Lake Twentytwo─waterfalls, big cedars and a beautiful lake beneath Mount Pilchuck


Lake Twentytwo on a tranquil autumn day.

Quick Facts

Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Granite Falls

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 5.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,350 feet

Green Trails Map: Granite Falls WA-No. 109, Silverton WA-No. 110

Notes: NW Forest Pass required; dogs permitted on leash; trail can get busy, practice Leave No Trace ethics and consider visiting on a weekday.

Access: From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 11 miles to the Verlot Visitors Center. Proceed for two more miles to the trailhead located on your right.

Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest 

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

Cradled in a rugged cirque at the base of Mount Pilchuck’s sheer northern face, Lake Twentytwo is a stunning sight. A popular destination close to population centers, this hike offers plenty of delights in addition to the sparkling alpine lake. The well-built trail traverses one of the most impressive stands of primeval forest in the region. And ambling beside Twentytwo Creek for a short ways, there are handful of cascades and waterfalls to be mesmerized by as well.


A hiker enjoys a quiet moment at Lake Twentytwo.

The trail immediately enters a Research Natural Area (RSA) of nearly 800 acres that was set aside in 1947. The purpose was to allow for the study of the effects on water, wildlife, and timber in an area left in its virgin state compared to a similar area that has been intensively managed. You’ll immediately see the effects of water, as this area is lush. Water appears to seep and bubble from the ground just about everywhere along this trail. Moss blankets boulders and rotting logs. Maidenhair, deer, and lady’s ferns form showy bouquets beneath behemoth trees. Western hemlock and silver fir are the predominant species in this tract, but it’s the western red cedars that will gain most of your attention. Some of these trees are gargantuan, measuring almost 12 feet in diameter.

Start by following the trail up a side hill paralleling the road and the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River. In a half mile, cross Twentytwo Creek on a little bridge by a pretty series of cascades. Then begin to climb. It’s a steady ascent, but not too step. After about 2.0 miles you’ll cross a talus slope punctuated with maples. Pretty in fall, the views across the South Fork Stilly Valley to Green Mountain in the early summer aren’t too bad either. Reenter an impressive stand of ancient conifers and climb once more. After gaining a few hundred feet, the way meets back up with Twentytwo Creek to enter the impressive and rocky cirque housing Lake Twentytwo.

Snow lingers in the basin well into summer. Beneath Pilchuck’s impressive vertical walls of rock, the lake’s setting is stunning. Waterfalls crash down the sheer cliffs. In early season, so do avalanches so stay well away. By mid-summer however, it’s safe to circumnavigate the lake on a delightful 1.2 mile trail. Otherwise, just find a nice spot by the outlet to plop down and savor the beauty of this mountain lake.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Lake Twentytwo visit


For more detailed information on this hike and over 100 other nearby hikes, consult my best selling Day Hiking North Cascades guidebook.0486

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  1. ** PLEASE NOTE: There is a lot of erosion caused by people going off trail at Lake 22. The area around the boardwalk is very fragile bog land and the wildflowers are just starting to come out. People need to respect this fragile ecosystem and stay on the boardwalk. This includes keeping their dogs on a leash as they have as much of an impact as people. There are plenty of rocks to sit on if you walk to the end of the boardwalk further down the lake. We all need to be trail stewards so please pass this on to everyone you know who wants to hike this trail. There is no doubt that the area around the lake will need to be protected because of the damage that has been done.

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