Aug 03, 2009
- Type of Outing
- Multi-night backpack
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: Blanca Lake
- Region: Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
- Agency: Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
- Trails: Blanca Lake (#1052)
- Avg Rating: 4.24
- Be Aware Of
The trail meanders along briefly, crosses a bridge, and turns upward into the climb to virgin lake. We left the lot at around 10, so the going was hot and sweaty, in spite of the good shade provided by the tall evergreens. I didn’t count the switchbacks, but a good rule of thumb on this trail is: when you hear water, you’ll be turning around soon. The trail doesn’t cross any streams, and is only mildly muddy in one or two different places. All in all, it is a very manageable climb.
After about an hour of climbing, you reach the shoulder area of the ridge, where you enter the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness and immediately find Virgin Lake. Little Ms. Virgin Lake must be too stagnant and foul to be at all attractive to the other lakes around the area, hence the name. Surprisingly, at this point there were still no mosquitoes, even though Virgin Lake seemed the perfect haven for them. One or two campsites dot the edge of this sad little pond; why you would want to put up here is a mystery.
The trail from Virgin to Blanca Lake is a bit of a catwalk in places. Many a tree root must be avoided, and care must be taken when finding foot-holds if you have any desire to keep yourself upright. In the wet, I can’t imagine there would be a dignified way to get down this stretch of the trail, so plan according to the weather. Nevertheless, as the trail levels to a bit more manageable grade, you can begin to catch glimpses of the turquoise wonder that is Blanca Lake. A few more steps and you will reach a rocky landing area where most will want to stop and pull out the point-and-shoot. Trees growing from sheer rock faces, the inexplicable precision of the broken rocks at your feet, let alone the lake itself all make for good captures.
Anticipation will finally get the better of you, and you’ll hurry down the remaining few hundred feet of trail to the shore of the lake, on the near side of the log jam. If you do decide to cross, be VERY careful in these next few yards – they will undoubtedly be the slowest of the trip. The water from the lake is cloudy and fast-moving enough to obscure some things from view, and a slip here could mean a sprained/broken ankle, or worse.
Something I feared even from the first step past the trailhead was the crowd – too many people have seen these pictures and this trail is too accessible to avoid them. Indeed, we saw at least 50 people in the three days we camped. If it’s solitude you seek, this is not going to be your cup of tea. But for me, the lake and surrounding wilderness was enough to overcome the chatter from the crowd – something that has to be seen in person to truly be appreciated.