Sitting beneath the spire of 6,807-foot Bull’s Tooth, remote and rugged Chain and Doelle Lakes offer backpackers a chance to leave the crowds behind and admire the stunning scenery of the Alpine Lakes backcountry. Begin by hiking the well-traveled Pacific Crest Trail through the heart of the Stevens Pass Ski Area. Ascending across open slopes and under towering ski lifts, reach a 5,150-foot ridge in just over 2 miles. From the crest, gently switchback down the other side of the ridge across more ski slopes. In another mile, after crossing a service road and power lines, the human-made elements diminish and the true wilderness experience begins.
Now inside the boundaries of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, pass by quaint Lake Susan Jane and continue climbing to a junction with the Icicle Creek Trail at just under 5 miles from the trailhead. Follow the Icicle Creek Trail as it circumnavigates the shores of Josephine Lake. Descend briefly, but steeply, to the lake’s outlet stream. Continue descending through thick forest for just over a mile, reaching an intersection with the Whitepine Creek Trail. Remain on the Icicle Creek Trail.
At just over 8 miles from the trailhead, come to yet another trail junction, this time with the Chain Lakes Trail. Prepare yourself to rapidly regain the 1,000 feet of elevation lost and then some. Without switchbacks, the trail steeply climbs about 2,000 feet in two miles, bringing you to the first of the Chain Lakes. Traverse tranquil meadows as you make your way past the sparking lakes and many excellent camping spots.
Continuing on and climbing talus slopes, a gap between the two lake basins is soon reached. From the gap, enjoy the view to Upper Doelle Lake below and stunning peaks above. Stay to the right and descend steeply to the shores of the upper lake, then continue less than a half mile farther to several good camps at the lower lake.