PJ Lake is a short but steep primitive trail to a subalpine tarn teeming with jumping trout. The lake’s beautiful color draws anglers, day hikers, and campers alike. However, the trail is so steep that the short mileage to get there is eclipsed by the vertical exertion and lingering leg pain.
Head past the signpost and former campsite that is being rehabilitated. The trail tread is good and proceeds beneath moss-laden subalpine firs. The mild grade quickly turns steeper, however, dropping more than 600 feet in the next half mile.
The trail drops without mercy into a steep basin that catches the morning sun but is cool in the afternoon shadows. A scenic switchback at 0.3 mile provides a window onto the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Mount Baker beyond. PJ lake, however, remains aloof.
The tread now becomes very steep and is eroding in places. Alaska cedar start to appear in abundance as the trail weaves in and out of the meadows. Near the bottom of the basin the trail reaches its steepest and narrowest tread. Walk carefully over an exposed, gravelly slope.
At 0.6 miles, the trail finally reaches the bottom of the basin and a small, easy creek crossing at 4350 feet. Flat land relieves the feet as the trail crosses a flat with a second creek to cross. A third creek comes into earshot and is crossed after an uphill push with some roots to use as steps.
The trail comes to the fourth and final stream at 0.8 miles. A thin but tall waterfall plummets through a mossy defile below the lake outlet. From here the trail climbs 100 feet via switchback to the lake. The steep grade to the lake must be lost on the return, and adds to the overall strenuousness of the hike.
At 0.9 mile is PJ Lake and the end of the trail. A large campsite sits immediately at the shore and looks upon the stunning water. Another site sits about 100 yards to the right, tucked between tall subalpine firs. Fishing trails venture along either side of the shore and are rough and overgrown.
Hurricane Ridge looms large above the lake, with Owl Rock perched high above the trees. Deer browse along the shore, avoiding the ubiquitous amanita muscaria that add yet more color to the environs. Their browsing continues through twilight, when the basin is hushed in primal solitude.
- 1.8 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 825 feet
- Highest Point
- 5,020 feet
Hurricane Ridge will be closed to the public from 3/27 through 5/25/23.
Hiking PJ Lake
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 47.9458, -123.4255 Open in Google Maps