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Sand Lake

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Bring the kids on this excursion-it's a great introduction to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for youngsters. The elevation gain is minimal, the scenery is pretty, and the lake at the end of the hike offers a perfect swimming experience: While many wilderness lakes stay ice-cold throughout the summer, Sand Lake is just shallow enough for the sun to warm it to a comfortable temperature for cooling off during a hot summer hike. The smooth, sandy bottom is a comfort to boot-tired feet, too.

You'll pass Deer Lake on the way to Sand, and between them you'll find acres of wildflower meadows and cool stands of pine forests. Indeed, these are but two of a slew of lakes in the southern half of the William O. Douglas Wilderness worth visiting.

The Pacific Crest Trail enters the forest and stays under cover of trees for most of its length. The steepest climbing of the hike occurs during the first mile, but don't fret-you'll gain just 400 feet in that mile.

From there, the trail levels considerably and the forest thins out, allowing lots of sunlight to filter down to the brush covering the forest floor. That's a blessing, as the sunshine sweetens the purple fruit that grows on that brush. Huckleberries! These forest berries aren't as thick or as big as those found in the open clearings and meadows throughout the wilderness, but they are delicious nonetheless. The berries are plentiful enough to snack on as you tread up the trail, even if they do throw off your stride (pick, step, pick, pick, step, pick, pick, pick, step).

The PCT veers west at 1.3 miles, just before reaching a junction with a small side trail on the right leading to Dog Lake. Stay on the main track, though, and in another 0.7 mile reach a second spur trail, this time on the left. Take a few minutes to hike the 100 yards down this trail to Deer Lake. This forest-lined lake holds a good population of catchable (and keepable) trout, so bring along a fishing rod for you and the youngsters. The lake is frequently stocked with cutthroat trout, and there's also a sizable stock of brook trout residing here.

If you aren't fishing, jump back onto the PCT and continue north on the now-level path for another mile or so to Sand Lake. This last mile crosses several broad meadows (in early summer, the meadows are more like marshes), which offer the best chance of seeing big critters like deer and elk. Meadows push right up against Sand Lake, as do stands of timber.

The lake is actually a catch basin for runoff from melting snow. There is no permanent stream running into the lake, nor out of it. As snow melts, the water rolls into the lake basin where it gathers, swelling the lake in early summer. After most of the snow has melted off, the lake waters slowly recede as some evaporate and some percolate down through the porous volcanic soil.

Ideally, you'll visit here in late July to early August, when the waters are low enough to be off the lakeside trail but still high enough to be clear and cool. Folks who want to spend the night (it's a great destination for the kids' first backpacking trip) will find plenty of high, grassy campsites around the lake basin-just be sure to stay well back from the water so as not to intrude on the scenery and to protect the lake itself.
Driving Directions:

From Packwood, drive east on U.S. Highway 12 to White Pass. At the east end of the long parking strip on the north side of the highway, find the faint, unsigned, dirt road leading north to White Pass Campground on the northeast shore of Leech Lake. The Pacific Crest Trail-North trailhead is located just before the start of the campground loop.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 15 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Sand Lake — Jul 31, 2013 — alexapolis
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Bugs
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We were hiking with our 2 and 4 year olds, and knew that hiking all of the way to Sand Lake was too ...
We were hiking with our 2 and 4 year olds, and knew that hiking all of the way to Sand Lake was too ambitious for their little legs. We took it easy and made it to Deer Lake, which is about 2 miles from the trailhead (and probably 1 mile from Sand Lake). The trail is in great shape. There are still a number of wildflowers blooming. Deer Lake is beautiful and made for a nice turnaround spot. Make sure to bring strong insect repellent. The bugs are vicious!
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Cramer Lake, Dog Lake to Cramer Lake (Trail 1106), Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section I.1 - White Pass - Chinook Pass, Sand Lake, Dumbbell Lake — Jul 06, 2013 — OneHikeAWeek
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Bridge out | Mudholes | Bugs
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My sister and I attempted to create a loop hike, starting on the PCT(#2000) at White Pass. We follow...
My sister and I attempted to create a loop hike, starting on the PCT(#2000) at White Pass. We followed #2000 to Sand lake and on to Buesch lake then followed Dumbbell (#1156) to Dumbbell Lake. Cramer lake (#1106) ultimately brought us to Dog Lake, several miles from our intended destination, the car. But since neither of us had seen the Dark Meadows trail that should have taken us back to #2000, we decided to hike back to the car following the road. All said and done, our gps put us just under 16 miles, which accounted for some exploration too.

At this time there was no more snow on the trail, just some very full lakes! This also meant that there were lots of little ponds and marshy areas, and TONS of blood sucking little devils! They weren't too bad by sand lake but they became more apparent by Buesch and Dumbbell Lakes, and from then on they were horrid. The two of us used an entire bottle of deep woods bug repellant and they were so dense in places that we didn't want to open our mouths for fear that they would fly into our mouths. If I were to redo this hike I would turn around at dumbbell lake and return the way we came in. After Dumbbell Lake there was no great scenery or lakes, just a lot of mosquitoes to run from.

There were a few blow-downs on the latter portion of our hike, and also a creek that had no bridge. We took our boots off to wade across and within seconds had mosquitoes swarming about out feet.

It was a very do-able day hike that took us about 5 hours. Best advice: don't go without bug spray! The lakes were gorgeous and worth the hike. It would be fun to go swimming in them too!

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Sand Lake — Jul 05, 2013 — OneHikeAWeek
Day hike
Issues: Mudholes | Water on trail | Snow on trail | Bugs
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I snowshoed to Sand Lake in early February and returned to see what the area was like in the summer ...
I snowshoed to Sand Lake in early February and returned to see what the area was like in the summer months. Let me just say that it was beautiful! The lakes are so clear and apparently have trout, there were a lot of people fishing. There were a lot of other hikers on this Friday hike, but they were all pretty respectful and quiet. There were also lots of mosquitos, so bring bug spray. While your at it, bring a towel to go swimming! There was still snow on the trail near sand lake and some minor flooding on the trail near sand lake. I'd recommend waterproof footwear.
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Sand Lake — May 25, 2013 — amccain
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Snow on trail
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We thought we would try out the trail up to Deer and Sand Lakes today. The snow was patchy for the ...
We thought we would try out the trail up to Deer and Sand Lakes today. The snow was patchy for the first 2/3 of a mile. After that the trail and all surrounding terrain was completely covered in snow. We didn't bring snowshoes and some of our kids were only in tennis shoes, so a few headed back to the trailhead and a few of us kept going. After another 1/3 mile it became very clear that this was still a snow-shoeing adventure and we weren't prepared. Turned around and headed back to the car. We should have known when the gate to the trailhead was still locked and barricaded.
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Sand Lake — Mar 26, 2013 — OneHikeAWeek
Snowshoe/XC Ski
Issues: Snow on trail
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This was my first time snowshoeing; the trail was nice an' easy, a good place for learning. ...
This was my first time snowshoeing; the trail was nice an' easy, a good place for learning.
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Sand Lake minitramp.jpg
Hiker at Sand Lake. Photo by Minitramp.
Location
Sand Lake (#60)
South Cascades -- White Pass / Cowlitz River Valley
Wentachee National Forest, Naches Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain 900 ft
Highest Point 5300 ft
Features
Lakes
User info
Good for kids
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
South Cascades
Green Trails No. 303 White Pass

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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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