Location: Henry M Jackson Wilderness, Stevens Pass area
Land Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Roundtrip: 12.0 miles
Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
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.
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.
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)!
For information on where to stay and play and other great things to do in the Skykomish Valley, visit Seattle NorthCountry