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Black Lake

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Enjoy a gentle hike along a babbling creek to a pretty lake within the sprawling Pasayten Wilderness. Though Black Lake is named for its deep, dark waters, "black" also describes much of the surrounding forest. In 2003 a wildfire seared it, leaving charred stumps and blackened timber in its wake. This hike should be avoided on the hottest of days due to its lack of shade, but it's quite delightful in late spring when pioneering flowers paint the understory an array of vivid colors. Watch, too, nature regenerate herself as thousands of tenacious saplings restore the forest.

Trail No. 500 starts in a patch of pines and firs that escaped the great wildfire of 2003, but greenery soon succumbs to ghostly pallor. In 0.4 mile enter the Pasayten Wilderness and begin traversing a scorched landscape.

Aside from consuming the forest, the fire indirectly caused a series of landslides, because trees that had stabilized surrounding slopes went up in smoke. The devastation can be disheartening; it certainly was to me as I recalled the grand forest once standing here. But this is nature's way, and she knows what she is doing. A vibrant new forest is returning.

Fireweed is prolific along the trail; its purple reigns, ruling the understory. Quaking aspens stake new ground, while blueberry bushes abound on the acidic soils. And as the forest is under reconstruction, Lake Creek continues its flow, filling the valley with sweet serenades. Birds also add sweet sounds. Woodpeckers play percussion on silvery snags, while kingfishers hold notes high in overhanging branches. Thrushes, flycatchers, and nutcrackers hum along.

At 2.2 miles cross a lazy side creek. A half mile farther, skirt a large talus slope. A short climb follows, and the trail continues meandering through burnt groves of pine and fir laced with trickling side creeks. At 4 miles arrive at Black Lake.

A nice sandy beach greets you with fine views of the surrounding high ridges, patches of fire-spared forest adding emerald streaks. Large landslides have disturbed this peaceful body of water by adding extra sediment, further stressing local populations of endangered bull trout. Hopefully, as the forest recovers the trout will once again flourish.
Driving Directions:

Follow the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) east to Winthrop. Just before entering the town center, turn left onto West Chewuch River Road. In 6.75 miles reach the junction with the East Chewuch River Road (which comes from Winthrop) and continue north, now on Forest Road 51. Follow this paved road for 14.5 miles and turn left onto FR Spur 100 (signed "Lake Creek Trail 2"). Drive 2.5 miles to the road end at a corral and the trailhead (elev. 3200 ft). Privy available.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 14 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Black Lake — Sep 30, 2013 — Muledeer
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
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Clouded, rained, or snowed out of a grand vista hike, this is a great second choice. This area was p...
Clouded, rained, or snowed out of a grand vista hike, this is a great second choice. This area was part of the thirty mile fire that caused the death of a forest crew fighting it and the whole hike is thru burned forest. The forest is now rejuvenating itself and the new deciduous plants filling in the site are in full fall color. This would be a hot, dry, exposed hike in summer, but was perfect for this cloudy, cold day. The trail starts out following Lake Creek, then climbs, traverses the side of a ridge, and drops back down to the creek. There are a few blowdowns and creek crossings, easily managed. The lake is beautifully green now and the surrounding peaks had a skiff of snow on top. There is a marshy area at the end with some nice camp spots in the trees. This would be a good place for spotting wildlife in the evening. However, we saw nothing but a few deer and elk tracks, and one hawk. The few larches on the top of the peaks were just starting to turn. The road to the TH is fine. A few pics of the lake and creek below.
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Black Lake, Lake Creek — Jun 08, 2013 — cascadehiker
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Water on trail
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The road to the trailhead was clear, no blow downs. The views heading to the trailhead are spectacu...
The road to the trailhead was clear, no blow downs. The views heading to the trailhead are spectacular, lots of flowers blooming. It was a fairly warm day with a light breeze. The creek is running very full, there was a few places with some water on the trail, nothing that is too difficult to cross. A handful of down trees on the trail, pretty easy to cross, one was a little bit challenging when your legs are tired on the return trip. Lots of beautiful flowers, a very easy hike with only a few rolling sections. The lake is beautiful, with a blue sky it is pretty spectacular. Spent some time at the lake enjoying the view and resting, then continued on down the trail that follows the edge of the lake to the end. Very well maintained trail. This is a trail that is pretty miserable on a really hot day, something you want to do before the heat of summer. We saw some fresh moose tracks, two different sets and sizes. It would appear like we barely missed seeing one, lots of brushy vegation covering the valley floor. Great hike, fairly easy, with a beautiful lake at the end.
More photos at: http://www.flickr.com/[…]/
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Black Lake — May 26, 2013 — Page
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns
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We came back to this hike after first doing it in 2004. It was severely damaged then from the fire i...
We came back to this hike after first doing it in 2004. It was severely damaged then from the fire in 2003 and we remembered the landscape as black black and,more black. We picked our way across the ash by following orange tape that was placed there as the trail was remarked by the FS.
Today we saw the regrowth: green shrubby understory with lots of wild flowers: Indian paintbrush, yellow holly?, purple pentstemen , cinquefoil, columbine, to name a few. No fireweed.
Many downed trees require straddling, climbing and ducking. Some are charred so will leave blackened streaks on your clothes and hands. A few creek crossings that need better rocks and logs placed for short legs to make safe crossing.
We heard and saw yellow warblers, stellar jays and ravens. Saw a few deer print along the trail. An American dipper greeted us at the lake. No loons.
This could be an easy hike if not for the many downed trees. Still it was lovely to see nature at work on a cool dry day. Well there were a few sprinkles.
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Black Lake — May 25, 2013 — Jennifer
Overnight
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Water on trail
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The access road and trailhead were in excellent condition. The trail to the lake was in good conditi...
The access road and trailhead were in excellent condition. The trail to the lake was in good condition with the exception of an abundance of blowdowns (30+). Some of these blowdowns were challenging to navigate. In addition, there were a handful of creek crossings that were of moderate difficulty.

The wildflowers were lovely and the forest regrowth was a vibrant green. We saw many deer and fellow hikers had spotted a bear and a moose. A bear hang/canister is recommended for overnighters. There appeared to be lots of fish activity in the lake; however, fellow hikers with fishing poles reported little success.

We noted about 4 established camp spots around the lake and just beyond. Seeing that it was Memorial Day weekend, it was a full house.

The trail continued beyond the lake about 1/4 mile before it intersected a more substantial creek crossing. Part of the creek had diverted onto the trail and ran down the path for a couple hundred feet. It appeared that few hikers continue on past this point. We continued about 2 miles beyond the lake, navigating a trail that was being aggressively reclaimed by nature.
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Black Lake — May 25, 2009 — liaisonguy
Overnight
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I took my dog Yeti for a weekend backpacking trip to Black Lake in the Pasayten wilderness in Okano...
I took my dog Yeti for a weekend backpacking trip to Black Lake in the
Pasayten wilderness in Okanogan NF north of Winthrop. The forest
service has cleared the trail of blowdowns from the trailhead to the
lake. While camped at the lake, a ranger passed headed further up the
trail to count the blowdowns in preparation for the trail crew to return
soon. The trail could use some brushing, but is otherwise in very good
shape. It generally follows the course of the river from Black Lake,
but never crosses it. Numerous drainages do cross the trail, with most
easy to rock hop to keep boots dry. One shin deep drainage had a skinny
log to cross.

The Crystal creek trail is very popular and there are limited
established campsites at the lake, so I made sure to arrive early on
Saturday for the Memorial day weekend. We settled in a campsite beside
the northwest edge of the lake under a large fir tree that survived the
2003 fire. Late arrivals found few campsite choices, and a group with
goats tried to crash my campsite. My dog doesn't generally appreciate
stock animals, so they moved on to a campsite in the trees farther from
the lake. The bugs were very light even beside the lake. Bring sunscreen because there's limited shade between the two ends of the lake.

Over the long weekend, trail users included about 20 backpackers, 10 day
hikers, 8 dogs, 4 horses, 3 goats, and perhaps a partridge in a pear
tree. Most of the backpackers were fishing, but I only saw 4 fish
caught on Saturday and Sunday despite much effort by determined anglers.

Although I'm a novice fisherman, I reeled in a nice 12 rainbow trout and
shortly afterward another 8 inch rainbow. I intended to catch and
release after keeping the first for dinner, but the hook caught the
small trout too close to his eye to release, so I quite fishing before I
reeled in more than I could eat. Black Lake is selective gear only.
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Location
Black Lake (#500)
North Cascades -- East Slope
Okanogan National Forest - Methow Valley Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 8.0 miles
Elevation Gain 780 ft
Highest Point 3982 ft
Features
Lakes
Wildflowers/Meadows
Wildlife
Established campsites
User info
Good for kids
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Coleman Peak No. 20;

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Red MarkerBlack Lake
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