Though this route has little sun and can be quite cold, it traverses a wide variety of terrain with low avalanche concerns. Your route circumnavigates Herringbone Hill, which can be easily added to expand your day. This lollipop hike follows the shoreline of Patterson Lake then turns up the steep-walled Rader Creek. Keep your eyes open since wildlife frequents this riparian zone.
Start your hike from the Chickadee trailhead. The route exits from the southeast corner of the parking area. Follow signs directing you to OWL or Magpie trails. At just under a quarter mile you will cross the groomed cross country track named Cabin Trail. Shortly afterward turn left onto the Magpie Trail. Over the next 0.4 mile you will experience nearly all of the elevation loss of the trip, dropping and side-hilling just a bit. As the trail rounds the north end of Herringbone Hill you will encounter the groomed ski trail again. Patterson Lake will become visible now. At an obvious switchback in the groomed trail the snowshoe track will turn off to the right and head into the trees.
Hike along, paralleling the lake for about two miles. Watch for people fishing through the ice on the lake. At the end of the lake the trail breaks out of the trees and into a sunny meadow. This is a good place to stop for a snack, enjoy the views and allow the sun to warm you a bit. The trail now turns hard to the right and up into the Rader Creek drainage. The rising hillside to your right will likely be in full sun. Watch for deer foraging for bitterbrush. The trail winds its way back and forth across the creek. Many critters call this riparian zone their home. Keep your eyes and ears open for snowshoe hare, red squirrels, ermine and others.
After approximately 1.5 miles from turning away from the lake, the drainage that you are in will open up considerably. You will rejoin the Magpie Loop Trail here. The Magpie Trail forks into two branches–both will take you back to the start. Enjoy the vintage horse corral along the way, you can almost hear their whinnying and smell their summer sweat if you close your eyes and dream.
WTA Pro Tip: Avoid this route on very cold days as you will have little sun. Springtime is a perfect time to visit. Afterward treat yourself at the Sun Mountain Lodge to a bite and amazing views of the Methow Valley.