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Blanca Lake

The trail starts in cool second growth forest, but the trees are quite sizable. In the fall, the squirrels roughhouse in the trees high above your head. Occasionally they drop gigantic pinecones from high above, and while the resulting crash is startling, it is fun to watch.

The trail is in excellent shape, and gets right down to business, starting off venturing through a close forest with very little understory, but lots of moss. As you climb, you move swiftly from one steep but well-designed switchback to another, and yet another, gaining a little under 3,000 feet in a little under 3 miles.

While this can be draining, rewards await you at the top. Huckleberry bushes line the trail, and tired hikers can stop and munch on the sweet treats their their heart's content. After three miles, the trail reaches a ridgeline with a set of switchbacks heading up a rocky face. If you look to the east, some stellar views of the mountains can be seen, and on a clear day Glacier Peak graces hikers with an up-close and personal view.

Once you've conquered the ridgeline, most of your climbing is over. The trail continues much more gently through sub-alpine flower meadows that glow with lupine when in season. Eventually, the trail drops to pretty but stagnant Virgin Lake. There is no inlet or outlet, so the water is entirely snowmelt and rainwater, and by late fall the water is more like a bog. Often, this is a breeding ground for frogs and salamanders, so keep your eyes peeled for plenty of amphibian friends.

WTA trail crews have had backcountry response teams (BCRTs) working to improve this section of trail for three summers, but use caution in wet weather as small sections can still be muddy, rocky, rooty, and steep, dropping 600 feet in 0.6 miles.

If you can tear your eyes away from the trail, the view will take your breath away. Across the valley is the foot of Columbia Peak, and ss you round the last point, beautiful Blanca Lake opens up in all her glory. The lake is framed to the north by the peaks of Monte Cristo, Columbia, and Keyes. More than a few hikers have been known to gasp aloud when they round the corner and see the robin-egg blue waters.

Above the lake, the Columbia Glacier drains via a twin waterfall into the vibrantly blue colored water. It's the glacial till in the water that lends the lake its otherworldly color. At at the end of the trail lies a small beach full of driftwood, perfect for relaxing and enjoying the beauty that surrounds you.

Here pikas and marmots abound, watching like sentinels from large boulders fallen from the peaks high above.
Driving Directions:

**Access the trailhead via FR 65, not the Skykomish River Road, due to washouts west of Garland Mineral Spring.**

Take US Hwy 2 east from Monroe to just past the town of Skykomish. Turn left on to FR 65 and drive past the Beckler River Campground. Take FR 65 all the way to the intersection of FR 63 and the private Garland Mineral Springs Road. Take a right on FR 63 and proceed about 2 miles. The trailhead is on a small spur road to the left, up another small hill.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 239 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Blanca Lake — Apr 05, 2014 — neatureadmirer
Day hike
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Didn't make it up to the lake due to the snow that was on the road up. I have a 4x4 but my tires are...
Didn't make it up to the lake due to the snow that was on the road up. I have a 4x4 but my tires are really bad so we turned around before we got stuck! Hoping to try again when it gets warmer
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Blanca Lake — Jan 24, 2014 — Joethejet
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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Left Kirkland a little after 7am, reached trailhead at 9pm. Snow didnt show until about 5 miles in o...
Left Kirkland a little after 7am, reached trailhead at 9pm. Snow didnt show until about 5 miles in on Beckler river road. about a foot of snow at jack pass, there are tracks in the snow however 4x4 was helpful. Took about two hours to get to the top of the hill. Halfway up there was snow, and at the top there was about two feet. My friend and I were not wearing snowshoes, but they would have been helpful at this point. Sometimes I could walk on top of the frozen snow, but sometimes i sunk a foot deep. Beautiful views at the top. We decided not to venture down to the lake because the trail was becoming harder and harder to follow since there were no footprints except ours and elk. I know with my map and compass I could have got us there, however we decided it wasn't worth getting lost and an even longer trek back in the snow. My poncho opens up into about a 3x5 piece of tarp so we used that and had a picnic at the top before returning. I loved it, however my friend wasnt so happy with all the snow. wet boots but warm hearts
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Blanca Lake — Oct 12, 2013 — Maura
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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For a complete and detailed description of our day hiking to Blanca Lake and for many more pictures ...
For a complete and detailed description of our day hiking to Blanca Lake and for many more pictures check out our blog! http://bobbyandmaura.com/hikes/blanca-lake

AMAZING hike! It's tough but be sure to push through to the end because the gloriously beautiful blue/green waters of Blanca Lake are well worth all the effort!

We brought along MicroSpikes, snow baskets for trekking poles, and gaiters. We didn't really need any of these items. There is only spotty snow near the highpoint and it was never substantial or scary enough for us to stop and put on our MicroSpikes.

There is occasional water access for dogs, and of course, our dog loves to eat snow!

Privy at the trailhead is closed.
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Blanca Lake — Oct 12, 2013 — Monica
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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I had read in a prior trip report that there are 37 switchbacks leading up the mountain...I didn't c...
I had read in a prior trip report that there are 37 switchbacks leading up the mountain...I didn't count them, but certainly believe it! This hike takes you up dramatically in elevation. Once out of the switchbacks, we hit snow leading up the ridgeline. It certainly could have been done without, but we used our microspikes as it added that extra layer of stability. Once heading down from the ridge on the other side, Virgin lake was about the time snow cover diminished. It was only 6-8 inches, and easy to follow prior tracks. The 600 feet down to Blanca goes fast as anticipation for the lake builds, and it certainly does not disappoint! That 600 feet of elevation on the way out doesn't feel all that great though:(
All in all, a beautiful hike. Not a lot of fall colors, but green ferns and many varieties of mushrooms along the way. Highly recommended hike!
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Blanca Lake — Oct 05, 2013 — Niko Niko
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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This was a beautiful hike! I highly recommend it for those that aren't afraid of the 37 switchbacks....
This was a beautiful hike! I highly recommend it for those that aren't afraid of the 37 switchbacks.

The road to the trailhead was fine - minor potholes and some washboarding, but nothing that a Subaru can't take at 40 mph. Jack Pass is marked fairly well, so it wasn't as confusing as we were expecting it to be.

We began our hike at about 8:30am and it took us about four hours to make it up to Blanca Lake. We encountered snow near the end of the switchbacks. There was maybe a foot. We followed a few other hikers, so we had less trouble finding the trail. It got confusing at one point because the trail crosses a flat field-like area. There were some pink ribbons up, so hopefully those will be there for a while :)

I'd recommend bringing some poles for balance as you're hiking on the snow, especially at some points on the top of the ridge. We were fine without them, but it would've made me feel steadier.

The path down to Blanca lake (after passing Virgin Lake) was steep in places and there was a bit of water, mud, and slush from melting snow on the trail. No big problems, but be aware that your shoes may get muddy.

Blanca itself was beautiful!! We had lunch up there and it was stunning. Look out at the mountains to see waterfalls. If you plan on crossing to the other side of the shore to explore, be aware that the water is very cold and moves swiftly near the creek. I don't recommend balancing on the logs...

The hike back down was probably the hardest part for us, since we were already sore from going up. Our knees were paying the price on the way down. Another trip report commented on the hikers that they saw in shorts and sport sneakers - I second the "yikes" at that. If you're planning on heading up into the snow, make sure that you have something to keep your feet and legs dry at the least. My boots were supposed to be waterproof, but apparently crossing snow, mud, and slush for as long as I did proved them wrong :)

Again, I highly recommend this hike!
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Blanca Lake by Opus.jpg
Blanca Lake. Photo by Opus.
WTA worked here!
2011, 2012, 2013
Location
Blanca Lake (#1052)
Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
Statistics
Roundtrip 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain 3300 ft
Highest Point 4600 ft
Features
Lakes
Waterfalls
Old growth
Mountain views
Summits
Established campsites
User info
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
55 Hikes Around Stevens Pass (McGuire & Spring - Mountaineers Books)
Day Hiking: Central Cascades - (Craig Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Monte Cristo No. 143

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Map it
Red MarkerBlanca Lake
47.9153666667 -121.312366667
  • BCRT 2011
  • BCRT 2010
  • BCRT 2013
  • BCRT 2012
  • Trail Work 2013 Frontcountry
(47.9154, -121.3124) Open in new window
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