creek Valley (.5 miles : 3,395'). 

Travel and trail conditions change little over the next 2.5 miles up the east side of Copper Creek. This well-maintained segment runs under a moss-draped canopy lined by dense rhododendron and salal. Views are quite limited, but occasional breaks offer a glimpse of the upper valley.

IMPORTANT: The trail reaches a major unmarked split at 3.0 miles (4,240'). Stay right to remain on the Tubal Cain Trail; the left fork leads into a confusing plot of campsites and on to an historic mining area.

Stay right and cross the creek to the west side of the valley (3.2 miles : 4,290'). The correct path continues past a small campsite on the right once over the creek.

Steep switchbacks rise up the west valley wall (3.5 miles : 4,470') as montane forests give way to open slopes with great views of Buckhorn Mountain and Iron Mountain (4.0 miles : 4,750'). Travel moderates across 5,000' to the split for Buckhorn Lake (5.0 miles : 5,185').

The Buckhorn Lake Trail splits left and descends a rocky slope into a thick forest. The path narrows through mixed conifers and crosses several small tributaries which feed the lake. 

It soon joins a cascading section of Copper Creek and follows it down to Buckhorn Lake (5.4 miles : 5,095'). The lake basin is narrow and ringed by thick timber, but social trails lead to accessible stretches of shore and established campsites.

Facebook Comments

Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N47 53.166 W123 05.489 — 0.0 miles: Tubal Cain Trailhead 3,250'
  • N47 53.184 W123 05.912 — 0.5 miles: Trail bends hard south up Copper Creek 3,395'
  • N47 52.769 W123 05.736 — 1.0 miles: Trail continues though Fir and Rhododendron
  • N47 52.315 W123 05.564 — 1.5 miles: Trail remains in forest on moderate ascent
  • N47 51.918 W123 05.652 — 2.0 miles: Conditions remain unchanged
  • N47 51.276 W123 05.655 — 2.5 miles: Break 4,000' elevation
  • N47 50.949 W123 06.111 — 3.0 miles: Mine Site - bear right at unmarked trail split
  • N47 50.934 W123 06.160 — 3.2 miles: Cross creek then turn right onto trail
  • N47 51.110 W123 06.210 — 3.5 miles: Trail begins switchbacking up
  • N47 51.179 W123 06.277 — 4.0 miles: Heading south on exposed mountainside
  • N47 50.815 W123 06.623 — 4.5 miles: Great up-valley views of Buckhorn and Iron Mountains
  • N47 50.467 W123 06.947 — 5.0 miles: Trail split to Buckhorn Lake - Stay Straight
  • N47 50.268 W123 06.838 — 5.4 miles: Buckhorn Lake - 5,095'

Worth Noting

  • Fires are not permitted at Buckhorn Lake.
  • Mountain Goats inhabit the Buckhorn Wilderness, and are attracted to salty smells like sweaty clothing and human waste. Keep a clean camp, follow waste disposal guidelines and maintain a safe, respectful distance from wildlife.
  • The Tubal Cain Tail continues over Marmot Pass into Olympic National Park. NPS rules and camping permit requirements apply within park boundaries, regardless of your starting point.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry camping is permitted at Buckhorn Lake. Established sites exist near the Tubal Cain Mine area, as well as around Buckhorn Lake proper.

There are also many great campsites scattered throughout the Tubal Cain - Copper Creek area. Camping is dispersed and please try to use established backcountry campsites to minimize ecological disturbance. There is a self-registration board at the Tubal Cain Trailhead. No permit or fee is required.

Fishing Information

Fishing is permitted in Copper Creek and Buckhorn Lake. The Forest Service abides by all Washington State Fishing Regulations. License required.

Rules and Regulations

No pass or fee is required to access the Tubal Cain Trailhead.

The following is not permitted:

  • Groups consisting of more than 12 persons and/or 8 head of livestock.
  • Starting and/or maintaining open fires, such as camp, cooking and warming fires above 3,500'.
  • Gathering wood for starting and/or maintaining open fires or stoves above 3,500'.
  • Tethering of livestock to trees and/or other vegetation, except for incidental use not to exceed 30 minutes.
  • Possessing and/or transporting unprocessed vegetative matter such as hay, straw, grass or grain. The use of pelletized or certified weed-free feed is required in all National Forests in the Pacific Northwest. This helps prevent the introduction and spread of invasive plants.
  • Caching or leaving equipment, personal property or supplies unattended for a period in excess of 24 hours.
  • Possessing or using any form of wheeled vehicle for the purpose of transportation of such things as people, equipment, personal property, supplies and game.
  • Possessing or using a motor vehicle, motorboat, motorized equipment, hang glider or bicycle.

Directions to Trailhead

From the Hood Canal or Quilcene Area - drive north on Highway 101 until you reach Louella Road (near the Sequim Bay State Park). Turn left onto Louella and drive 1 mile to Palo Alto Road. Turn right onto Palo Alto Road and continue for 5.5 miles to a marked road split. Bear right at the split onto Forest Service Road 2880 then a hard right within several hundred yards to remain on 2880.

Take Forest Service Road 2880 for 1.8 miles and bear left onto Forest Service Road 2870. Take Forest Service Road 2870 for 12.4 miles to the Tubal Cain Trailhead (Note: you will pass the Upper Dungeness Trail 3.4 miles before reaching the Tubal Cain Trailhead).

Park at the trailhead - no fee or pass is required. 

Contact Information

Olympic National Forest

Supervisor's Office
1835 Black Lk Blvd SW
Olympia, WA 98512
(360) 956-2402
TTD (360) 956-2401
Hours: 8-4:30, M-F

Hood Canal Ranger District - Quilcene

295142 Highway 101 S.
PO Box 280
Quilcene, WA 98376
(360) 765 2200
TDD (360) 765 2200

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


No one has written any comments


Add Comment

Only used to identify you to ProTrails. Will not show on comments list.
Tell us when your experience with this trail happened.