Hike of the Week for Friday, August 3, 2012
Tough climb and a stiff descent means solitude at this hidden gem
Article and photo by Craig Romano
Round Lake is enticing to look at from Lost Creek Ridge.
Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Darrington
Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National
Roundtrip: 11.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,300 feet
Green Trails Map: Sloan Peak, WA-No. 111
Access: From Darrington follow the Mountain Loop Highway for 16 miles to a junction with Forest Road 49. Turn left following FR 49 for 3.0 miles to trailhead.
Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest: (360) 436-1155; www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs
After being closed for over a year, Forest Road 49 is once again open, meaning there is once again access to some great hikes—including Round Lake! But, be forewarned, while getting to the trailhead for Round Lake is now smooth sailing; the hike to Round Lake is anything but! The aptly named lake is tucked in a hidden basin high on Lost Creek Ridge, requiring a steep climb and drop to get to it. The tough approach does have one advantage though (besides giving you a heck of a workout), it practically guarantees you’ll have little company at this delightful destination. And even if you decide not to go all the way to the lake, some awfully beautiful views can still be enjoyed along the way-especially of Sloan Peak, “the Matterhorn” of the Cascades.
The trail starts off easy enough however. Wander through lush cedar bottomlands for a half mile or so before beginning to climb. It’s now a steep grunt—arduously steep. Labor under a canopy of magnificent old-growth. While the shade help keeps you from overheating, there’s no water along the way—so be sure to pack plenty.
After slogging up three demanding miles, reach 4,400-foot Bingley Gap, a small forested saddle on Lost Creek Ridge. Now head eastward along the ridge and climb some more! Forest cover however soon yields to high meadows. Begin collecting your scenic rewards for all of your hard work. Prominent pointy Sloan Peak steals the show. And as difficult as it may be to take your eyes off of this captivating landmark, hundreds of other summits are yelling out to be recognized; Stuart, Daniel, Del Campo, Morning Star, Sperry, and Vesper among them.
After 1.5 miles of spectacular ridgeline hiking reach a junction. The main trail continues right for miles and miles of more high meadows. Take the trail left to a small gap (el. 5,600 ft) and a great view down to Round Lake twinkling below in an open basin. The lake looks like a trek to get to, and it is. If you’re spent, there’s no shame in not continuing. Just kick back and enjoy the view.
If however you’re enticed to soak your feet in that sparkling gem, proceed. After dropping 550 feet into the basin arrive at the lake in .75 mile. Bugs can be a nuisance when the air is calm. But it’s nothing the resident frogs and swallows won’t eventually take care of.
For information on lodging and other attractions near Round Lake, visit www.snohomish.org.