Surprise and Glacier Lakes
Jul 16, 2012
- Type of Outing
- Day hike
- Read More in our Hiking Guide
- Hike: Surprise and Glacier Lakes
- Region: Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
- Agency: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
- Trails: Surprise Lake (#1060)
- Avg Rating: 3.23
- Why You Should Go Now
- Wildflowers blooming
The trail is well-built with great tread, heavy stairs, good drainage, and lots and lots of creek crossings. Nice easy grade through dense old growth forest and lots of wild flowers blooming now. The trail follows Surprise Creek and it provides a great audio track and it is really full and roaring right now. There are so many cascades and little falls on the creek that you may be delayed in getting to lake.
At about 3.5 miles in the trail decides to start climbing and leaves the creek and switchbacks up the steep slope that alternates between talus and forest. You’ll cross multiple waterfalls and streams over and over as you switchback up to the outlet of Surprise Lake.
The trail is clear of snow until just about 4200’ elevation, which is just 250’ shy of the lakes 4450’ elevation. There are a few small patches of snow lower, but hardly worth mentioning. But once in the lake basin you’ll find it almost entirely snow covered.
The Lake is about 80% still covered in ice/snow with the outlet end being the best dry / thawed area for enjoying the lake. When you approach the Lake be aware that there is a stream you’ll be crossing that may be covered in snow, so look for a sturdy snow bridge across. If you continue up the basin a ways the snow will become more and more solid making crossing the stream the parallels the lakeshore easy to cross.
From the Surprise Lake you can enjoy views of Sparkplug, Thunder, and Surprise Mountains. A few campsites on the outlet end are snow free, but the rest are under snow cover right now. We didn’t venture beyond Surprise toward Glacier as it would be more snow travel than we wanted on a warm sunny day, and I’m sure that Glacier would also be mostly ice covered.
No biting bugs at all. Not much traffic on the trail. We saw 3 other people the entire trip and had the lake to ourselves for over an hour and a half before we headed back.
Really enjoyed the trail and will return to go further in a month or so when the snow is gone. Good waterproof footwear recommended. Poles can be helpful near the lake for snow probing and balance. No issues with blowdowns or bugs or even mud on the trail.
Some pictures of the hike here: http://www.flickr.com/[…]/