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Blue Lake

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An uninspiring name for a pretty tarn tucked beneath the impressive Early Winters Spires. Short and sweet, this trail will leave you sitting by Blue's shimmering waters in no time. From a shoreline resting post marvel at the surrounding soaring walls of granite. Listen for clambering climbers scaling them. Despite the occasional clanking of carabiners, Blue Lake is a peaceful place above the busy state highway.

Start in dense timber, taking off east parallel to SR 20 before making a big switchback and leaving highway noise behind. Gradually ascending on well-beaten tread, take a break after 1 mile in a small clearing compliments of past avalanches. The views are good, but they get better-so carry on.

Return to forest and in 0.5 mile or so enter another clearing. In early summer a mosaic of blossoming flowers spreads out before you. Cast your eyes upward to Liberty Bell Mountain, proudly ringing above. Note a rough trail leading left-the climbers path for those towing the line to toll the bell.

The climb now eases, and after another 0.5 mile reaches Blue's outlet creek requiring a hop, skip, or jump. Enjoy nice views north to the cloud-piercing peaks Whistler and Cutthroat, familiar landmarks along the North Cascades Highway. Now enter the basin bounding Blue Lake. Snoop around a dilapidating old cabin. Then settle on a sunny shoreline spot and soak up the scenery of the spectacular Spires.

Driving Directions:

From Marblemount follow the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) east for 51 miles to Rainy Pass. Continue east for 3 more miles to the trailhead located on your right, between mileposts 161 and 162. Privy available.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 92 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Blue Lake — Oct 26, 2013 — KenWP
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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The larches are still beautiful, but fading. The upper third of the trail is crusty snow and ice, so...
The larches are still beautiful, but fading. The upper third of the trail is crusty snow and ice, so poles and/or Microspikes are highly recommended.

The lake is almost completely frozen over.

Be careful driving SR 20; especially before noon. There are long patches of black ice west of the trailhead as you wind your way through the valley and up. We saw a jack-knifed trailer home and two SUVs that left the highway and rolled over.

This is a great hike for families, dogs, and anyone looking to get some sun and exercise and play in the snow.
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Blue Lake — Oct 24, 2013 — btelsey
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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WOW! Got to see "larches" for the first time in my life. I just moved to this area and this was my f...
WOW! Got to see "larches" for the first time in my life. I just moved to this area and this was my first exposure to these colorful evergreens. I will admit, that while this hike was very easy and VERY beautiful (not a bad combo), i was at the same time amazed and disapointed by the larches. I think fall foliage (green/red/orange/brown/etc) is prettier than the yellow/green/white of the larch march. However, i'm not really complaining...this hike was stunning and my first in the northern casacades. I just wanted to "put that thought out there", in case other new people to the area read all the "larch" posts on the wta website and developed really huge expectations for the larches. I think the true beauty of this hike is the mnt and trees and general landscape (more so than the larches themselves), this is good news though, as you can enjoy this hike the other 11 months of the year when the larches arent "doing there thing".

there was snow on the trail, and i brought snowshoes (silly!), as it was very minimal amnt of snow and snowshoes would have been rediculous to wear
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Blue Lake — Oct 24, 2013 — Bob and Barb
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Snow on trail
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We were the first car at the TH. The trail was snow free until we neared the climber's trail. The sn...
We were the first car at the TH. The trail was snow free until we neared the climber's trail. The snow was hard packed and icy in places, so we put on our micro spikes which made for easier travel. After lunch at the lake, we hiked above Blue Lake to 2 frozen ponds and a view to the North. There was a hard packed trail in the snow which was easily traveled. We saw only 10 other hikers and 2 climbers. The larch were beautiful, but will soon be losing their needles.
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Blue Lake — Oct 20, 2013 — smallhands
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage | Ripe berries
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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It was a beautiful blue sky day. Between the golden larches, fresh snow and a still frozen lake - it...
It was a beautiful blue sky day. Between the golden larches, fresh snow and a still frozen lake - it could not get much better. Easy enough hike to a great dramatic view.

There's plenty of snow on the trail and it can get pretty treacherous while coming back downhill. Make sure you wear good hiking boots and carry poles.
When we went, the privy was still not open due to federal shutdown even though the shutdown had ended.

Much to our joy, there were also birds chirping all the way :)
Go soon and enjoy the rare beauty of high mountains in fall.
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Blue Lake — Oct 20, 2013 — SanGaek
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Snow on trail
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I saw both Blue Lake and Cutthroat Lake listed in WTA’s larch hike suggestions. Well, since they a...
I saw both Blue Lake and Cutthroat Lake listed in WTA’s larch hike suggestions. Well, since they are practically right next to each other and they are both short hikes, I figured doing those two hikes would make an excellent day. I might as well make the best out of the long drive I’d have to do.

It was great. The Blue lake trail is snow free except for the last half mile. Well packed snow was a bit icy and slippery, however, so spikes are helpful, but not necessary. Quite a few people at the lake (with it being the hike of week and all).

Larches, snow, and Blue lake made a really pretty picture. I highly recommend going up a knoll on the west side. Up there the view of Liberty Bell and Early Winders Spires was marvelous.

Now to Cutthroat Lake.
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Blue Lake.jpg
Blue Lake. Photo by Inge Johnsson.
Location
Blue Lake (#314)
North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway
Methow Valley Ranger District (509) 966-4000
Statistics
Roundtrip 4.4 miles
Elevation Gain 1050 ft
Highest Point 6250 ft
Features
Lakes
Fall foliage
Mountain views
User info
Good for kids
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Washington Pass No. 50

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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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