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Ashland Lakes

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Surrounded by sphagnum bogs and primeval forest tucked in a quiet corner behind bustling Mount Pilchuck, the Ashland Lakes are the showpiece to the Washington State's Department of Natural Resources' 9600-acre Mount Pilchuck Natural Resource Conservation Area (NRCA). The placid lakes are an ideal destination for introducing children to the wonders of nature. Young hikers will especially delight in the numerous boardwalks traversing the saturated and stimulating landscape.

Begin your hike on an old logging road turned easy-to-walk hiking trail across bog and former ancient forest, now big stumps surrounded by dense new growth. In 0.5 mile cross a tannic creek on a sturdy bridge. After a slight climb, at 1.2 miles leave the old road for real trail, the old cut for real forest.

On boardwalks, puncheon, and circular cedar crosscuts, the trail traverses a forest floor full of running and stored water. The Mount Pilchuck NRCA is among the wettest regions in the Cascades, receiving between 100 and 180 inches of annual precipitation, including heavy snowfall. Consequently, the area supports an abundance of plants and ecological zones more common to nearby higher elevations. While the trail has been constructed well, take care on all planking. In rainy weather the boards can be slippery.

Work your way up a ledgy low ridge, pausing to admire a handful of humongous cedars among equally impressive big old hemlocks and silver firs. At 1.7 miles reach a signed junction. Take the trail on the left 0.1 mile to little Beaver Plant Lake (elev. 2840 ft) a sensitive wetland of sphagnum and peat bog. While appreciating this intricate ecosystem, contemplate what a Beaver Plant is (a factory that builds rodents or a tree that blossoms them?).

In 0.25 mile beyond the Beaver Plant spur, crest a 3000-foot divide and reach another junction. Left heads to the hinterlands of Bald Mountain. Head right instead for a gentle 0.25 mile to Upper Ashland Lake (elev. 2846 ft) and yet another junction. The trail left loops around the lake, meeting the main path at the outlet. It tends to be brushy, so stay right on nice boardwalks that offer great shoreline viewing. A couple of tent platforms along the way make sunny napping and lunch spots.

From where the lake loop rejoins it, the main trail continues to the right to Lower Ashland Lake, losing 200 feet of elevation in 0.25 mile. Less-visited than the upper lake, the lower cousin sits in a more rugged setting, flanked by cliffs and talus along its southern shores. Be sure to check out the elaborate bridge at the lake's outlet before heading back.
Driving Directions:

From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 11 miles to the Verlot Public Service Center. Proceed 4.6 more miles, turning right onto Forest Road 4020 signed for Boardman Lake, Ashland Lakes, and Bear/Pinnacle lakes. Follow this gravel road for 2.7 miles to a junction. Bear right onto FR 4021 and continue 1.4 miles to another junction. Turn left onto FR Spur 016, reaching the Ashland Lakes trailhead in 0.2 mile (elev. 2550 ft).

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 70 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Ashland Lakes — Feb 09, 2014 — mikeyaussie
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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What an amazing day, started out a little late at the trail head around 11am. the short road from rd...
What an amazing day, started out a little late at the trail head around 11am. the short road from rd 4021 was pretty tricky even for my truck to get up.

I have never done a snow hike before and had a blast. Everything is so quiet except for the occasional noise of snow falling off a tree. I spent most of the time on the way out there trying to figure out what the tracks in the snow came from. We decided to stop for a bite to eat at the upper lake and what a perfect time it was. It had snowed very lightly the entire time up there. I found the trail down to the lower lake really fun in the snow.

The trickiest part was not sliding off the boards that have been put down for you to walk on. 12"+ snow on boards makes it difficult to walk on.

Good boots, gaiters and poles are a must. I had microspikes but didn't need to pull them out.
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Ashland Lakes, Bald Mountain — Oct 20, 2013 — Sbutton
Day hike
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Day hike to Ashland Lake went by too fast, so on the way back turned up the Bald Mountain trail. ...
Day hike to Ashland Lake went by too fast, so on the way back turned up the Bald Mountain trail.

The Bald Mountain trail from Ashland Lakes trail is barely more than a game trail in spots. The latter part of the hike has a few yellow flags to keep you on track.

Views from the top are mostly obscured by the trees. We did bushwack to the top of a nearby peak for lunch and a few photos of Three Fingers and the lookout.

No snow on the trail.

It is a really nice journey, but the destination does not offer up much for views.

I turned around before the trail ended, and the GPS track on the route back to the Ashland Lakes parking read 4.07 miles, covered in 1.5 hrs.
Min Altitude: 2,423 ft.
Max Altitude: 4,158 ft.
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Cutthroat Lakes, Bald Mountain, Ashland Lakes — Oct 19, 2013 — tashiwangdu
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Mud/Rockslide | Washouts
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Our plan was to hike to Cutthroat Lakes, Bald Mountain and then traverse across the ridge to Ashland...
Our plan was to hike to Cutthroat Lakes, Bald Mountain and then traverse across the ridge to Ashland lake. The Green trails map show the trail and say it is 12.7 miles. Our first clue that this might turn into an adventure was the FS Ranger at Verlot. She said the trail from Bald Mt to Ashland lakes had not been maintained for at least 25 years. She also said she had not talked to anyone who had done it in the last 5 years. The challenge was on. Getting to Bald Mountain was a piece of cake. The trail from there to Ashland Lakes is even signed albeit the sign is laying on the ground. The start of the Ashland Lake trail is easy to find, just below the summit of Bald Mt. The first 100 yards were easy but then the brush took over, covering the trail making it really hard to find the trail, see the ground and to keep from tripping on the brush and rocks. After about 1 mile we got into the woods where the trail was fairly easy to follow as long as you can spot the switchbacks. I had the trail on my GPS so when we lost it, we could find the trail again after crashing through the brush. Part of the trail is marked with yellow diamonds on the trees.

It was very slow going with all the blowdowns, brush, and hunting for the trail. About 3 miles from Ashland Lakes, it got dark so we had to resort to our headlamps which made navigating even more fun. The brush became sopping wet with heavy dew making everything extremely slick. About 1 mile from Ashland Lakes, the trail dropped straight down what looked like a dry creek bed, evidently where runoff has washed everything but the rocks away.

Seven hours after leaving Bald Mountain we got to Ashland Lakes. I now see why this one is not hiked very often! I would not recommend it unless you want an adventure in bushwhacking and trail finding.
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Ashland Lakes — Jul 18, 2013 — Marie
Day hike
Issues: Bugs
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Ashland lake trail is a good hike for kids and dogs. It's not real steep and the array of board wal...
Ashland lake trail is a good hike for kids and dogs. It's not real steep and the array of board walks are neat. A short spur trail takes you to little Beaver Plant lake before you reach Upper Ashland lake. Continue on and you descend slightly to reach lower Ashland lake. Hats off to the trail crew I met. They had done some fantastic work on new puncheon, reinforcing board walks and building water bars.
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Ashland Lakes — Jul 01, 2013 — tatter59
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail
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Looking for a hike in the shade to get out of 80 degree plus in Seattle, and this hike delivers. Sno...
Looking for a hike in the shade to get out of 80 degree plus in Seattle, and this hike delivers. Snow is mostly gone, and the road to the trail head is in great shape. The walkways, especially cedar cross cuts ARE SLIPPERY (like a previous post, I have the bruises to prove it!). There are bugs, but not a problem when moving.
I mis-read the description and looked for a trail around the second lake. There is no trail. After the fancy log bridge crossing at the lake outlet, it seemed something should be there, but don't try it. My dog refused to turn back with me, and had to almost carry him back, he didn't like bouldering or whacking through the brush.
On the way back saw a group of teens enjoying a swim in the first lake. Plenty of camping spots, but the ground is still pretty wet.
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photo2_large.jpeg
Upper Ashland Lake. Photo by Mike.
Location
North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
Statistics
Roundtrip 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain 800 ft
Highest Point 3000 ft
User info
Discover Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Silverton No. 110

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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