Cooney Lake–larches at the edge of the North Cascades


Come October, Cooney Lake lives up to its Golden Lake status.

Location: Sawtooth Ridge Roadless Area

Land Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Roundtrip: 16 miles

High Point: 7,300 feet

Elevation gain: 3,800 feet

Difficulty: moderate

Green Trails Maps: Prince Creek, WA- No. 115

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

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass Required

Access: From Twisp follow SR 153 south turning right onto Gold Creek Loop Road.  After 1.5 miles, turn right onto County Road 1034. Drive 1.0 mile to a junction and continue straight onto FR 4340. Follow for 4.0 miles turning left at Foggy Dew Campground onto FR spur 200.  Continue 3.7 miles to road end and trailhead.

Good to know: Dog-friendly, kid-friendly, exceptional summer wildflowers, exceptional views, exceptional autumn larches, excellent backpacking, open to mountain bikes and motorcycles


Cradled in a high cirque in the lofty serrated Sawtooth Ridge on the eastern edge of the North Cascades, Cooney makes for a wonderful weekend adventure or as a good base for days of exploring some of the other surrounding high-country lakes. One of the famed “Golden Lakes;” a named coined by pioneer guidebook author Harvey Manning for the area’s larches—October is prime time to see this tree’s glowing display.

Cooney Lake from ridge above.

Start on the Foggy Dew Trail following the delightfully named Foggy Dew Creek. At 2.5 miles admire Foggy Dew Falls plummeting into a narrow cleft. Eventually the trail parts ways with the creek and steepens. At 5.0 miles reach a junction with the Martin Creek Trail. Head right on it gently rounding a ridge. The thick pine and spruce forest soon thins allowing occasional viewing east. Pass a small pond before crossing a creek and boulder field. At 7.7 miles in a small saddle at the edge of a big meadow come to a horse camp and junction with the hiker-only Cooney Lake Trail.

Now head left soon reaching gorgeous 7,300-foot Cooney Lake set in a larch flanked basin beneath the cloud-snagging Sawtooth Ridge. Good camps can be found near the lake’s outlet. Good roaming can be found in the meadows east. Good high-country adventure can be found by continuing up the steep trail beyond the lake to the Angel’s Staircase Trail. Enjoy the golden aura emanating from the basin whether you come for a few hours or a few days.

For more detailed information on this hike and loop extensions and other incredible multi-day trips in the area and beyond; consult my best selling Backpacking Washington guidebook.

For information on where to play and stay in the Methow Valley, consult Northwest Trip Finder.

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