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Joe Lake

This hike has a little bit of everything.

To reach Little Joe Lake, hike Gold Creek Trail with gradual ups and downs to the Alaska Lake turnoff at about 5 miles. The main trail goes left and uphill to Alaska Lake. Take the other way.

The Joe Lake trail starts here and goes straight ahead into the open meadows of slide alder and vine maple. This is where the work begins as the trail is no longer maintained past this point. Follow this rough trail around Alaska Mountain paying careful attention to where the main trail is (survey tape in trees marks the way). You will have to duck, crawl, and plow your way through this tangle of brush and the occasional downed log. Watch your step as there are lots of rocks in the trail that will twist an ankle. It's a pretty tedious trek through here so slow down and take your time.

After about two miles, you will encounter a beautiful waterfall on your left. Once you cross the water you'll be on the right side the waterfall and the trail is no nonsense at this point. It goes straight up. You will not need hiking poles and coming back down almost guarantees removal of your pack and sliding it down in front of you with a rope.

Once you have made it to the top, a plethora of campsites await you and if you are there in midsummer, squadrons of mosquitoes. Aside from the lake and meadows surrounding the lake, there are also several small ponds surrounding the lake.

-Side trip 1, at the Alaska Lake trail, there is an abandoned gold mine about 500' above the valley bottom. Look for it to the right of the Alaska Lake Trail. You can only see it from the bottom of the hill. Take a good look at where it is and then look for a faint trail that leads that direction off the Alaska Lake Trail. The mine has about 6" of water in it during the summer and can be explored without flashlights.

-Side trip 2, once at Joe Lake, the crest trail is a few hundred feet above the lake, the short route up is at the opposite end of the lake through the trees, but the no nonsense route up is right up the steep meadow or chute at the base of Huckleberry mountain. To the North of the lake on the PCT, there are numerous meadows and ponds to explore. Views are pretty good too.

Driving Directions:

I-90 east to exit 54, Hyak. Turn left, go under freeway and follow frontage road (Gold Creek) for 0.9 mile, turn left and go 0.5 mile to the Gold Creek Pond parking lot.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 13 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Joe Lake — Oct 10, 2013 — BriSyts
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Overgrown | Snow on trail
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My brother and I started our trail run from the Gold Creek trailhead at 8am. True to the hike descri...
My brother and I started our trail run from the Gold Creek trailhead at 8am. True to the hike description, the trail is fine all the way to the Alaska Lake cut off (but there are two creek crossings we had to make in bare feet on the way, water up to our knees at the highest).
The trail isn't really maintained beyond the Alaska Lake cut off, so it was slow going to little Joe Lake, and pretty steep at times. By the time we approached Little Joe Lake we were in 6-12 inches of snow. And at the plateau where Joe Lake is, there was about 18 inches of snow. We didn't have snow shoes so had to turn back at this point. We could see the Pacific Crest Trail up about 400 meters away--our hoped-for destination.
A day spent with your brother is always great--whether you reach your destination or not.
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Gold Creek-Alaska Lake, Joe Lake, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section J - Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass - East — Jul 04, 2013 — AlpineLakesSpeedPika
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Mud/Rockslide | Water on trail | Snow on trail | Bugs
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I parked my car at the parking lot for Gold Creek and began my run from there. The first part o...
     I parked my car at the parking lot for Gold Creek and began my run from there. The first part of the Gold Creek trail is on a dirt road but it ends pretty quickly and turns into very nice single track. The trail conditions were great.
     Around mile 4 there is the first major creek crossing. The water was about knee high and moving swiftly. If you don't like wet feet than this is your turnaround spot. I hopped in undeterred and while there current was a bit strong the creek bed was made up of large stones so stability was fine. After the crossing its another mile to the end of the Gold Creek Trail and a very pretty open field.
     At this point the "fun" begins. The trail to Joe Lake is extremely over grown but there are orange ribbons every so often to guide you (they can be hard to spot). I took my time getting through the next mile often completely engulfed in plant life. After the rough patch there is a tiny pond being fed by Alaska Mountain and from here on out you progress into forest and faint single track before reaching the start of the climb (met a fellow mountain runner Adam).
     The next half a mile climbs about 800' in a half mile and hands are needed. Near the top there is a nice waterfall on your left and then your pretty much there. There was snow surrounding both Little Joe and Joe Lake. I made my to the north side of Joe Lake where I then began my dirt/shrub scramble up the PCT.
     The PCT at this point was clear of snow and there was only one small blowdown for the first mile. Nearing Alaska mountain snow patches became intermittent and I realized no one had been here for some time. Soon the trail vanished into the large snowfields. I made my way up towards the summit of Alaska, scrambled to the summit (great views) and then pushed on seeing the trail ahead. This is where things get dangerous.
     Steep slabs of ice and snow completely blocked the trail and without traction my ice axe was useless here. I had to climb (class 4) about 20' up and then traverse over the ice before downclimbing to the trail again (very scary). Things were much better from here on out. There was the occasional patch of snow but with the axe it was fine.
     Kendall Katwalk was all clear and I met a nice couple. I knew I was good from here and while there were I think to more snow patches they were minimal and I made it from the Katwalk to the parking lot in about an hour.
     The worst part of the adventure was that I now had to run back to my car around 4 miles away at the Gold Creek Trailhead. I tried to thumb it but considering I looked like a disheveled hungry madman with an ice axe on my back I wasn't surprised I didn't get a lift.
Disclaimer: I am experienced and a tad overzealous on my runs/hikes. This was a dangerous outing and I would not have done it had I known how sketchy it would be. Wait a couple more weeks and this will make for a hard but great loop.
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Gold Creek-Alaska Lake, Joe Lake — Jul 04, 2013 — foolsuchazi
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Bridge out | Overgrown | Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Had a great time running and hiking out to Joe Lake from the Gold Creek trailhead. Enjoyed seeing t...
Had a great time running and hiking out to Joe Lake from the Gold Creek trailhead. Enjoyed seeing the work I previously did on a WTA work party at the huge avalanche area at Gold Creek.

The trip to Joe Lake is a real gem for the adventurous sort as the trail becomes a bushwack right after the junction for Alaska Lake (unsigned). Probably will get even more overgrown later this summer. Also there are several stream crossings where your feet are gonna get wet. The crossing of Gold Cr (before the trail junction) got the shorts wet. Also there is a steep bit for the final mile or so to the lake. This might be class 2 or 3 hiking - root grabbing fun!

Joe Lake looks sorta lonesome probably due to the difficult trail conditions and lack of PCT hikers this early in the season. Too bad the campfire garbage leaving types have previously been to Joe Lake though. Found garbage: stovetop pan, bullet shells, arrows, various junk. Usually poor trail conditions can protect some areas from the lazy types. Apparently not at this lake.

Trail is mostly snow free now.
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Joe Lake — Aug 24, 2012 — Akrunrgrl
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Overgrown
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It was a great weekend for this hike as the weather was full sun, but a few clarifications that aren...
It was a great weekend for this hike as the weather was full sun, but a few clarifications that aren't in the trip summary you'll need to know.

The first mile is basically on a gravel road to the trail head. Kind of boring, but you eventually reach a trailhead at the end of the dirt road and this begins your hike.

At about mile 3 (4 miles total) there is a stream that you will need to cross that has no bridge or rocks close enough to hop so you're getting wet. Either remove your shoes and toss them across to the other side or plow through with shoes on! It's only about 1.5 feet at the deepest so it's a great photo opportunity for all the friends back home.

Then, just as the summary indicates, at mile 5 there is the sign to take a left to Alaska Lake or proceed straight to Joe Lake. Here the trail is clearly marked that it is not maintained beyond this point and it isn't. They aren't kidding about this being where the works begins!

The brush that you'll forge is actually for about 1.5 miles and not one mile. I presume it's because it's grown over that much since the summary was written. Although it is decently marked with survey tape, it is a very tedious trek because of the overgrowth and plenty of ups and downs. Many rocks/fallen logs in the trail and with thick bushes blocking your view you're guaranteed to slip and fall at least several times. Slow down and take your time or you will twist an ankle on one of those slips!

At about mile 6 you will encounter quite a beautiful, very tall waterfall on your left. This is, apparently, what you climb up to get to the top. The trail is on the other side (again, survey tape marks the way) so you'll have to cross the stream, but once on the other side you'll instantly realize that your poles won't be necessary and a bit of a head scratcher on how to ascend as it's almost straight up.

We are experienced hikers and had 40lb packs on and knew this would be a challenge, but we gave it a shot. We got about 200' and decided it was just too steep. There was no clear idea how high up this climb was (but clearly we could see we were only about 1/3 of the way), and with no safety ropes or indication the trail would change, it was just too much of a gamble. We decided to head back down.

To get back down we actually had to remove our packs and let them slide down in front of us (using rope and a tarp) as we descended on our rear ends so we could keep our center of gravity as low as possible. It was a little intimidating and we were quite surprised nothing had been written about the unsafe nature of this section of the trail, but we also didn't think to look around before scaling this slope to see if there was another route to the top that we missed.

In any case, this is a beautiful hike and you'll have a great time crossing streams, bushwhacking and navigating nature, even without going past this waterfall. There are great spots to camp between miles 3 and 4 and plenty of opportunities for water so it still makes for a fantastic overnight hike. It does get cold though, so pack plenty of warm clothes even during a hot summer weekend.
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Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section J - Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass - East, Joe Lake, Spectacle Lake, Pete Lake, Kendall Katwalk — Sep 03, 2011 — TRAILer Trash
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Ripe berries
Issues: Blowdowns | Bridge out | Bugs
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We headed out from Snoqualmie Pass in a group of 5 following the pct. Labor Day weekend was perfect ...
We headed out from Snoqualmie Pass in a group of 5 following the pct. Labor Day weekend was perfect as far as the weather goes! The trail ascended fairly gradual with few downed trees on the way up to Kendall Katwalk. After the katwalk there were a few patches of snow, but nothing sketchy at all; the snow was about 100ft wide.
We decided to stop at Joe Lake to call it a night, not realizing that the lake is fairly far away and you have to bushwack through heavy underbrush down a steep hill. Luckily we found a snow patch close to the trail with water running out of it (the stream is marked by orange markers).
The way from Joe Lake to Spectacle Lake was snow free and BEAUTIFUL! There are wild flowers for miles and the view is spectacular! At Spectacle Lake the bugs were a little heavy at times and we got pretty bit up, but it's worth the torment to experience the beauty of the lake.
After Staying at Spectacle Lake we headed down the pct and took the junction toward pete lake. The trail to the trail head was extremely flat and was a great way to end our nearly 30 mile trip.
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Joe Lake.jpg
Photo of Joe Lake by Joey.
Joe Lake (#1314)
Snoqualmie Pass -- Snoqualmie Pass
Wenatchee Okanogan National Forest, Cle Elum Ranger District
Roundtrip 16.0 miles
Elevation Gain 2235 ft
Highest Point 4625 ft
Old growth
Mountain views
Established campsites
User info
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Snoqualmie Pass No. 207

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Red MarkerJoe Lake
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