Blue Lake is perhaps the most eponymous name for a hike in Washington. With (at least) six of them scattered around the state, telling your friends, "I'm going to hike to Blue Lake" might be met with the question, "Which one?"
Now you've got a handy reference. Consider this a checklist as well — can you visit all of them in a season?
Blue Lake (the one in Indian Heaven)
Mileage: 13.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 700 feet
Best Season: late summer and fall
Berries, camas root, and plenty of trout swimming in the streams nearby make this Blue Lake a forager's (and fisherman's) dream. It's a moderately steep grade, but the views of Mount Adams make it well worth your sweat.
Blue Lake (the one near Mount St. Helens)
Mileage: 4.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
Best Season: summer
You'll only get a swift peek of this Blue Lake on the South Fork Toutle trail near St. Helens, but it's a fascinating area. An old washout with a clear creek running through and the stark silhouettes of dead trees with St. Helens looming over all make it a great place to explore.
Blue Lake Creek (the one with the nice campground)
Mileage: 4.8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2100 feet
Best Season: spring - fall
Open to horses, mountain bikers, and motorized vehicles, trail users of all stripes can enjoy this destination (though each user has his own designated trail to get there.) But be sure to enjoy the journey as well; stop at the famous basalt columns and snap a picture!
Blue Lake High Route (the one you have to really want to get to)
Mileage: 29.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 7500 feet
Best Season: mid-summer - fall
This Blue Lake is tucked away, accessible via the Pilot Ridge Trail. It'll be at least a day's worth of backpacking to get up there (though most people will probably take a little longer), and the approach to Blue Lake is on a slippery scree slope, but the lake is gorgeous, and the views on the way there are absolutely incredible.
BLUE LAKE (THE ONE ON HIGHWAY 20)
Mileage: 4.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1050 feet
Best Season: summer (though winter can be quite pretty)
When most hikers refer to Blue Lake, this is the one they're talking about. With towering granite peaks, forests, meadows, wildflowers, and of course the beautiful mountain lake surrounded by granite that reaches for the sky, this short hike is easily a classic and should be on your must-hike list.
BLUE LAKE (THE ONE NEAR MOUNT BAKER)
Mileage: 1.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300 feet
Best Season: summer
This Blue Lake is one of the easier ones to reach — requiring less than a mile of hiking from the trailhead. Its translucent blue-green colors peek out beneath the shadows of a sheer rock wall partially encircling the lake, a reward for conquering the somewhat eroded and rooty trail that leads to it. Families, anglers, and hikers looking to experience a pretty subalpine lake will enjoy this short, yet memorable hike.
There are no Blue Lakes (that we know of) in Eastern Washington, but they've got a whole range of Blue Mountains to explore. Plan a trip to the loneliest corner of Washington state and see what the trails there have in store. Maybe you'll find a Blue Lake of your own.