Hike description: The first part of this hike near Snoqualmie Pass takes you to Snow Lake along one of the most popular routes in Washington.
You’ll appreciate the popularity of this trail. It has everything to delight the hiking enthusiast; unspoiled forest trail, cliffs, waterfalls, rock slopes, flowers, creeks, views of surrounding peaks and a beautiful mountain lake in a large cirque.
The trail gains steadily, but not steeply, up the Source Creek Valley with increasing views back down the valley and up to the craggy peaks on either side of the valley.
It reaches the saddle at 4,400 feet and then at about 31/2 miles drops down to Snow Lake.
After refreshing and refueling yourself with first lunch by Snow Lake, continue on to Gem Lake, for second lunch. Follow the trail around the lake to the outlet stream, cross a log bridge and gain another 800 feet in a little over a mile to lovely Gem Lake.
The return trip takes you back to Snow Lake (third lunch?) from whence you will be regaining the 400 feet of elevation back up to the saddle.
From the saddle the trail takes you gently downhill through meadows, rock fields, flowers and finally forest back to the start.
Directions: Drive east on Interstate 90 to the Snoqualmie Summit entrance at Exit 52. Exit and turn left at the stop sign. Go under the freeway overpass and turn right onto the Alpental Boulevard. Go to the end of the road at the large Alpental parking lot. The trailhead is to your right across the road.
Difficulty rating: 4 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult).
Miles round-trip: 11.
Elevation: 2,451 feet.
Best time of year: July to October.
Map: Green Trails No. 206 Snoqualmie Pass or USGS Snoqualmie Pass.
Pass: Northwest Forest Pass.
Also: Be a good steward and pack out all of your own trash, hopefully having room in your trash bag for litter left behind by others as well. The 10 Essentials should always be in your pack for wilderness travel, even on trails as heavily trafficked as this one. When the weather is warm, water and sunscreen are important.
Info: North Bend Ranger Station, Snoqualmie Ranger District, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, 425-888-1421 or www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/about/snrd.shtml; “Day Hiking Snoqualmie Region” and “100 Hikes in Washington’s Alpine Lakes,” both Mountaineers Books.
Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee.