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Deer Creek Road - Kelcema Lake Snowshoe

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Explore a pretty forest valley and deep lake basin in snowmobile-free splendor since this route is maintained for nonmotorized winter recreation only. The trail is frequented by cross-country skiers, but if snowshoers just think of skiers as fellow snowshoers who prefer long, skinny snowshoes, there is no problem sharing the trail. After all, there is plenty of wonderful country and splendid scenery here for everyone to enjoy. The route follows a small road that parallels Deer Creek on its way up the valley to the Kelcema Lake trailhead. The route climbs steadily, but at a gentle enough rate that snowshoers of all abilities will enjoy this outing. In addition to a gentle climb, the route offers beautiful old forests to explore, open clearcut meadows to play in, and high craggy ridges and peaks to admire.

Find the start of Deer Creek Road (FR 4052) near the eastern edge of the parking area and start snowshoeing up the road. The lower section is frequently crowded with families sliding on inner tubes and sleds. Be careful not to trudge across their line of descent as they are more often than not plummeting downhill, out of control. Also, as a matter of courtesy, while trekking up the road try to avoid stomping down the twin grooves carved by cross-country skis.

As the road climbs through the first, thick grove of second-growth forest, the views are limited to the roadway itself. After just a mile, the road slowly banks west, following the course of the creek, and you can catch a few glimpses north of the crown of Bald Mountain. Gradually, the views increase in quantity and quality. The narrow road continues to roll upstream, as the thick second-growth forest gives way first to small clearcuts and then to older, more mature forests. Near the 2.5-mile mark, stop for a breather and you will find the increasingly pretty views before you are nothing compared to the scenery at your back. Turn around and look down the valley to see a skyline punctuated by Big Four Mountain, and Sperry, Vesper, and Little Chief Peaks.

At 3.5 miles, the trail crosses Deer Creek--stay to the center of the bridge to avoid sloughing snow--and climbs out of the valley bottom. The road gains elevation steeply for the next mile as it sweeps west before switching back to climb toward the headwaters of the creek. At 4.5 miles, the road recrosses the creek and runs into the Kelcema Lake trailhead.

The road continues west for another 0.25 mile, and most cross-country skiers will follow it out. With wide snowshoes you have a decided advantage over skinny skis on forest trails, so turn left just after crossing the creek and climb the Kelcema Lake Trail. This narrow path weaves through old second-growth forest--with a few ancient giants left to inspire the younger trees--for 0.5 mile. The trail climbs gently along this stretch, and because the trail corridor is fairly wide, the route is easy to follow. The lake is met near the outlet stream, and some nice campsites are scattered along its shores as well as plenty of places to sit and enjoy a quiet lunch while soaking in the beauty of the region. Bald Mountain, to the south, towers over the lake basin, and Devils Peak is visible across the valley to the east.

Author’s Rating: More Difficult
Some previous snowshoe experience helpful. Some winter survival skills recommended (basic knowledge of avalanche evaluation, emergency shelter construction, etc.). Elevation gain is usually less than 1000 feet with a gradual slope.
Driving Directions:

To get there, from Granite Falls drive east on the Mountain Loop Highway about 12 miles past the Verlot Public Service Center to the end of the plowed road. Park in the cleared pullout area on the north side of the highway.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 29 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Deer Creek Road - Kelcema Lake Snowshoe — Mar 16, 2014 — N47W122
Snowshoe/XC Ski
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While there was only patchy snow at the trailhead (and almost zero snow along the Mountain Loop Hwy ...
While there was only patchy snow at the trailhead (and almost zero snow along the Mountain Loop Hwy on the drive there), we hit a definitive snow line about a quarter of the way to the lake. From there on out it was a true snowshoe trip. Snow quality improved as we neared the lake. At the lake there were several feet of snow.

While it rained on us early in the day, that turned to snow in the late morning. Our group of 8 Mountaineers all had a great time!
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Deer Creek Road - Kelcema Lake Snowshoe, Kelcema Lake — Feb 28, 2014 — will_hike_for_icecream
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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We started off the hike at about 9am and made it easily up 3.5 miles on the logging road to the firs...
We started off the hike at about 9am and made it easily up 3.5 miles on the logging road to the first creek crossing. At this point the trail was less stomped in and we had to break trail for the last mile in about knee-deep snow. But it was a very sunny day, with warm temperatures up into the 50s, so we had a great time enjoying the views and Vitamin D.
At about 2.5 hours from the car, we made it to the second creek crossing and started looking for the final half mile long trail to the lake. Unfortunately there's no sign for the Kelcema Lake Trailhead, and it didn't look like anyone had walked through there since the last snow fall, so we muddled along the creek in deep snow. We stopped short of the lake because the snow was too deep and we were too tired, but we enjoyed a great picnic near the logging road and creek. Overall it was a great day to be up in the mountains, even though we didn't make it to the lake. Hopefully more people are able to use the tracks that we set before it snows again. Backcountry skiing might also be a possibility on the logging road now, but it would be difficult in the deep snow in the last half mile to the lake.

One BIG word of WARNING though: our car was broken into in the parking lot, and a backpack with some books was stolen. This ruined our otherwise gorgeous day of snowshoeing, and we felt so dumb for leaving anything in the car!
So, obviously don't leave a single thing in your car and try to snowshoe on a day when there are a few more people there. It was great having the place to ourselves, but not great having to clean all the glass out of our car tonight. I was also pretty ticked off that they smashed the window with my WTA sticker on it! That was so rude, but trailhead break-ins will NOT keep me from hiking!!
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Kelcema Lake, Deer Creek Road - Kelcema Lake Snowshoe — Feb 01, 2014 — Eric Jain
Snowshoe/XC Ski
Issues: Snow on trail | Road to trailhead inaccessible
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Reached the turn-off to the Deer Creek Rd at 10am, and was able to drive up the road for more than a...
Reached the turn-off to the Deer Creek Rd at 10am, and was able to drive up the road for more than a mile before hitting snow. Might have been able to drive another mile or so with a car that has more clearance.

Snowshoed up the road to the summer trailhead, and followed the trail (more or less) to the lake.

Saw no one (and no tracks) on the way up, and just three parties on the way down.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/[…]/KelcemaLakeFebruary2014
Tracklog: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/439079719
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Deer Creek Road - Kelcema Lake Snowshoe — Apr 22, 2013 — leifer
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Mudholes | Washouts | Water on trail | Snow on trail | Road to trailhead inaccessible
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I started off the day attempting to head to Perry Creek which is about a mile past Deer Creek but th...
I started off the day attempting to head to Perry Creek which is about a mile past Deer Creek but the Mountain Loop Highway was closed at Deer Creek because they haven't plowed past that point. I chose to do Deer Creek instead not knowing anything about it but I figured it would be some exercise if nothing else. I parked in the lot directly off the Mountain Loop and started up the hill without snow shoes or gaiters. The road was only slightly tattered with snow and the road heading up was closed to traffic by a gate for the season. I was over an hour into the hike when I passed the first significant change on the hike which was crossing a creek that was flowing and after that point the snow became increasingly softer and I was post holing more frequently where within another 20 minutes past that it got to a point where you post hole with every step and I continued for 10 more minutes like that where at about 2 hours into the hike I decided I wouldn't push forward not knowing how much closer I was to any end of the trail or a lake or whatever, it appeared a bland snowy road hike was the best I'd get for the day. On my way down, I post holed every step for about 75% of the way creating a situation with my boots and chafing my ankles with the snow which was somewhat painful but bearable. My feet and toes were becoming numb due to the ice cold snow melting in my boots and I continued on so I wouldn't get frost bite. I finally reached the bottom in about an hour and a half and once I was in my car and the heat was turned on my ankles began to feel excruciating pain because the ice wasn't numbing them anymore. When I got home an hour later my ankles were bloody with scrapes from the snow. If you do this hike, bring gaiters and snowshoes or wait until mid summer.
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Deer Creek Road - Kelcema Lake Snowshoe — Apr 06, 2013 — TrailPeace
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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Because of the wet snow and constant drizzle, we did not have to share this peaceful stroll. The sno...
Because of the wet snow and constant drizzle, we did not have to share this peaceful stroll. The snow is now a lot like beach sand and a serious workout. We made at least the first four miles before marking our exhaustion. All stops along the way were identically scenic and quiet. The big melt has started, so this is an especially good time to go for raging creeks and a winter's worth of dog poop.
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kelcema lake norm.jpg
Kelcema Lake. Photo by Norm.
Location
Kelcema Lake (#718)
North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest - Darrington District
Statistics
Roundtrip 10.0 miles
Elevation Gain 1600 ft
Highest Point 3182 ft
Features
Lakes
Mountain views
Wildlife
User info
Guidebooks & Maps
Green Trails: Silverton No. 110

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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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