Hikers flock to Mount Storm King for that signature shot, standing on a rocky outcropping above Lake Crescent. But it's a grind to get there, and the climb to the summit can be dangerous in bad weather. Luckily, there are several outcroppings about halfway to the top offering similar views. It's still a steep hike to get to them, but at least it's shorter.
Start at the Storm King Ranger Station, on the southeast side of Lake Crescent. Hop on the wide trail that passes in front of the ranger station, and soon pass under Highway 101. Signed for Marymere Falls, the flat trail may lull you into a false sense of security. Make no mistake, your climb will come.
After just a few minutes of hiking (it'll clock in at about a half mile), arrive at huge boulder and a sign propped against it, pointing the way uphill via a 180-degree turn. This is your turnoff for Storm King. You might want to take a few layers off.
Shift it into low gear and begin your climb. Passing first through damp forest, the trail switchbacks steeply before flattening out moderately at a half mile from the turnoff. The forest opens, and becomes drier as you traverse through giant pines. Keep climbing, and you'll notice the forest around you changing. Pines give way (or at least share space) with madronas and manzanitas; hardy, twisted trees and shrubs with reddish bark that add color to the surrounding trunks of massive cedars and hemlocks.
Begin looking for views when the madronas appear. There are several viewpoints, offering peek-a-boo views of both the Barnes Creek valley and the deep blue waters of Lake Crescent. At 1.3 miles, arrive at a shoulder where you have a through-the-trees view of Lake Crescent and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This is the end of the maintained trail. If you want to continue, the trail does so, but it becomes gradually fainter and rougher, culminating in a climber's trail.
This climber’s trail is unmaintained and quite exposed. The ropes leading to the top are not installed or maintained by the land manager, so know that if you rely on them you are doing so at your own risk. Be aware of the risks and know your skill level before attempting this section. And remember, don't climb up anything you wouldn't want to climb down.
Extending your trip: Back at the junction with Marymere Falls, turn left and go see the falls before heading back to the trailhead. It's a short hike, and the sweet little loop takes you past not only a gorgeous waterfall, but also wide, quietly burbling Barnes Creek. It's a nice cool down after the beating you got on Storm King.