THE PLACE TO GO WHEN YOU CAN'T GO BACKPACKING

Author

Ashley Gossens

Ashley Gossens has 2 articles published.

Trip Report: Lake Ann

in Trails by
Hikers at Lake Ann

Follow a well-worn and rocky trail through forest, meadow and talus to a beautiful lake perched above a deep glacial valley. But the lake is not the biggest draw to this trail, that credit would go to the mighty Mt Shuksan and the lower Curtis Glacier in North Cascades National Park that will capture your attention and may even draw you in for a closer view. Make a weekend of it and enjoy all the adventure that this area has to offer.

7998650027_a612314a60_o
Views of Mount Baker abound on the rocky trail to Lake Ann.

The trail begins along the Mt Baker highway from the trailhead on the left just before Artist Point. There is limited parking at the trailhead, so arrive early. The four mile long trail immediately drops into an alpine forest before flattening in a boggy meadow. Cross Swift Creek here and admire the wildflowers. Mt Baker makes some sneaky appearances through the trees, but don’t worry, the lovely white stratovolcano will soon dominate your views.

7998651966_26c80b7f5a_o
Lake Ann is often ice bound into late summer and fall.

The trail begins to climb steadily through talus slopes sprinkled with wildflowers toward a saddle. This part of the trail can be dangerous in the early season when snow is present. Continue up until cresting at a saddle. Stop to catch your breath while taking in the views of Mt Shuksan which finally makes an appearance. The jagged peak, one of the most beautiful in the North Cascades, towers above the crackling ice of the Lower Curtis glacier.

7998651206_126836687b_o
Mt Shuksan looms above the fall color of the blueberry bushes.

You will have to tear your eyes away from Mt Shuksan to notice the humble lake nestled below. It’s edges appear to plunge into the valley below like an infinity pool. There are some campsites around the lake and up above a rocky slope. We set up camp right on some flat rocks on the far shore of the lake. The views from the tent door were spectacular and we had a front row view of the sunset’s alpenglow. Once and a while we heard the crack of the glacier and tumbling of ice and rocks.

7998648213_72df2cf8ff_o
Heading back to Lake Ann from the Lower Curtis Glacier.

After establishing camp, we decided to check out the Lower Curtis Glacier. We headed back toward the saddle and found the trail heading along the slopes toward Mt Shuksan. This rough climbers’ path is cut out of a steep slope and should only be traveled when there is no snow lingering. We didn’t get far before our fingers were blue from all the blueberries we were picking. We had our fill like gluttonous bears and then continued on our way.

7998647101_78aafe526a_o
Getting a closer look at the Lower Curtis Glacier.

The incredible size of the glacier begins to reveal itself as you get closer and closer. The edges of the dark crevasses become sharper with alternating thin stripes of ice blue and brown lining the inside of them. We chatted with some climbers making their way up the seemingly impossible-to-climb mountain and wished them luck. On our way back to the lake I thought about how lucky we were to get an up close view of this beautiful and sadly, shrinking, glacier.

7998648111_b0009a013b_o
The Lower Curtis glacier crumbling into the deep valley below.

The journey to Lake Ann is one filled with amazing scenery and views and the short trek to the glacier makes this hike even more spectacular. It’s the cherry (or should I say blueberry) on top of an already incredible hike and the perfect excuse to make this trip an overnight one. A visit in fall makes it even better with the promise of blazing foliage and delicious berries.

Tuck and Robin Lakes

in Trails by
IMGP3604

Robin Lakes, with gem-colored sparkling water and towering, white granite mountains, is often referred to as the “Little Enchantments.” Much like the Enchantments, you will have to work very hard to get to this little slice of heaven. But without the protective permit system of the Enchantments, you will likely also have to share it with many others. It’s 14 miles round trip to Robin Lakes with 3000 feet of elevation gain, and it makes a great overnight destination – or you could spend several days exploring all the lakes and wonders of the trail.

The way starts out from the popular Deception Pass trailhead and is nice and flat for about 3 miles as you walk through meadows with views of the iconic Cathedral Rock. Soon you will reach the expansive and tranquil Hyas Lake. This is a great option for families, as camping spots abound on this mile-long stretch of the trail along the lake.

IMGP3539
Hyas Lake

But don’t get too comfortable on the flat land. After passing Hyas Lake, the trail begins to climb to a junction at 4.5 miles. The trail to the left goes to Deception Pass; head right to begin the climb to Tuck Lake. For some reason Tuck and Robin Lakes, with all their beauty, were not found worthy of the Norse God status of the Enchantments. In fact, an official trail was never built to the lakes – supposedly to discourage visitors. Well, the secret has long been out, but the trail has little improved from its old fireman’s trail status. The way is obvious here, but it’s steep, rocky and rooty – the kind of trail where you need only lean back slightly toward the slopes to find a nice reclining position for a snack.

IMGP3541
Tuck Lake

Finally at 6 miles, you reach Tuck Lake with its charming rock island. You can camp here, but there are very limited spots and it’s often quite crowded. It makes a better lunch spot to refuel for the last push up to Robin Lakes. From here the way is a little less obvious with many social paths leading away from Tuck Lake. But generally, you head straight up and over the granite boulders. There were a few spots along this stretch where we had to help our dog up the big rocks.

IMGP3552
Tuck Lake below the way to Robin Lakes

This section of the hike is where you will begin to see the resemblance to the Enchantments. Tuck Lake glimmers below, and Mt. Daniel, with its impressive glacier, emerges as you climb seemingly impossible granite boulders. The cairns will show you the way to the top of the ridge if you can take your eyes off the views. When you crest the ridge, the lakes come into view in all their glory. Drop down into the basin for a closer look.

IMGP3563-Panorama
Robin Lakes

There are many places to camp in the flat basin along the lower lake. For more privacy, head up the arm between the two lakes or to the far side of the upper lake. To beat the crowds, go late in the season. We did this hike over Labor Day weekend and there were only a handful of parties at the lakes. However, always be prepared for any kind of weather conditions in this area, especially in late summer. We were surprised to find a few inches of snow on the ground around our tents in the morning.

IMGP3604
Snowy camp the next morning

If you are feeling adventurous, Trico and Granite Mountains, which make a lovely backdrop to the lakes, are also non-technical climbs. The lakes are also a great place to just relax and take in the beauty of this beloved area. You will likely even see some mountain goats. But please step lightly and be kind to this highly trafficked area. As the late Harvey Manning says in his guidebook, 100 Classic Hikes in Washington,” camp in this neighborhood of heaven only when essential to your soul, and not too often; don’t be a hog.”

Go to Top