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Surprise and Glacier Lakes

Jul 16, 2012

by Cruiznbye last modified Jul 30, 2012 10:37 AM
Type of Outing
Day hike
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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
Calm and quiet on Surprise Lake with Sparkplug Mt. overlooking it.
Surprise Lake via the Surprise Creek Trail #1060. It is about 10 miles roundtrip and starts at 2200’ and goes to 4450’ at the Lake. The parking and trailhead is off of Hwy 2 towards Stevens Pass from Everett. From the Skycomish junction on Hwy 2 go about 9 miles on Hwy 2 until you see the Iron Goat Interpretive site on the left. Then look for the next road to the right in less than a quarter mile. It will be into a railroad yard and gravel storage area. Cross the 3 sets of tracks and go right down a narrow, pot-holed dirt road for .3 miles. You will find a trail head sign and parking for about 6 or so cars. No privy. Sign in for the Wilderness permit and then head up the road toward the powerlines. Go up the hill for .2 miles and look on the left for a signed trail for Surprise Lake and the PCT. From here it is one glorious trail to hike.

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:[…]/
A little ways from the outlet the lake is mostly frozen over.
The Lake basin itself is still pretty much snow covered.
After heading up the Power Line road for .2 miles you'll see this sign on the left for the start of the trail to Surprise.
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creek crossings

Posted by Christy at Jul 30, 2012 03:53 PM
Are any of the creek crossings kind of sketchy, or are they all on good sturdy logs or bridges?

Creek Crossings

Posted by Cruiznbye at Jul 30, 2012 03:53 PM
All of the crossing on the way to the lake are very easy. Even the log crossing over Surprise Creek is on a nicely flat-top chiseled large log that most should have little trouble using. The only precarious creek crossing is upon reaching the lake itself. In our case there was still snow covering much of the final creek we needed to cross and we crossed on stable snow bridges. I'm guessing they would be melting out with this warm weather and so it may be a rock hop or a log walk, or even wet-foot crossing. Not having been there without the snow, I can't say for sure what that last stream crossing is like without the snow. I know the "Dayhiking the Central Cascades" mentions that final stream crossing as a "precarious stream crossing" in the marshy meadow as you enter the lake basin As the snow melts and melt water lessens it should reduce the flow and make crossing easier. That final stream runs parallel to the lake, so just explore along it for a suitable crossing.

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