Merritt Lake is nestled under Nason Ridge a dozen miles east of Stevens Pass. This is just far enough from the crest to leave west side clouds behind. This hike is an under-appreciated one in the Stevens Pass area, so you may be lucky enough to enjoy a relatively uncrowded hike.
The lake is pretty, the mileage is modest and good switchbacks moderate the elevation gain. The trail is shaded in the summer, making it a great choice for sunny summer days, but the south face permits enough sun in the early season to melt out the lower portion of the hike, meaning it's accessible early.
Older kids who have prior hiking experience under their belts will enjoy this trail, and the adventurous can add a difficult two mile extension to Lost Lake. Don’t say we didn’t warn you, see our trip reports for real time descriptions written by the few that have returned from Lost Lake.
What’s not to like? This reporter really enjoys this lake, but that said, it can be a buggy destination in early summer. In May or June of normal snow years, the first one and three-quarter miles are often snow free, but in the valley below the lake, snow can linger.
The trail is is easy to follow; there are old blazes on trees alongside the trail from when it was originally routed 80 years ago. While they're quite obvious in the summer, heavy snow buries them deep in the winter. Route-finding skills are required to get to Merritt Lake in these winter.
The first 1.75 miles of the trail climb on a well shaded slope as the trail switchbacks up, paralleling Highway 2. If there is no wind, you will be accompanied by some highway noise for the first part of the hike.
Once you turn the corner away from the highway, you have gained 1500 feet and the grade eases. This section boasts lots of huckleberries in late summer. Road noise completely disappears, and the only sounds of civilization are the occasional train whistle from crossings far below. Just before the junction with the Nason Ridge trail, good views open over the valley carved by Mahar Creek. If you look up on Nason Ridge, you can spot a very prominent rock thumb on the ridge; just to the right of the thump is the Alpine lookout.
Follow the Nason Ridge trail to the right, cross two seasonal streams and soon you are on the lake shore. You can rest here before pressing onto Lost Lake, or make this your final destination for the day.
WTA Pro Tip: To access Lost Lake, follow the Nason Ridge trail up to the ridge and look for the fisherman’s trail leading down to Lost Lake from the Ridge. If you choose to visit Lost Lake, your hike will be 9 miles round trip, with 3200 feet of elevation gain.
Eastern brook trout, descendants of fish hiked in almost a century ago lure fisherman to hike up and cast in both Merritt and Lost Lakes.
Merritt Lake and Lost Lake
- 5.5 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 2100 feet
- Highest Point
- 5023 feet