Lake Valhalla– No slain souls here-just renewed ones

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A hiker enjoys pure Valhalla serenity.

Quick Facts:

 Location: Henry M Jackson Wilderness, Stevens Pass area

Land Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Roundtrip: 12.0 miles

Elevation gain: 1,500 feet

Difficulty: moderate

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

Contact: Wenatchee River Ranger District (Leavenworth): Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Access: From Everett, head east on US 2 for 65 miles to Stevens Pass. Park on north side of highway (across from ski area) and locate the Pacific Crest Trailhead.

Notes: wilderness rules apply, Practice Leave No Trace ethics, Don’t be a surfacer pooper.

Good to Know: Dog-friendly, kid-friendly, Henry M Jackson Wilderness, Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, Mind the Music

 

In Norse Mythology, Valhalla was the heaven of the Vikings; a great hall in Asgard where slain warriors chosen by Odin himself ascended to. Lake Valhalla in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness is a place where tired and weary souls can choose to ascend to via trail. And upon arriving to the shores of this large backcountry lake, wayward pilgrims will quickly realize, it is indeed a heavenly place.

Depart on your voyage to Valhalla via Stevens Pass. By way of the Pacific Crest Trail, head north into the rolling and rugged Central Cascades. The way starts out easy enough by utilizing an old rail bed. The pass was long abandoned for rail travel with the construction of a tunnel below it in 1897 . Consistently heavy snowfall and severe avalanches forced the railroad underground. The most current tunnel was built in 1929. It’s 7.8 miles long  and was the longest railroad tunnel in the western hemisphere when it opened.

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Valhalla’s waters invite a swim.

The trail skirts slopes of avalanche-thinned forest and after about two miles enters dark groves of old-growth. Here too it enters the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness and continues through more stately stands of old-growth forest. It climbs a little, passes through a series of soggy meadows, and then crests a small ridge. Then it drops three hundred feet to twinkling Lake Valhalla set in a bowl beneath Lichtenberg Mountain.

The lake’s quiet shoreline makes for a fine place to lounge the day away. If you want to spend the night, there are a series of developed campsites here. But, if you’re inclined to further explore the region, carry on past the lake and climb to a small saddle above it. Find a boot-beaten path that veers off left. Now, follow this trail through berry patches to the 5,747-foot summit of Mount McCausland. From this small peak an impressive view of the surrounding countryside can be had. And Lake Valhalla sparkles below. A divine sight and site-indeed!

 

For more detailed information and maps on this hike and others near Stevens Pass, along US 2 and beyond (125 hikes in all), pick up a copy of my Day Hiking Central Cascades guidebook (Mountaineers Books)!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

For information on where to stay and play and other great things to do in the Skykomish Valley,                     visit Seattle NorthCountry

Deer Lake– Wilderness lake above White Pass

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A snowshoer approaches Deer Lake after a fresh snowfall.

Location: William O. Douglas Wilderness, White Pass

Land Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Roundtrip:  6.0 miles

Elevation gain: 780 feet

Green Trails Map: White Pass No. 303

Contact: White Pass Nordic Center 

Access: From Yakima or Morton follow US 12 to White Pass and proceed north to parking area near Yurt behind the Village Inn Condominiums.

Permits: trail pass required Thur—Sun and holidays (purchase at Yurt) if utilizing White Pass Nordic Center trails

Notes: dogs are not allowed on the Nordic Center’s trails before 3:30 pm

Good to know: dog-friendly, kid-friendly, exceptional old-growth, backpacking opportunities

 

Located just inside the sprawling William O. Douglas Wilderness, Deer Lake feels likes it’s deep within the backcountry. Yet it’s a mere 3.0 miles from White Pass making it an easy objective for beginning and younger snowshoers. Much of the route is via the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT). The preferred starting point is from the White Pass Nordic Center where there is ample parking. The center offers snowshoe rentals too if you don’t have your own pair. However, if you use the center’s trails on Thursdays through Sundays and holidays, you’ll need to purchase a trail pass. If you opt to start on the PCT where it crosses US 12 at White Pass, it is best to park at the ski area and carefully walk along the road to the trail.

From the Nordic Center follow the signed snowshoe trail north crossing a couple of ski trails to Leech Lake. Then turn right and walk along the pretty lake coming to a junction with the Lake Loop Ski Trail at .7 mile. Now turn left and walk along the edge of the ski trail crossing a bridge and shortly afterward coming to the Pacific Crest Trail at a major ski trail junction.

Head north here on the famous long-distance trail. The way makes a sweeping switchback left and then one right gently climbing up a thickly forested slope graced with old-growth giants. At 1.2 miles cross a ski trail and continue climbing along a gentle shoulder shrouded in hemlocks and firs. At 1.9 miles enter the William O. Douglas Wilderness. Named for a Yakima famous son, Douglas served as an Associate justice of the United States Supreme Court for 36 years; the longest in Supreme Court history. He was a champion of civil rights and the environment; and hiked and rode horses through the 168,000-plus acre wilderness named in his honor.

Continue soon coming to a junction with the Dark Meadows Trail which heads right 1.6 miles to Dog Lake. It makes for a nice alternative approach. To reach Deer Lake, stay straight rounding a small ravine before traversing a short steep slope to a broad ridge. The way then skirts pocket meadows before briefly reentering forest. Soon afterward emerge in a wide open area. Here at 3.0 miles you’ve reached Deer Lake—but you’d never know it in the dead of winter. It appears more like a big frozen meadow. Surrounded by towering subalpine firs the scene is quite serene. You won’t get any alpine views here, but the subalpine forest embracing the lake and open basin blanketed in white is quite scenic.

If you’re savvy at wilderness navigation consider continuing north on the PCT for an easy half mile to Sand Lake. There’s an old shelter nearby that you may want to locate, but you probably won’t want to stay in it. However, if you are interested in camping; both Sand and Deer Lakes make great destinations for trying out winter camping.

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The trail is marked, although finding blazes and signs in deep snow can sometimes be a challenge.

Return the way you came. Upon reaching Leech Lake; either retrace your initial approach or turn right and return to the Yurt via the northern shore of the lake. If you opt for this route, it adds a mere .3 mile to the trip and provides nice views of Spiral Butte and the White Pass Ski Area.

Looking for an epic hike to do later in the year? Pick up a copy of my 100 Classic Hikes Washington and start exploring some of the most beautiful trails on the planet!                                                                                                                                           Pick up your copy today! 

Dishpan Gap—Awesome autumn foliage from the headwaters of the Sky!

Dishpan Gap-where you'll enjoy being in the red!

Dishpan Gap-where you’ll enjoy being in the red!

Quick Facts:

Location: North Fork Skykomish River Valley

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 19.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 3,100 feet

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

Green Trails Map: Monte Cristo- No. 143, Benchmark Mtn- No. 144

Special Note: Northwest Trail Pass required; wilderness rules apply

Access: From Everett head east on US 2 for 50 miles to Skykomish turning left onto the Beckler River Road (FR 65). Continue north for 15 miles and just after crossing the North Fork Skykomish River come to a junction. Turn right onto FR 63 and proceed 4.3 miles to road’s end and trailhead.

Good to Know: Dog-friendly, Backpacking, exceptional autumn colors, Henry M. Jackson Wilderness

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Spectacular vistas and stunning fall colors along the PCT near Dishpan Gap.

While lovers of resplendent autumn foliage usually look east to the Appalachians for deciduous delights—or at least east of the Cascade Crest for larches that light up in gold—along the Cascade Crest at the headwaters of the North Fork of the Skykomish River a most beautiful fall color fest can be enjoyed. For it is here at Dishpan Gap, a 5,600-foot notch in the Cascades and for miles south and north along the mile high divide separating eastern Washington from western Washington that a luxuriant carpet of blueberry bushes annually sets the ground afire in crimson.

Up and down the Cascade Crest where sprawling meadows that once danced with a dazzling display of brilliant wildflowers under the summer sun has now been overtaken by a crimson tide. Streaks of scarlet stretch across alpine meadows and parklands; complimented by touches of yellow of varying degrees from an assortment of accompanying shrubs. What are you waiting for? This resplendent showing is for a limited time only.

The trek to Dishpan Gap is long and beyond what most people can comfortably hike in a day. But meadows wait short of the gap and the destination is perfect for a one night sojourn into the wilderness. Start by following an old road and immediately enter the Wild Sky Wilderness. After about 1.4 miles the way transitions to bona fide trail; and in another half mile you’ll enter the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness. Just an administrative change, as the surrounding old growth forest continues and you won’t notice any differences from wilderness to wilderness area! At 3.2 miles bear left at the Pass Creek Trail junction, hiking farther up valley passing wetland pools, giant trees and nice riverside lounging sites. At 6 miles you’ll need to ford the North Fork Skykomish River—intimidating early season, usually just a rock hop this late in the year.

Then climb to a hanging valley of crimson berry patches shadowed by craggy Skykomish Peak. A steep climb follows through meadows and subalpine forest delivering you to the Pacific Crest Trail at Dishpan Gap. Foliage is wonderful—alpine views better! Savor horizon spanning views of waves of jagged peaks and rows of gently rolling ridges. Then saunter north or south seizing the season! Consider loop options returning via the Bald Eagle and Quartz Creek trails or the Pass Creek Trail or West Cady Ridge Trails.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Dishpan Gap visit www.snohomish.org

For detailed information on this hike, loop options, and other nearby long-distance treks, pick up a copy of my best selling Backpacking Washington guidebook. Backpacking Book cover

Grizzly Peak — It’s a long hike, but not a bear of a hike!

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Follow the PCT through flowering meadows to Grizzly Peak.

Quick Facts:

Location: Pacific Crest Trail, Henry M Jackson Wilderness, Stevens Pass area

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 16.0 miles

Elevation gain: 3,400 feet

Difficulty: difficult

Green Trails Map: Benchmark MT- No. 144

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

Access: From Everett, head east on US 2 to Stevens Pass. Continue east for another 4.0 miles. Just after the highway divides turns left onto Smith Brook Road (FR 6700). Continue for 2.8 miles to trailhead.

Notes: Northwest Forest Pass required; wilderness rules apply

Good to Know: Dog-friendly, kid-friendly, spectacular wildflowers

 

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Glasses Lake

This is a long but not too taxing hike along the long-distance Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to the fabled alpine meadows and lakes of the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness. While this hike is long, it is not necessary to go all the way to Grizzly. There are fine views and nice lakes along the way, particularly warm and inviting Lake Janus.

Start by following the Smith Brook Trail for 1.0 mile to the PCT at 4,700-foot Union Gap. Head right dropping about 700 feet into the Rapid River Valley avoiding Union Peak’s steep boulder bound slopes. Then begin climbing again traversing a boulder field to emerge on a forested flat harboring patches of blueberries and pretty Lake Janus.

Continue north on the PCT crossing Janus’s outlet creek, the last guaranteed water source on the way to Grizzly. Climbing steadily but gently the way weaves back and forth along the Cascade Crest coming to a 5,200-foot gap with a jaw dropping preview of the spectacular alpine scenery lying ahead. Gaze at Labyrinth Mountain, the Poet Ridge and big snowy volcanic monolith Glacier Peak, Washington’s 4th loftiest summit and Snohomish County’s highest peak.

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Glacier Peak lures you to keep on hiking.

A half mile beyond the gap an overhanging ledge offers viewing straight down to Glasses Lake. A little farther, gaps in the forest reveal little Margaret Lake lying beneath the west side of crest. Now gently climb again, undulating between sun-kissed heather meadows and cool groves of mountain hemlock.

Perched in a wide cirque 1,200 feet below Heather Lake soon comes into view. Against an emerald backdrop with Glacier Peak hovering above, the shimmering backcountry lake looks stunning from high above. Now utilizing switchbacks the trail climbs steeply up open slopes providing striking views southward all the way to Rainier.

Finally, after 8.0 long but scenically stunning miles reach the unassuming 5,597-foot summit of Grizzly Peak. A carpet of flowering meadows unrolls northward enticing you to keep going all the way to Glacier Peak. But tired calves and better judgment lead you instead to call it quits and just soak up the bountiful beauty before you. And while black bears may frolic these meadows around you—grizzlies probably won’t be making any appearances—so relax and enjoy the wilderness!

 

For information on lodging and other attractions near Grizzly Peak visit www.snohomish.orgSnohomish-NEW

For more detailed information and maps on this hike and others near Stevens Pass and beyond (125 hikes in all), pick up a copy of my Day Hiking Central Cascades guidebook (Mountaineers Books)!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

Lake Janus — Wilderness gateway to eastern Snohomish County

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Lake Janus is a placid spot along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Quick Facts:

Location: Pacific Crest Trail near Stevens Pass

Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Roundtrip: 6.5 miles

Elevation gain: 1,550 feet

Green Trails Map: Benchmark MT- No. 144

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

Notes: Self-issued free wilderness permit available at trailhead. Wilderness regulations apply. No fires allowed near lake.

Access: From Everett head east on US 2 to Stevens Pass. Continue east for another 4.0 miles. Just after the highway divides turns left (exercising caution crossing westbound lanes) onto Smith Brook Road (FR 6700). Continue for 2.8 miles to large parking area on your left.

Good to Know: old-growth; Henry M. Jackson Wilderness area; dog-friendly; kid-friendly; backpacking opportunities

 

Lake Janus is a warm and inviting body of water tucked in a verdant basin along the Cascade Crest in the extreme southeastern corner of Snohomish County. Protected within the magnificent Henry M. Jackson Wilderness, Janus beckons its fair share of anglers and beginning backpackers, berry pickers and lovers of old-growth forests, and folks of all walks of life looking for a splendid hike along the famous Pacific Crest Trail.

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Even on a rainy fall day, the hike to Lake Janus offers some pleasant scenery.

Named by legendary forester A H Sylvester of Wenatchee, Janus was one of the more than 1,000 lakes, mountains and other natural features in the Central Cascades he bestowed names upon. In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates and doors and Lake Janus can certainly be looked upon as an eastern gateway to Snohomish County. A gateway however, that can only be entered via foot.

Start in Chelan County by following the well-groomed and pure delight-to-hike Smith Brook Trail. After climbing a 1,000 feet in 1.0 mile you’ll come to a junction in 4,700-foot Union Gap with the long distance Pacific Crest Trail. Left on the Pacific Crest towards Mexico will lead you to Lake Valhalla, one of the most popular alpine lakes in the Jackson Wilderness. Head right instead towards Canada and Lake Janus. Avoiding Union Peak’s steep boulder slopes the trail descends, losing 700 feet in about a mile.

Then skirt boggy meadows offering glimpses down the Rapid River Valley before climbing again. After traversing a brushy boulder field cross a small creek beneath a little cascade and emerge on a forested flat harboring patches of blueberries. Lake Janus lies just ahead.  A short spur trail will lead you right to its grassy and welcoming shores. Now enjoy. Children may take an interest in tadpole tallying while you set out to soak your tootsies in Janus’s warm shallow waters. Cast a lure into the emerald meadows of Jove Peak reflecting on the placid lake surface or just stare out at Jove from a comfy peaceful lakeside resting spot.

For information on lodging and other attractions near Lake Janus visit www.snohomish.org

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For more information on this hike and many others in the Stevens Pass area and Snohomish County, consult my Day Hiking Central Cascades book.

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!