Sunrise Lake─Golden larches brighten the shores of this alpine lake

Golden larches light up the shores of Sunrise Lake.

Golden larches light up the shores of Sunrise Lake.

Quick Facts:

Location: North Cascades – Sawtooth Ridge

Land Agency: U.S. Forest Service

Roundtrip: 13.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,730 feet

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

Recommended Resource: Day Hiking North Cascades (Romano; Mountaineers Books)

Access: From Twisp drive SR 20 east for 2.0 miles. Continue south on SR 153 for 12.0 miles turning right onto Gold Creek Loop Road. Proceed for 1.5 miles to a T-intersection onto County Road 1034. In one mile, come to a junction. Continue straight onto FR 4340 for 4.0 miles to a junction near the Foggy Dew Campground. Turn left onto graveled FR spur 200 and follow 3.7 miles to road end and trailhead.

Notes: Foggy Dew Creek Trail open to motorcycles and mountain bikes.

Contact: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Good to know: dog-friendly, backpacking opportunities, summer wildflowers, autumn larches, Practice Leave No Trace Principles

Sunrise Lake sits high in the Sawtooth Ridge—a long, lofty and jagged chain of peaks between Lake Chelan and the Methow Valley. Almost 150,000 acres of this rugged and beautiful country is protected as the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Area. Another 100,000 acres remains roadless, but not free from motors. But, don’t let the presence of a few motorbikes discourage you from exploring the eastern reaches of the North Cascades. Motorized use—actually all trail uses are pretty low for this rugged backcountry.

A dozen dazzling alpine lakes occupy the high cirques of this stretch of the Sawtooth peaks. Each one surrounded by stands of western and alpine larch trees causing them to glow come October. Legendary guidebook authors, Spring and Manning referred to this area as the Golden Lakes. And from late September through mid-October, they truly are. Sunrise Lake should help shed some light on you to the beauty of this region.

Start by hiking up the Foggy Dew Trail 5 miles to its junction with the Martin Lakes Trail. This path is wide and well groomed—not too dusty—and not too difficult to walk. Beyond the junction, the Foggy Dew Trail is closed to motorcycles! Now enjoy 1.5 miles of solitude and spectacular scenery as the trail climbs steeply to the high meadows of Merchants Basin. Turn off the main path here onto the Sunrise Lake Trail and wind your way through a canopy of larches that gently shed golden needles onto the tread. Enter a wide cirque flanked by craggy 8,000-foot summits and embrace Sunrise Lake twinkling below them. The larches in their full fall regalia add a golden aura to the calm cool waters of this alpine gem.

On your retreat back from this wild corner of the Sawtooths, consider Katharine Tynan’s poem, Foggy Dew which shares the name of this trail.

“Mayrone! If I might feel now the dew on my face,

And the wind from the mountains in that remembered place,

I’d give the wealth of London, if mine it were to do,

And I’d travel home to Ireland and the foggy dew.”

Replace Seattle for London, and North Cascades for Ireland, and you’ve got yourself a nice little verse to recite after a glorious hike to Sunrise Lake.

For more details on this hike and others in the Golden Lakes, refer to my best selling Day Hiking North Cascades 2nd edition and Backpacking Washington guidebooks.

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