Following up with the pattern I started last year, it’s time for my mid-summer update. The primary reason I fell in love with Washington and stayed for as long as I have is the breathtaking wilderness that it is home to. It is so important that I have made sure whatever job I’ve taken, has given me plenty of time to be out on the trail in the summers. And this summer is no different. So, without further ado, I want to share with you where I’ve been this summer.
Norse Peak Wilderness Loop
This hike offers a few good options including a shorter 17-mile loop, and longer 24-mile loop, and 21 or 28 mile alternatives beginning and ending at the Greenwater Lakes Trailhead. Our intent had been to take the longer loop, starting at Corral Pass, but the road was unfortunately closed 5 miles in. So instead we opted for the 21 mile variation beginning at Greenwater Lakes. The hike in involves a long forested trail. It has plenty of river scenes along the way, as well as two sprawling lakes. The trip gets really interesting as it crawls up out of the forest to Corral Pass. The second night, we camped under Noble Knob, watching a glorious sunset over the mountains to the west. Definitely a trip worth revisiting for the 24-mile loop that involves extended time hiking along ridges and peaks.
Hope and Mig Lakes
I first encountered these pleasant sub-alpine lakes on a 60-mile hike from Stevens Pass to Pete Lake—a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. On our way south, we stopped for the night at Hope Lake, and noticed an innocuous sign that read two miles down to the Tunnel Creek Trailhead. When Amy’s brother wanted to take his kids on a backpacking trip to a mountain lake with fishing, I thought this was the perfect hike.
After checking some trail guides that listed it as a 1,000 foot elevation gain and 2 miles long, I settled in on this choice. Unbeknownst to me, the sign had since been changed to a mile and a half, and the elevation was actually closer to 1,300 feet. This steep trail was definitely tricky at points, and presented some interesting challenges for Amy’s 3 and 7-year-old nephews. But, it was a beautiful hike, and Aidan came back from Mig Lake with 5 well sized fish.
If I went back, I’d take an opportunity to head out the other direction to Trap Lake, one of the most beautiful mountain lakes I’ve been to.
This 5-mile loop is one of the most scenic hikes in Washington. The hike takes you through alpine meadows, rocky bluffs, alpine and subalpine lakes, and meandering subalpine creeks. If you take an opportunity to head out towards Skyscraper Pass, you also might have an opportunity to see the local wildlife including marmots, herds of goat, and the Berkley Park black bear.
Naches Peak Loop
With breathtaking views of the Cascades and Mount Rainier, this little loop is a perfect day hike. Sadly, the clouds keep a tight lid on Mount Rainier, but that did not stop us from taking some amazing landscapes. This hike is scenic from start to finish. If you are a little more adventurous, a short jaunt down to Dewey Lake is also worth the time. This is one of the largest lakes in Washington for its elevation. But be prepared, the hike to Dewey is all down, and the only way back is all up.
Another one of my regular hikes, Spray Park offers a breathtaking experience if you make it past the forested start. And it starts at one of the most beautiful subalpine lakes—Mowich. Hiking two miles in will get you to Eagle’s Roost Camp and Spray Falls. Don’t forget to take a peak at the overlook on your way. It offers an unobstructed view of the mountain. If your goal is a short backpack, Eagle’s Roost is a perfect base camp for exploring Spray Park. And the .1 mile side trip to Spray Falls is worth the time. From the Spray Falls Junction, the trail heads up, up up, about 700 feet until you first break out into the meadows of Spray Park. From the moment you cross Spray Creek above the climb, you are struck by an alpine meadow and a peak at Rainier. Some turn around there, but if you do, you’ll miss some of the most glorious views of the hike. Another mile and 600 feet of elevation later, and you’ll find yourself looking out over Mist Park. This is perhaps the most scenic part of the trip. A little farther and you will find yourself at the crest before diving down into Seattle Park and eventually Cataract Camp.
Not able to get enough of Spray Park, Harold and I decided to hit the area up again with a loop hike using Knapsack Pass as an access point. Although the day was quite cloudy, we still got some amazing views and even saw a pair of goats. This picture above is from the pass, looking down at the cloud-covered Mowich Lake.
Perhaps my favorite hike in washington is the hike between Fryingpan Creek and Indian Bar. And this year I got to visit twice. The above was shot from a day hike up to Panhandle Gap. Though a long day (11+ miles), a day hike up part of this trail to the Gap and beyond is one of the most diverse and spectacular hikes you can take. Often you will see marmots, goat herds, and a local black bear on this trip. While others I met had seen some of the former, I was not so lucky. But one cannot complain with views such as these.
Fryingpan Creek to Box Canyon
My second opportunity to visit the Summerland to Indian Bar trail was on a 3-day through hike with Harold and Amy. This was a phenomenal trip with two separate up close sightings of a gaggle of goats (and a third from a long distance), a freak lightning storm, a FedEx jet with a military escort, and plenty of blue sky to enjoy. Yes, one of those doesn’t fit with the others, but we saw it nonetheless. A strange sight indeed to be seen miles from the nearest road.
This is an alternate trip from one of my favorite hikes in the Sunrise area. Start out toward Palisades Lake, but take a left at Dicks Lake. A short half mile climb later and you’ll find yourself at a quiet lake nestled into an isolated bowl. The terrain in it’s dryness reminded me of Colorado, and it was a joy to sit on the rocks by the water.
This is a Mount Saint Helens area classic. The Ape Caves are two long lava tubes that run underground for several miles. It had been years since my last trip here, and the revisit brought back good memories of car camping in the Saint Helens area.
Another great, but completely different day hike is Snow Lake. This popular Snoqualmie destination is a hop skip and a jump away from Seattle. With breathtaking views of this subalpine lake, it’s a hike well worth the effort, despite the bustling crowds on the trail and around the lakeshore.
Tuck and Robin Lakes
I actually took two trips up to these awe-inspiring alpine lakes this season. I went once on my own, and it was so spectacular, I had to bring my wife back. There are few places I’ve been to that I’ll put on the same level as Robin Lakes. They are gorgeous beyond measure. Just a couple miles from Deception Pass, many a hiker might get to Tuck Lake and think they’ve found heaven, but Tuck pales in comparison to the beauties lying a bare mile and 1000 feet of elevation above Tuck. Don’t make the mistake of visiting one without taking the trip up to visit Robin Lakes.
Marmot and Jade Lakes
This is another hike branching off the Deception Pass area. The hike in is somewhat long—about four miles off the PCT—making it a bit much for a through-hiker’s side trip. But it’s well worth the extra mileage. Marmot is a spectacular sub-alpine lake, and the green waters of Jade Lake are breath-taking.
Trap and Thundermountain Lakes
The year prior, I had visited Trap Lake (above) on our trip down the Pacific Crest Trail from Steven’s Pass to Pete Lake. I was taken by the lake when we passed it and found myself disappointed for having missed the opportunity to camp there. This year, I rectified that. Accessing it via the Tunnel Creek Trail, a short and steep climb up to the PCT, this is a very doable short overnight. While Amy stayed in camp the next morning, I took the adventurous trek up to Thundermountain Lakes (below), and was immediate smitten. These alpine lakes were break-taking reminders of my visit to Robin Lakes.
As the summer began to draw to a close, Amy and I needed to find one last overnight trip to venture out on. We wanted something short and sweet, and Sheep Lake seemed to fit the bill. Although, in retrospect, a couple miles in the opposite direction to Dewey Lake may have been a better choice. Sheep Lake was spectacular, as was Sourdough Gap above. But we were woken in the morning by cries of “I found a frog!” This was a busy summer hike with limited space to share. The huge and sprawling Dewey Lake may have presented more space for us to spread out and get away. Still, it was a trip worth taking.
I’d been up to Rachel Lake and Alta Mountain before, but I’d never taken the fork above Rachel to the left, and boy had I been missing out. After a scant mile of flat hiking on the ridge above Rachel, you find yourself amidst a spattering of small ponds dotting the sub-alpine landscape. Rampart Lakes is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve been to, and I knew after this visit that I’d be back. I journeyed my way up over the saddle of Rampart Ridge, and continued a ways down the other side through a couple more sub-alpine pots. Eventually I had to turn back, although I heard tell from some fellow hikers that a trail does loop back around to Rachel.