Venture into the wilderness North of Snoqualmie Pass by setting your sights on a remote paradise in the Cascades, Joe Lake. This untamed trail will satisfy a hiker or backpacker’s need for adventure by offering bushwhacking, scrambling and creek crossings. Adventurers are frequently rewarded for their hard work, as the trail frequently stumbles past stunning waterfalls and offers spectacular views of mountain peaks. Joe Lake is a great choice for an overnight backpacking trip during the summer months. Because it is hinged onto the end of Gold Creek Trail by two miles of an unmaintained trail, the lake and trail are often vacant during peak hiking times.

©Melissa Farage

Set off from the Gold Creek trailhead at the Gold Creek Pond parking lot, and follow the trail for five miles. Although hikers must bear the mundane gravel road at the beginning to reach the Gold Creek trail itself, soon the trail plunges into an old growth wilderness that follows the creek through a valley. Roughly 4.3 miles into the Gold Creek trail, hikers must ford the creek. Cross with care but don’t be squeamish: you will frequently be crossing creeks for the rest of the trip. Follow the trail as it winds higher up the valley, crossing several creeks and plunging across wooded plateaus. Roughly 5.3 miles from Gold Creek trailhead, the trail ends, marked by a sign that points to Alaska Lake and Joe Lake.


©Melissa Farage
©Melissa Farage

The sign mentions that the trail to Joe Lake is unmaintained, and it really isn’t lying. Look for the thin trail branching off to the left of the sign, marked by a cairn. Follow the trail as it plunges into an alpine meadow overgrown with huckleberry, alder and maple. Pay very close attention to where the trail is beneath your boots, as it can be difficult to see beneath the brush (and very easy to lose). The trail is marked every so often with a fluorescent pink or orange ribbon, and crosses several small streams before plunging into the forest again. Here the path is easier to track, but always make sure to keep your bearings as you follow the faint trail. The unmaintained trail greets hikers with several creek crossings and views of spectacular waterfalls. After crossing the Joe Lake outlet stream, the trail climbs straight up the mountainside towards the cliffs surrounding the lake. Follow the fluorescent ribbons and cairns up the ridge as the trail weaves along a brief plateau and climbs upward again, offering generous views of the Four Brothers, Mount Rainier and the Joe Lake waterfall. The trail finally breaks over the ridge to offer a view of Little Joe Lake. Follow the trail to cross the outlet stream once more to reach the numerous campsites that border Joe Lake.

©Melissa Farage

Difficulty: moderate

Variety: out and back

Distance: 7.2 miles each way

Applicable Maps: Green Trails: #207 Snoqualmie Pass, #207S Snoqualmie Pass
USGS: Chikamin Creek

Open To: Hikers, dogs

Passes and Permits: NW Forest Pass

Facilities at Trailhead: privy

© Melissa Farage

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