Surprise and Glacier Lakes—A surprisingly nice pair of alpine lakes near Stevens Pass

Quick Facts:

Location: Stevens Pass area

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 11.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,800 feet

Contact: Skykomish Ranger District: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass required; Dogs permitted on leash; Wilderness rules apply

Access: From Everett follow US 2 east to Skykomish. Continue 10 more miles turning right (just after the Iron Goat Interpretive Center) into the old railroad community of Scenic. Turn right after crossing the railroad tracks and follow a dirt road .3 mile to the trailhead.

Green Trails Map: Alpine Lakes Stevens Pass No. 176S

Good to know: dog-friendly, backpacking opportunities, Alpine Lakes Wilderness



Beyond Glacier Lake, an old trail leads to Surprise Pass and Surprise Mountain.

Hike to two gorgeous alpine lakes flanked by towering evergreens and slopes of shiny granite ledge. But even more spectacular than these backcountry bodies of water is the surrounding forest. It’s one of the finest tracts of old-growth along the US 2 corridor.

Begin by walking a short distance up a service road before turning left onto real trail. Now, on good tread, sturdy stairs and solid planking head up the narrow Surprise Creek Valley through a magnificent forest of ancient cedars and giant hemlocks. Soon enter the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

At about 1.0 mile the trail crosses cascading Surprise Creek on a big log before skirting beneath some avalanche slopes. Then undulating between patches of brush and groves of primeval forest the trail continues up the valley climbing more steeply. At 4.5 miles, after winding around talus and ascending steep forested slopes reach a trail junction just shy of Surprise Lake. The trail left climbs briskly towards Trap Pass connecting with the Pacific Crest Trail. Continue right across a marshy meadow and a precarious creek crossing to the lake.


The view of Glacier and Surprise lakes from Surprise Mountain is–Surprise-Gorgeous!

A popular destination, treat it well. Find a quiet shoreline ledge or boulder to soak rays or feet. While away the afternoon here or continue farther to bigger and prettier Glacier Lake by continuing south along the trail climbing a rib above Surprise Lake to a junction with the PCT. After passing a big talus slope locate an unmarked trail heading right and take it, dropping steeply 50 feet or so to granite bound Glacier Lake. No glaciers, but lots of granite. Surprise and Glacier are also known as the Scenic Lakes, and I can’t argue with that moniker.




 For more information on where to stay, play , shop, and eat in the Skykomish Valley visit

Seattle NorthCountry.


Surprise and Glacier Lakes are one of the 125 featured hikes in my Day Hiking Central Cascades Book (Mountaineers). For more details on this hike and many others in the region, pick up a copy of this handy guide today!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

For places to stay and other places to play along the US 2 corridor check out Northwest TripFinderNWTFmasthead_layers15

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