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Gem Lake

Gem Lake is nestled at the foot of Wright Mountain and is about two miles beyond the trail junction at Rock Creek trail #1013.1 that intersects with the Snow Lake trail starting at Alpental. Beautiful colors surround the lake in autumn as do the many climbable peaks in the area.

For more information, go to: http://www.fs.fed.us/[…]/snrd_1012.htm
Driving Directions:

Exit 52 off I90, drive to ski area parking at Alpental

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 123 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Snow Lake, Gem Lake, Wright Mountain — Oct 26, 2013 — fyodorova
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
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A quiet, peaceful trip to Snow Lake on a sunny weekend in this extended summer. Really! I broke ...
A quiet, peaceful trip to Snow Lake on a sunny weekend in this extended summer. Really!

I broke out of the fog just before Snoqualmie Pass and enjoyed perfect weather all day. I started hiking at 8:45 and only encountered 5 or 6 other parties all the way up to Wright Mountain. There are several very pretty tarns on the way from Snow to Gem, requiring a lot of photography stops that slowed progress. Gem Lake lives up to its name, I can't believe it took me 5 summers of hiking in Washington to get up there.

The climb to Wright Mountain is short and pretty straightforward. No problems with ice or frost like in the previous report. Just don't do what I did and go too far to the right (north) side after the talus slope, where there's a slippery snow field. Head left towards the trees instead. Views were expansive to Glacier and Baker, the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley, and across to the back of Melakwa Pass and Chair Peak Lake. The upper Wildcat Lake is visible too, and looks like a great backpacking destination.

There are some fall colors left, but probably not for much longer.

With the short days, the sun sank behind Chair Peak by the time I got back down to Snow Lake around 3:30.

If the weather forecast is correct, this could be the last high country hike of the year. A great one to end the season.

More photos at http://www.flickr.com/[…]/
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Gem Lake — Oct 21, 2013 — Muledeer
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
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If you're one of the half a dozen people in Puget Sound that have not done this hike, it's a good on...
If you're one of the half a dozen people in Puget Sound that have not done this hike, it's a good one to take a 'mental health day' for. The trail is in good shape not difficult, and scenic all the way. All the intersections are well signed. Snow Lake is a huge lake, once done with lunch, take the main trail (signed) up around the ridges to the Gem lake trail. There are more views of the end of the lake and surrounding peaks. There is only one area it took us a few minutes to figure out. We could see where we weren't supposed to go, not where we were,but we quickly saw a small cairn with a post and pink flagging tape. We got within about a half mile of Gem Lake and hit our turnaround time(darn 405 traffic). After wandering around tarns you will start heading away from Snow lake and will see a talus field. The trail crosses that, hits the ridge, then the lake, we were told by others. We made it to the base of the talus field. My first I 90 hike, great midweek, we saw only about 12 people total. I put in some pictures of the hike.
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Gem Lake, Wright Mountain, Snow Lake — Oct 19, 2013 — Suhleenah
Overnight
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Mudholes | Water on trail | Snow on trail
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We set off at the Snow Lake trailhead at 2pm on Saturday. 2 short hours of efficient hiking later we...
We set off at the Snow Lake trailhead at 2pm on Saturday. 2 short hours of efficient hiking later we reached Gem Lake. There is patchy snow once you reach Gem Lake. The designated campsites are all under snow. Two tents were precariously perched in the snow-free day use area across Gem (at the base of Wright) and the next morning we were dismayed to see evidence of a fresh fire as well- not allowed in the Alpine Lakes area. If you plan to sleep at Gem Lake, do come prepared for snow camping so you aren’t tempted to camp amongst the snow-free yet uncomfortable the roots across the lake in the day use area.
 
Our site was lovely with a beautiful view of Mt Roosevelt, Chair, Kaleetan, Hemlock and Snow Lake and near a lovely tarn that froze over that night. We set up lightly, with only a bug netting/tarp so we could have a full view (the forecast was for very clear conditions and we never needed to put the tarp over our campsite. We hoped to see the meteor shower, but the nearly full moon was too bright and I only saw a couple shooting stars close to daybreak.

After rising, we went to the top of Wright Mountain. You don’t see the snow on Wright from Gem Lake, but it is there. With our early start, the snow was crunchy, hard and sometimes slippery enough to skate on. There are enough previous steps in the snow to walk in them, but it can be a little tricky at times, especially over the talus fields. I think crampons would be unnecessary here, and if you used microspikes you would have to take them on/off to avoid damaging the delicate plants in the areas that are not under snow so that could get old fast. The top of Wright has a lovely view and lots of nice flat rocks to perch on. It looks like the Wildcat Lakes are snow –free based on our view from the summit. After spending a nice hour listening to the police radio scanner (great reception up there!) we carefully headed down the mountain, dismantled our camp and hiked out. We were home just after noon on Sunday.
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Snow Lake, Gem Lake — Oct 05, 2013 — gck
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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The Snow Lake trail has some of that snow that got dumped everywhere last weekend, but enough people...
The Snow Lake trail has some of that snow that got dumped everywhere last weekend, but enough people have hiked it so that it's not a problem to get as far as Gem Lake without any special gear or navigational skills. There's a lot of walking on snow, slush, and mud. There were many people using the trail, but as usual, the crowds drop up drastically after the first lake access point. Note that if you want to eat lunch at Gem, as of today, it's pretty much snow all around the lake, so bring something to sit on.
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Gem Lake, Snow Lake — Sep 10, 2013 — Janice Van Cleve
Day hike
Features: Ripe berries
Issues: Mudholes
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There are lots of blueberries along the trail from Snow Lake to Gem Lake but around Gem Lake the abu...
There are lots of blueberries along the trail from Snow Lake to Gem Lake but around Gem Lake the abundance is staggering. I initially wanted to climb Wright Mountain, but the blueberries did not permit it. I left some for the rest of you.

From the trailhead at Alpental to the Snow Lake spillway is in the best shape I have seen it. The water courses are well engineered, especially the new ford which permits most of the water to pass underneath the rocks but overflow can pass easily over. The brushing is very well done and the trail is clear to the spillway. Note that the crib stairs in the first 100 yards are badly deteriorated and many of the side rails are completely rotted. If not addressed in the next 2 years the beginning of this trail will be completely disintegrated.

Between Artists Point and the spillway are several notable mudholes that could easily be step stoned or paved for easy passage. There is also a puncheon whose siderail has fallen off.

This is a rocky trail all the way to Gem Lake, but it is in mostly good shape and has no blockages. It is 1.5 miles to the junction with Source Lake and the beginning of the switchbacks up to Snow Lake saddle. It is another 1.8 miles to the spillway with the log bridge. From here to Gem Lake is 2 miles and 800 ft gain. The route up to the summit of Wright Mountain is boot track and a scramble and there is still a major blowdown blocking the intial approach.

Beyond Gem Lake the trail to Lower Wildcat Lake is in reasonable shape to the point where it begins to switchback down. I did not go down because I would have had to come back up again and it was too hot to contemplate that. The 20 oz 3 shot Frappicino at New Dawn Espresso at exit 32 off I-90 was a satisfactory reward for today's hike.

Postscript: lots of people starting up the trail at 2:00 pm in the heat of the day and dogs were 50/50 on leash or off.

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Gem reflection2.JPG resize.jpg
Gem Lake in the Fall
WTA worked here!
2012
Location
Gem Lake (#1013), High Lakes (#1012)
Snoqualmie Pass -- Snoqualmie Pass
Statistics
Roundtrip 10.0 miles
Highest Point 4857 ft
Features
Lakes
Fall foliage
Mountain views
User info
Good for kids
Dogs allowed on leash
Northwest Forest Pass required

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Red MarkerGem Lake
47.4624586992 -121.611837385
  • BCRT 2012
(47.4625, -121.6118) Open in new window
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