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Hike of the Week for Friday, September 3, 2010

Image Lake

Wilderness lake reflects Snohomish County’s supreme peak

Article and photo by Craig Romano

Image Lake
Let the day begin! Day break at Image Lake.

Quick Facts

Location: Glacier Peak Wilderness

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 44.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 8,900 feet

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest (360) 436-1155; www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs

Green Trails Map: Glacier Peak no. 112, Holden no. 113

Special Note: Northwest Trail Pass required.

Access: From Everett, head 85 miles east on US 2 to Coles Corner turning left onto SR 207. At 4.0 miles bear right at a Y-intersection onto the Chiwawa Loop Road and after 1.3 miles turn left onto the Chiwawa River Road (FR 62). Proceed for 22.5 miles to trailhead at road’s end.

Anyone who has ever sat by Image Lake on a clear and calm summer morning witnessing the 10,541’ volcano known as Glacier Peak mirrored in its placid waters never forgets such a dramatic scene. For here deep in the Glacier Peak Wilderness on a 6,100-foot basin high on Miners Ridge, in the shadow of the ice and snow covered sentinel of Snohomish County, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful spot within the entire Cascade Range.

Image Lake represents the very essence of the sprawling unspoiled 575,000 acre Glacier Peak Wilderness. This is the supreme hiking destination in Snohomish County. A trek into the very heart of the finest natural scenery Snohomish has to offer. And with most things special, it’s not easily attained. Getting to Image Lake requires a multi-day trek and is not for beginning hikers. And with the main access to this paradise, the Suiattle River Road washed out – getting to Image Lake now requires an even longer trek from the east. But there is a big advantage to the longer route. The numbers of campers at the lake are a fraction of what they were in the past. And with the Suiattle River Road now in the process of being reopened, it will only be a year or two before Image starts receiving large numbers of hikers again. So, this Labor Day weekend treat yourself to a wildly beautiful place without the crowds.

From the trailhead located near the old mining town of Trinity, follow the Buck Creek Trail for 10.5 long but fairly easy miles to 5,950-foot Buck Creek Pass. Catch your breath and real in your jaw staring at majestic Glacier Peak. Then continue north on the Middle Ridge Trail dropping 800 feet to cross Small Creek and climbing 1,000 feet to crest Middle Ridge. Then drop steeply to the Pacific Crest Trail and cross Miners Creek. Now climb once more reaching the Miners Ridge Trail. Head west on this trail passing old mining cabins and ruins before making a climb to sprawling open meadows along the ridge. Hike one of the most spectacular trail sections in America across flower-studded meadows with jaw-dropping views of Glacier Peak.

Finally, descend in the serene basin housing Image Lake and quickly realize that all the sweat, toil, and miles getting here were more than worth it. There are few places on the planet more beautiful than this!

For information on lodging and other attractions near Image Lake visit www.snohomish.org

Also - Image Lake is one of the featured hikes in my upcoming Backpacking Washington Book (Mountaineers spring 2011).

Green Trails Maps

Washington Online Weather

Day Hiking North Cascades