Location: Chewuch River Valley
Land Agency: National Forest Service
Roundtrip: 8.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 800 feet
Contact: Methow Valley Ranger District: Okanogan National Forest (509) 996-4003; www.fs.fed.us/r6/oka
Green Trails Map: Coleman Peak, WA- No. 20
Special Note: Northwest Forest Pass required.
Access: From Winthrop follow the West Chewuch Road (directly across from Methow Valley Visitor Center) 6.7 miles north bearing right onto FR 51. Follow this paved road for 14.5 miles turning left onto FR Spur 100 (signed “Lake Creek Trail 2”). After 2.5 miles, reach the trailhead.
Named for its deep, dark waters, black also now describes much of the surrounding forest. In 2003 a wildfire seared it leaving charred stumps and blacked timber in its wake. But all is not lost—for this hike is quite delightful in late spring when pioneering flowers paint the understory in an array of vivid colors. It’s a gentle hike too, mostly along a babbling creek within the sprawling Pasayten Wilderness.
Starting in a patch of pines and firs that escaped the great wildfire of 2003, greenery soon succumbs to ghostly. After entering the Pasayten Wilderness, begin traversing a scorched landscape. But, nature regenerates quickly—and colonization is in full swing. Fireweed is prolific. Quaking aspens stake new ground. And blueberry bushes abound on the acidic soils. And as the forest is under reconstruction, Lake Creek continues its flow, filling the valley with sweet serenades. Birds too add sweet sounds to the surroundings. Woodpeckers play percussion on silvery snags, while kingfishers belt out numbers from overhanging branches. Thrushes, flycatchers, and nutcrackers hum along.
At 4.0 miles arrive at Black Lake where a nice sandy beach greets you with fine views of the surrounding high ridges. Large landslides have disturbed this peaceful body of water by adding extra sediment, further stressing local populations of endangered bull trout. Hopefully as the forest recovers the trout too will once again flourish. The trail continues along the lake traversing sun-kissed talus slopes—feel free to further explore!
For more information on this trail and others nearby, check out my Day Hiking North Cascades Book.