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Trip Report

Alta Lake View

North Cascades

Trip Report By

WTA Member




Hiked Nov 13, 2021

Type of Hike

Day hike

Trail Conditions

Trail in good condition


Road suitable for all vehicles


No bugs


Snow free

Winter's storms have closed highway 20 through the North Cascades. This redirects our biweekly drive to the Methow through Snoqualmie and Blewett Passes. This makes a whole new landscape of hikes open to us. Alta Lake State Park is a sun-lovers paradise nestled into a desert coulee just southwest of Pateros, WA. Reading the topographic lines on a map it is easy to see how ice-age floods roared through this area, gouging out the coulees which are so emblematic of Eastern Washington.

The state park's doors are open though scarcely anyone other than locals and workers are about. Finding the trailhead was easy enough. It departs from the group campsite. The canyon (coulee) walls here make for steep and dry terrain. It was hardy souls that navigated this trail through cliff bands to the present day overlook. Though sections of the trail are crumbling and in other spots short-cutters have caused erosion, the trail is in remarkably good condition. There is ample evidence that this trail was created as a stock trail as witnessed by it's width and generally reasonable grade. I will caveat this comment with full knowledge and understanding that stock (and riders) were perhaps a bit hardier back then.

The trail gains elevation at a steady clip. Roughly 700' is gained in 7/10th of a mile to the overlook. At times it traverses looking for the next break in the cliffs, and at other times it threads circuitously through rock gardens. The views up top are fun. Dyer Hill, a basalt lava flow on the eastern side of the Columbia catches clouds blowing across the Waterville Plateau, Goat Mountain, the site of a former fire lookout looms craggy and forbidding 3500' above already dappled in the tendrils of snow that will so soon be upon us all. The namesake Alta Lake lies directly below, placidly stretching southward into Alta Coulee.

Surely this well constructed trail did not initially end at this lookout. Today it largely does. Numerous social paths run along the edge of the cliffs for a short ways. Numerous cliff bands extend further uphill effectively blocking an immediately obvious route...