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.


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.


Trilliums add brilliant colors to forest floor in late spring.

For information on lodging and other attractions near the Greider Lakes, visit

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



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