Location: White Chuck River Valley, Mountain Loop Highway
Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Service
Roundtrip: 16.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,900 feet
Green Trails Map: Sloan Peak, WA- No. 111
Access: Take Exit 208 off of I-5 following SR 530 east for 32 miles to Darrington. Then head south on the Mountain Loop Highway proceeding 9.0 miles turning left onto FR 23. Drive 5.8 miles turning left onto FR 27. Continue for another 2.4 miles to trailhead.
Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker- Snoqualmie National Forest
Notes: Trail partially open to mountain bikes; wilderness rules apply at lake
Good to Know: dog-friendly, backpacking options; berry picking, Glacier Peak Wilderness
Meadow Lake is a small body of way tucked high on Meadow Mountain in the western edge of the sprawling Glacier Peak Wilderness. Once it was an easy 3.0 mile hike to reach this meadow-ringed lake surrounded by old growth forest. Then in the 1980s the hike’s length grew considerably to 8.0 miles due to the decommissioning of the logging road leading to its trailhead. By the early 2000s, the trail was nearly inaccessible when remaining access roads washed out in numerous locations. But now the lake is once again reachable thanks to road upgrades. And while the hike is still long, it’s not difficult. The old logging road—now trail—is easy to walk, and the Meadow Mountain Trail leading to the lake spur is in good shape. Strong day hikers and backpackers looking for a quick getaway may want to take an upcoming “field” trip to Meadow Lake!
Begin by following an old road bed, climbing a couple of hundred feet; then losing most of it. If the old logging road is too much of a slog—it is open to bikes—so consider mountain biking it to the old trailhead. At 1.5 miles, reach a junction. The trail left heads to Crystal Lake and Circle Peak—worthy destinations for future trips. Continue right soon crossing Crystal Creek and then slowly gaining elevation traversing side slopes above the White Chuck River Valley.
You’ll be traversing along old cuts. While alders have obscured viewing from the road-trail, there are a few windows in the trees along the way granting some decent views over the White Chuck Valley and over to impressive Mount Pugh, too. There are some glimpse as well of Three Fingers and Glacier Peak.
At 5.1 miles the old road ends and genuine trail begins. If you biked—this is as far as you can pedal. Now wind your way thorough impressive old growth on good tread and on a steady grade. At 6.6 miles, cross a creek and come to the beginning of Meadow Mountain’s extensive meadows. Views begin too. At 7.2 miles reach a junction (el. 5,070 feet). The Meadow Mountain Trail continues right going to higher ground, excellent views and lots of surprises.
You want to head left entering the Glacier Peak Wilderness and following a creek downward for a few hundred feet. The way is a little brushy and little rough. Stop for some teaser views to Green Mountain and Snow King. At 8.0 miles reach little Meadow Lake (el. 4,750 feet) surrounded by old growth forest and—meadows! Enjoy the tranquility. Nice camps can be found at the lake’s outlet if you are lured to spend the night.
For information on lodging and other attractions near Meadow Lake visit www.snohomish.org.
For detailed information on other area hikes, consult my best selling Day Hiking North Cascades, which contains 125 hikes complete with maps and lots of other important information.