Melakwa Lake–The buzz is out on this great Snoqualmie Pass hike

White Pass-Red Pass 456

Evening light can be quite striking at Melakwa Lake.

Location: Snoqualmie Pass region

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 9.0 miles

High Point: 4,600 feet

Elevation gain: 2,400 feet

Difficulty: difficult

Green Trails Map: Snoqualmie Pass Gateway, WA- No 207S

Contact: North Bend Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest

Notes: NW Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required; dogs must be on a leash, No Drones

Access: From Seattle, head east on I-90. Take exit 47 to Denny Creek Road (FR 58) and follow for 2.5 miles to trailhead (just beyond Denny Creek Campground).

Good to know: Dog-friendly and must be on leash, waterfalls, old-growth, alpine lake, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Practice Leave NO Trace Principles, Don’t be a surface pooper, leave the bluetooth speakers home


Perhaps if more hikers knew that Melakwa is Chinook Jargon for mosquito, they’d shy away from this alpine lake near Snoqualmie Pass named for that pesky little insect. But then again, maybe not—for Melakwa Lake sits in a breathtakingly rugged little basin beneath jagged rocky peaks. And while mosquitoes do occasionally buzz around here on warm summer days, the only swarms you’ll probably see will be of those of your fellow hikers. So, get an early start and hopefully the series of waterfalls you’ll pass en route will lure more than a few souls to stop and lounge.

Follow the Denny Creek Trail beneath an elevated I-90; before trudging 2,300 feet up a tight valley alongside cascading Denny Creek crossing and re-crossing it several times. The creek’s constant churning drowns out the drone of freeway traffic. Through thick forest and open avalanche chutes amble along. After passing ever popular for sunning and feet soaking Slide Rock, come to Keekwulee Falls. Chinook for fall down, the creek certainly does that here tumbling 125 feet.

Continue on a steeper grade coming to yet another fine cataract, 150-foot Snowshoe Falls tucked in a tight gorge. Then climb out of the valley to 4,600-foot Hemlock Pass, before dropping one hundred feet to the sparkling mountain lake tucked between two towering rocky peaks. Savor the rugged beauty. Clumps of hardy old-growth mountain hemlocks and slopes of shiny talus flank Melakwa’s shoreline. In early morning and late evening, 6,200-foot-plus Chair and Kaleetan (Chinook for arrowhead) Peaks’ impressive craggy profiles reflect on the lake’s placid waters. If there are any mosquitoes buzzing around, you’ll be too distracted by the alpine splendor before you to notice.

For information on extended trips to surrounding lakes, consult my best-selling  Backpacking Washington guidebook (Mountaineers Books)

For more information on area attractions and places to stay, consult Northwest TripFinder.

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