While the infamous slopes of Snoqualmie’s Alpental ski resort lay abandoned during the “sunny” spring and summer months, the forested folds of the surrounding mountains boast glistening alpine lakes that offer hikers a little summer indulgence. Snow Lake is a popular summer retreat for hikers and backpackers, but you can avoid the fair-weather crowds by hiking the trail in the spring.

©Melissa Farage

From the parking lot head upward along the forest service road, taking a right onto the Snow Lake Trail. The path greets hikers with a steady climb and a set of well-maintained stairs that lead deeper into the dark, claustrophobic forest. The trail eventually evens out as the trees begin to thin, offering hikers brief glimpses of the motionless Alpental ski lifts. The trail passes in and out of the forest, punctuated frequently by large avalanche cutes and sparsely-vegetated outcroppings.

©Melissa Farage

After teasing hikers with the constant exchange between clearings and thickets of knotted forest, the trail spills out into the open, climbing upward along a mountainside adorned with boulders. The low underbrush offers uninterrupted glimpses of the surrounding stony mountainsides, speckled with the colorful hues of native spring flowers. The silence of the open air is accompanied only by the trickling of small streams that run across the trail. After roughly 2.5 miles the trail reaches a junction beside a rocky cliff. Continue on the right fork to reach Snow Lake (the left fork leads to Source Lake). As the rocky trail climbs in altitude its grade steepens, switch-backing several times across the mountain’s face. After a series of stone stairs the trail turns inward to cross the saddle between Chair Peak and Snoqualmie Mountain and plunge into a forested basin.

©Melisssa Farage

As the trail switchbacks down into the basin, gaps between the fir branches allow small glimpses of a lake rimmed with forested peaks. The path descends into the valley, leveling out along a swampy plateau and eventually a meadow. Follow the main trail to the left to reach the cobble-stone remains of an old house and an uninterrupted view of the mountain lake. Continue along the intricate network of trails to one of many different sunning rocks that border Snow Lake.

 

Length: 4 Miles one way

Variety: out and back

Elevation Gain: 1300 Feet

Difficulty: moderate

Season: Spring-Fall

Open to: hikers, dogs

Passes and Permits Required: yes

Facilities at Trailhead: privy

Map: Green Trails Snoqualmie Pass No. 207

 

Driving Directions: From I-90 east take exit 52 (Snoqualmie Pass West). Turn left to cut beneath the freeway and continue straight on the road, parking at the Alpental Ski Area parking lot.

©Melissa Farage

 

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