Scatter Lake — Golden larch lake high on 8,321-foot Abernathy Peak

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Abernathy Peak provides a stunning backdrop to Scatter Lake.

Quick Facts:

Location: Twisp River Valley

Land Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Roundtrip: 8.5 miles

Elevation gain: 3,800 feet

Green Trails Map: Stehekin, WA – No 82

Contact:  Methow Valley Ranger District: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest  

Notes: NW Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required

Access: From Twisp, follow Twisp River Road west for 21.8 miles to trailhead (road becomes FR 44 at 10.8 miles).

Good to Know: Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness, exceptional autumn colors; dog-friendly, Practice Leave No Trace Principles

In an area of supreme larch hikes, Scatter Lake ranks among the best of them. Start your hike by warming-up on the Twisp River Trail. After immediately encountering a junction, bear left.  Soon afterwards reach another junction. Turn right here. The first mile or so is easy climbing gradually out of the Twisp River Valley through an open forest of fir and pine.

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A hiker explores Scatter’s lakeshore.

The gentle grade however becomes a thing of the past once Scatter Creek is encountered. On a bank high above the chattering creek the trail changes direction and course. Heading now straight-up the narrow creek canyon, elevation is rapidly gained. Soon enter the Lake-Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Area, a 145,000-acre protected band of high peaks, alpine lakes, unbroken forest and some prime Lake Chelan shoreline as well.

Switchbacks grow tighter. The trail gets steeper. Forest begins to open up and meadows appear. Scatter Creek is soon crossed. Switchbacks fade from existence as the trail gets even steeper. At about 3.5 miles reach a delightful meadow in a small basin. You’re almost there. On steep slopes matted with blueberry bushes and punctuated with tenacious white-bark pines, sub-alpine fir and larches, the trail makes its last climb to the lake.

Rising above a small cascade, the trail enters a beautiful cirque beneath the 8,321-foot summit of Abernathy Peak. Within this high basin find the larch-ringed tarn, Scatter Lake. Soak feet (if you dare), soothe your soul, or just stare up at the barren slopes sliding into the lake. And of course rejoice in the beauty of the golden larches reflecting in the lake’s sparkling waters.

Scatter Lake is one of 125 great hikes in my best selling Day Hiking North Cascades Book. 

Get your copy today!

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Looking for great places to stay in the Methow Valley?

Visit Northwest Tripfinder for great lodging and dining options.

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Gobblers Knob and Lake George –In your face glacier views from Mount Rainier National Park lookout

 

IMG_6592Quick Facts:

Location: Mount Rainier National Park

Land Agency: National Park Service

Roundtrip: 12.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,600 feet

Contact: Mount Rainier National Park

Green Trails Map: Green Trails Mount Rainier National Park 269S

Notes: National Park entrance fee; Dogs Prohibited; Practice Leave No Trace Principles; camping only in designated spots and with a permit

Access: From Elbe at the junction of SR 7 and SR 706, head east on SR 706 passing through Ashford and reaching Mount Rainier National Park at 14 miles. Continue west on park road for 1 mile and turn left on graveled Westside Road. Then continue 3.2 miles to barrier (trailhead) just before Dry Creek.

Good to Know: historic fire lookout, historic patrol cabin, subalpine lake, exceptional old-growth, alpine views, backcountry camping, bike-hike possibility

 

At 5,485-feet, Gobblers Knob is the lowest of Rainier’s four remaining fire lookouts. It used to be the shortest to reach too. Now, you must walk (or bike) 3.8 miles of the closed Westside Road to get to the old trailhead. While this hike is long—it is not difficult. The road is easy walking and the trail is wide and well-graded. The old-growth forest along the way is magnificent and Lake George makes for a nice lunch spot; or if you’re inclined to spend the evening—a great camping spot. And the views? Breathtaking to the point that you just may need a little resuscitation!

This hike begins with a long approach on the Westside Road before reaching the Gobblers Knob Trail. The Westside Road was IMG_6562built from 1926 to 1934. In 1989 due to recurring mud and debris flows over the road from Tahoma Creek, the park permanently closed the road to visitors at Dry Creek. The road is still maintained however, to allow emergency and park personnel access to the remote west side of the park. And while you can’t drive on the road—you can ride your bicycle on it. So consider biking to the original Gobbler Knob Trailhead at Round Pass. You’ll really appreciate the return with a mostly downhill route. Otherwise, start trudging up the road.

Pass the barrier and cross Dry Creek. Then walk along the base of Mount Wow, and stand in awe of this peak’s sheer and intimidating cliff faces. You may indeed exclaim, “Wow!” But the mountain wasn’t named for a reaction, but after mountain goats. Wow is a corruption of a Yakima Indian word for mountain goats. Look up at those cliffs for moving patches of white, as goats frequent them. Then mutter wow upon seeing them.

The road crosses Fish Creek on a bridge and then brushes alongside Tahoma Creek on a much rougher path. The creek has claimed chunks of this road year after year and park officials continuously patch it up. Enjoy excellent views of Mount Rainier rising above snags in the glacial till and rocky outwash of the creek. Enjoy a good view too, of Mount Ararat, looking far more impressive from this angle than from Indian Henrys Hunting Ground.

IMG_6613The road then passes the primitive Tahoma Creek Trail and makes a couple of wide switchbacks to the Tahoma Vista. The Vista has long since grown in. The road then makes a long traverse—followed by a couple of more switchbacks—and another long traverse—finally reaching forested 3,900-foot Round Pass at 3.8 miles. Locate the trailhead on the left side of the road near an old parking lot. Now on real trail, enter a luxuriant old-growth forest. The trail is wide and well-graded and a pleasure to hike.

The trail works its way up a bench. Look east through the big trees to a constant white backdrop. At 4.6 miles reach Lake George. Definitely take time to explore this long lake tucked beneath the northern slopes of Mount Wow. Surrounded by emerald giants and emanating a green hue, it’s a verdant body of water. An old ranger patrol cabin is tucked in the woods near the lake’s northeastern corner. Here too find attractive campsites (permit required to camp) and a big shelter.

The trail continues past the lake passing through more magnificent primeval forest before reaching a pocket meadow. Here look up and see the fire lookout teetering on rocky Gobblers Knob. The trail then decides to gain some elevation commencing in some short switchbacks.  Soon reach a small pond—where the lookout can once again be seen.

Now climb again and come to a junction. Here the Goat Lake Trail leaves left to steeply descend to Goat Lake in the Glacier View Wilderness. At this junction turn right and follow a couple of short switchbacks to gain the last few hundred feet of elevation. The trail works its way under the rocky knob and crests the long rugged ridge emanating north from Mount Wow. It then swings around the knob to ascend it from the north. Stay on the trail—as it is a heck of a drop. Approaching the summit, clutch your chest. The view of Rainier—practically in your face—with knock your breath out! Now ascend the steps of the 1933-built fire lookout perched on the rocky pinnacle.

Walk the catwalk and be blown away by some of the best views in the park. Look south to the Goat Rocks, Pyramid Peak,

The mountain reflecting on the lookout's windows.

The mountain reflecting on the lookout’s windows.

Mount Wow, High Rock and Mount St. Helens. Look west to Goat Lake straight below and the sawtooth Glacier View Wilderness Peaks. Look farther west to the Black Hills and Olympic Mountains. Look north down the deep Puyallup River Valley and out to the Colonnade and Tolmie Peak. And look east straight at the mountain—especially the Tahoma Glacier. It’s an impressive site of snaking snow and ice terminating in cascades whose roars can be heard from the lookout!

Stay for a while and soak up the incredible views. And perhaps start wondering, why gobbler? Back in the 1930s when this lookout was being built, one of the CCC crew members hailed from Tennessee—a state with no shortage of wild turkeys. This young worker thought this rocky knob looked a lot like the ones in the Smoky Mountains where he hunted for turkeys. Hence the name. But one thing is for sure—this hike is no turkey!

 

For detailed information on many great hikes in and around Mount Rainier National Park, pick up a copy of my 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books). Get your copy today and start exploring this incredible region!

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Round Lake — Find solitude on Lost Creek Ridge

Round Lake is enticing to look at from Lost Creek Ridge

Round Lake is enticing to look at from Lost Creek Ridge

Quick Facts:

 Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Darrington

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 10.0 miles

Elevation gain: 4300 feet

Difficulty: strenuous

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway 111SX

Contact: Darrington Ranger District; Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

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.

Notes: wilderness rules apply

Good to know: dog-friendly, solitude, Glacier Peak Wilderness, Practice Leave No Trace Principles, exceptional wildflowers

 

Aptly named Round Lake is tucked in a hidden basin high on Lost Creek Ridge. You’ll need to steeply climb Lost Creek Ridge

Sloan Peak from the Lost Creek Ridge Trail.

Sloan Peak from the Lost Creek Ridge Trail.

first—then steeply descend to the lake (and climb back out of the lake basin on the return).  This tough approach and challenging hike certainly does have one big 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 then a steep grunt—arduously steep. Labor under a canopy of magnificent old-growth. While the shade helps keep you from overheating, there’s no water along the way—so pack plenty. After slogging up nearly three demanding miles, reach 4,400-foot Bingley Gap, a small forested saddle on Lost Creek Ridge. Then head eastward along the ridge and climb some more! Gaps in the canopy provide some view of nearby Mount Pugh. Forest cover 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; Painted, Stuart, Daniel, Del Campo, Morning Star, Sperry, and Vesper among them.

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Solitude at Round Lake.

After some spectacular ridgeline hiking, reach a junction. The main trail continues right for several very rugged miles of more high country. Feel free to walk a short distance traversing a sprawling meadow and rounding a ridge for a spectacular view of Glacier Peak.

For Round Lake,  take the trail left to a small gap (el. 5,600 ft) and a great view down to Round Lake sparkling 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 600 feet into the basin arrive at the lake in 0.7 mile. Bugs can be a nuisance early in the season when the air is calm. But it’s nothing the resident frogs and swallows won’t eventually take care of. Rest up for the arduous return.

 

For information on lodging and other attractions near Darrington, visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For more detailed information and maps on this hike and others along the Mountain Loop Highway and throughout the North Cascades, pick up a copy of my best-selling Day Hiking North Cascades guidebook (Mountaineers Books)!0486

Peek-a-boo Lake — peaceful little lake and peek-a-boo mountain views

IMG_3414Quick Facts:

Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Darrington

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 9.6 miles

Elevation gain: 2500 feet

Green Trails Maps: Mountain Loop Highway 111 SX

Contact: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Darrington Ranger District

Notes: Access road is washed out at mile 3.4 requiring an additional 2.2 mile one way hike or mountain bike.

Good to know: access road washed out making hike longer, kid-friendly, dog-friendly, old-growth

Access: From Darrington follow the Mountain Loop Highway for 8.5 miles turning right onto FR 2080 (turnoff located just before Sauk River bridge). Continue on FR 2080 for 1.1 miles turning right onto FR 2081. Follow this road for 2.3 miles to a washout where a turn around and parking are available.

bearing left onto FR 2086. Reach trailhead at road end in one mile.

Good to Know: exceptional old-growth; kid-friendly, dog-friendly

Sitting in a peaceful little cirque on a ridge high above the Sauk River is pretty little Peek-a-boo Lake. Unimposing and tucked away in a rugged landscape, the hike once short, is now much longer making this destination more peaceful than the past. The trail is in decent shape, but is a little rocky and rooty in places. Start your hike by carefully walking around the road washout. Then walk 1.2 miles up grassy and gently graded FR 2081. Then take a left onto FR 2086 and walk this road for a steep one mile to the trailhead. Here the trail begins on an old logging road in scrappy forest, but quickly transitions to true trail in impressive old growth. Climbing gently at first, the grade soon intensifies leading up a thickly forested 4,350-foot ridge. Massive hemlock, fir, and cedar as well as babbling brooks and a lush understory of greenery help keep your attention off of the climb.

The trail then begins to lose some of that hard-earned elevation gain, and after a half mile breaks out into a picturesque parkland meadow. Pass by a delightful little tarn and continue through more meadows. Using care not to trounce delicate vegetation, leave the trail for the eastern edge of the meadow for a breathtaking view of White Chuck Mountain and Mount Pugh hovering over the Sauk River Valley.

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White Chuck Mountain can be seen along the way.

Peek-a-boo still waits, so head back to the trail where it returns to forest dropping about 300-feet on rough tread to the placid body-of-water in an emerald bowl of stately evergreens. Now enjoy Peek-a-boo Lake fully revealed. A refreshing swim-an afternoon nap-a little fishing-or just an afternoon of pure relaxation!

For information on lodging and other attractions near the North Fork Sauk River, visit www.snohomish.org

For more information on this hike and many others nearby, consult my Day Hiking North Cascades Book. 0486

For a great post or pre hike coffee and snack, stop in at the Mountain Loop Books and Coffee in Darrington. Green Trails Maps and Mountaineers Hiking Books can be purchased here too.

Greider Lakes — shimmering subalpine lakes in the Sultan Basin

IMG_2952Quick Facts:

Location: Sultan Basin

Land Agency: Washington Department of Natural Resources

Roundtrip: 9.6 miles

Elevation gain: 1,600 feet

Green Trails Map: Mountain Loop Highway 111SX

Contact: Snohomish County Public Utility District

Notes: Register (no fee) at entrance to watershed. Dogs must be on leash.

Access: From Everett follow US 2 east to Sultan. At a traffic light just past Milepost 23 turn left onto Sultan Basin Road. Follow for 13.2 miles (pavement ends at 10.2 miles) to an information kiosk. Stop and sign-in acknowledging that you understand the rules and regulations for visiting the Sultan Basin which is Everett’s public water supply. Now continue 500 feet farther to a Y-intersection bearing right onto South Shore Road (formally FR 61). Reach trailhead at South Shore Recreation Site in 5.3 miles.

Good to Know: dog-friendly, exceptional wildlife viewing, old-growth, backcountry camping opportunities

Pack it in Pack it out

Leave the bluetooth speakers home

Practice Leave No Trace Principles

Be a good trail steward

Not far from sprawling Spada Lake, the source for Everett’s drinking water, are two quiet backcountry lakes that make for one refreshing (and at times challenging) hike. The trail is steep in spots with some rocky sections. But it’s shaded all the way, offering protection from spring rains or summer sun. Most of the forest is mature even-aged second growth. The original forest succumbed to fire many years ago. Remnant charred snags attest to this.

Start by following the trail to a decommissioned road. This hike used to be fairly short, but it is nearly double the distance now with the new road-trail mileage. You’ll make more than a dozen creek crossing including two which may soak your boots. One can be bypassed, but you’ll miss the pretty cascade falling at the crossing.  After 2.3 miles of easy going, come to the original trailhead. Locate the original trail taking off right skirting the Reflection Ponds, two little insect-incubating wetland pools responsible for feeding area frogs, dragonflies, flycatchers, and sparrows. A side trail diverts left to circle the ponds. Consider taking it after you reach the Greider Lakes for a slight variation on the return; or as an easy kid-friendly destination.

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Original trailhead

The trail wastes no time climbing—ascending 1,000 feet on 40 switchbacks over a course of 1.5 miles. Stay determined—the grade eventually eases, the tread becomes more agreeable and old growth fills the backdrop. Little Greider Lake is reached first. It’s a peaceful body of water surrounded by attractive forest. It also contains some nice campsites (first come first serve). Big Greider Lake is 0.4 mile farther. Cross Greider Creek on a big bridge and continue hiking. While Big Greider is only 35 feet higher in elevation than Little Greider, its surroundings are entirely different than the lower lake. Cradled in a mostly open bowl flanked by slopes of exposed cliffs and avalanche chutes, water crashes down off of the open wall surrounding it. And although Big Greider sits at an elevation just shy of 3,000 feet, it has the appearance of being much higher thanks to heavy winter snows due to its location within the Puget Sound Convergence Zone. There are a handful of backcountry camps at this lake as well (first come first serve).

In springtime the lake basin is awash in wildflower colors. In autumn, ground hugging berry bushes set the landscape afire in red. And aside from the flora, the area is a good place for observing wildlife, too. Black bears sightings are fairly common. So, expect company in those vibrant berry patches. Stay for awhile and return often.

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Trilliums add brilliant colors to forest floor in late spring.

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Greider Lakes, visit www.snohomish.org.

 For more information on this hike and many others nearby, consult my Day Hiking Central Cascades Book  (Mountaineers Books)61ftQ+y-mgL