Location: Wild Sky and Henry Jackson Wildernesses,North Fork Skykomish River Valley
Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Roundtrip: 8.4 miles
Elevation gain: 3,300 feet
Green Trails Map: Monte Cristo, WA- No. 143
Contact: Skykomish Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
Access: From Everett head east on US 2 for 49 miles to Skykomish. Continue east for one more mile turning left onto the Beckler River Road (FR 65).Continue north for 15 miles crossing the North Fork Skykomish River and coming to a junction. Turn right onto FR 63 and proceed for 2.0 miles turning left into trailhead parking.
Set in a large open cirque in the rugged Monte Cristo Peaks, and fed by the Columbia Glacier and icy snowfields, Blanca Lake’s location is one of the most dramatic in the Central Cascades. But what makes this lake really striking, is its cobalt blue water; and its sheen and tone constantly changing depending upon the amount and angle of sunlight making contact with it. While the lake is named Blanca, the only thing white about this body of water is the surrounding snowfields.
The hike to Blanca isn’t long, but it’s not easy. The first three miles of this trail ruthlessly climb 2,650 feet. Then after a short reprieve on a ridge shrouded in heather meadows, it descends 650 feet to the lake. Hopefully the luxuriant old-growth Douglas-fir and hemlock forest you traverse will keep your mind off of the climb. The ancient forest you’ll be grunting through is all part of Washington’s newest wilderness area, Wild Sky, which was established in 2008.
The way starts off pretty easy. Enter the Wild Sky Wilderness and then begin to climb. After nearly 3.0 miles of incessant switchbacking and climbing the way enters the Henry Jackson Wilderness as you crest a 4,650-foot ridge. Pause for some good albeit limited views east to Benchmark Mountain and majestic volcano, Glacier Peak.
Now in heather fields and subalpine forest find start descending soon coming to tiny Virgin Lake. If you’re planning on spending the night in this area, the campsites here are much nicer and roomier than what you’ll find at Blanca. Continue hiking, descending on tread that was greatly improved thanks to the Washington Trails Association.
After losing 650 feet, enter the large cirque housing Blanca Lake. While the snowfields and glaciers above can accurately be described as blanca, turquoise or aquamarine would be a more fitting description for this gorgeous backcountry lake. Feel free to explore this rugged environment (if you can safely ford the outlet stream) by following a rough path along the lake’s western shoreline, or prop yourself up on a log and just enjoy the view. Enjoy the cool breezes too coming down from the Columbia Glacier, one of the larger ice fields in this part of the Cascades.
For information on lodging and other attractions near Blanca Lake, visit www.snohomish.org
For a free full color guide to some of the best hikes in Snohomish County visit www.snohomish.org
For more information on this trail and others nearby, check out Day Hiking Central Cascades Book (Mountaineers
For more information on other things to do in the Stevens Pass Area visit Northwest TripFinder.