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Heather Lake

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Don't expect to find much heather growing along the shores of this pretty little subalpine lake. That ubiquitous mountain shrub is pretty hard to find on this hike. But what you can expect to see along the way are some mighty fine old cedars. Expect, too, to be serenaded by babbling brooks, wooed by fine views of Mount Pilchuck's craggy, rocky north face, and charmed by Heather's placid waters. Don't plan on being alone here, however; this easy trail is one of the premier stomping grounds off of the Mountain Loop Highway. On a sunny summer weekend, you'll likely encounter the entire spectrum of the hiking world, from old-timers to neophytes and everyone in between.

Heather Lake Trail No. 701 takes off into a crowded forest of second-growth fir. Colossal cedar stumps punctuate the forest floor, testaments of the impressive ancient forest that graced these slopes not too long ago. On rocky but good tread, the trail winds its way through the dark woods. A few frothing streams help break the bleakness.

After a short burst of climbing, the trail merges onto an old woods road. The grade eases to round a ridge. Soon, however, it's once again up you go. The trail then enters a cool ravine-Heather Creek tumbles below, giant old-growth cedars tower above, and bountiful boughs of ferns grace the forest floor. Your new dynamic surroundings are quite a contrast to the woods you first entered.

Cross a few more creeklets and traverse a few openings in the primeval forest. After about 1.75 miles, climbing ceases and, on a slight descent through another impressive grove of ancient giants, the trail approaches Heather Lake. At 2 miles you'll find the tranquil backcountry lake tucked in a semi-open cirque beneath Mount Pilchuck. A loop of 0.6 mile circumnavigates it. Follow it to experience the many facets of this little lake, from its jumbled boulder fields to its marshy meadows. Notice, too, the presence of yellow cedar and mountain hemlock, trees usually more associated with higher climes.

Consider a visit in midfall, when tangles of vine maple add a crimson touch. Winter is also a delightful time to visit, but stay away from the lake's southern shores, where avalanches careen down from Pilchuck's steep upper reaches.
Driving Directions:

From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east. One mile beyond the Verlot Public Service Center, turn right onto graveled Forest Road 42 immediately after crossing the "Blue Bridge." Drive 1.3 miles to the trailhead (elev. 1400 ft). Privy available.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 323 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Heather Lake — Apr 13, 2014 — WAPilot
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Trail was in decent condition. A couple, easy to climb over, small trees on the path, and it was a ...
Trail was in decent condition. A couple, easy to climb over, small trees on the path, and it was a bit soggy from all of the snow melt, but all-in-all a good hike. Decent snow towards the summit and in the lake bowl still. Approximately 2 easy hours in 1.25 out.
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Heather Lake — Apr 12, 2014 — thealexdexter
Day hike
Issues: Mudholes | Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Some snow at top. Lake was about 90% frozen. Had lunch on the left loop of the trail at the lake. ...
Some snow at top. Lake was about 90% frozen. Had lunch on the left loop of the trail at the lake. May have left my crampons wrapped in a towel, placed inside in a plastic brown fred meyer grocery bag. Would really like them back as they are brand new. $20 reward send me an email at alex dot dexter at Comcast dot net.
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Heather Lake — Apr 09, 2014 — BigButtDon
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Clogged drainage | Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Geezer Patrol was minus one due to a severe back injury encountered during a ping-pong match at the ...
Geezer Patrol was minus one due to a severe back injury encountered during a ping-pong match at the senior center. Hoping for a stellar day, we were first at the trailhead and all alone on the trail till the last 1/2 mile on the return.
The trail is very rocky, heavily rooted and partially underwater in many spots as the runoff controls are in very sorry shape. Most of the culverts were plugged or even too short in length. They need a WTA work party big time. Unlike the trailhead signage, the route to the lake is a good 2.6 miles and about 1100' of elevation gain - a reasonable workout.
The last 500 yards to the lake is packed snow that is soft enough for some postholing. The boardwalk at the lake outlet is still mostly covered with snow and the lake itself is only 1/4 exposed from ice and snow.
Lunch at the lake sitting on the boardwalk was still pretty fine even though we got drizzled on by the "mostly sunny" weather report. It's gonna be awhile before all this melts out.
We really enjoyed the monster cedar stumps in the early part of the trail, kind of wishing we could have seen one of these babies before the saw got them. Ah well, think of all the fine Lindal Cedar Homes that got built!
Go now before the bugs arrive in force. "Sweetmeat" in our party managed to attract one at the trailhead in 40F weather.
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Heather Lake — Apr 01, 2014 — skoodan
Day hike
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Got to the trailhead at noon and about 4 cars in the lot. Not bad for how nice it was today! First t...
Got to the trailhead at noon and about 4 cars in the lot. Not bad for how nice it was today! First time for me on this one and I will definitively will be going back again soon. Easy drive there and the trail was in great condition. A little snow towards the end and at the lake but its very well packed. I saw just a couple mosquitoes which is a reminder to get up here soon before they take over!
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Heather Lake — Mar 31, 2014 — Hx
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Nice four hour trip up and back to Heather Lake. Encountered a bit of snow pack up in the bowl, and ...
Nice four hour trip up and back to Heather Lake. Encountered a bit of snow pack up in the bowl, and the lake was still pretty well frozen over. I walked around the lake, but don't recommend it without good waterproof boots and poles. The little wooden bridges had 4ft mountains of snow on top of them, with drop off to cold water on either side. The south side of the lake, beneath Pilchuck, was soft snow and I sank in 6-12in every couple steps. But it sure was nice to enjoy the area in tranquility!
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Heather.jpg
Photo taken by @ziptiecloud on Instagram
WTA worked here!
2011
Location
Heather Lake (#701)
North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Darrington District
Statistics
Roundtrip 4.6 miles
Elevation Gain 1100 ft
Highest Point 2500 ft
Features
Lakes
Waterfalls
Old growth
Mountain views
User info
Good for kids
Dogs allowed on leash
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Best Hikes for Kids, Western Washington and the Cascades
Take A Hike Seattle
Hiking Snohomish County
Green Trails Granite Falls No. 109

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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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Red MarkerHeather Lake
48.0828833333 -121.774033333
  • Trail Work 2011
(48.0829, -121.7740) Open in new window
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