Wild and remote Lost Creek Ridge is a heck of an outing: brushy and full of route-finding practice. Luckily, Round Lake offers just a taste of the ridge, without the full meal deal of cross-country travel. You'll get up a sweat on the initial climb, then have your mind blown from the views along the ridgeline. Finally, dip down to rest near the sapphire waters of Round Lake before heading back the way you came.
The beginning of this hike is fairly straightforward. Follow an old road through lush forest for a half mile. And that's all the warmup you get. Tighten your boots and start climbing; it's a steep one, launching hikers a mile into the air in just 2.75 miles. Have lots of water, and take the breaks you need; the views from the ridge are breathtaking, so you'll want to be sure to have plenty of breath when you get there.
The route gets a bit more moderate before resuming its uphill pitch up some relentless switchbacks. 3.25 miles from the trailhead you'll reach Bingley Gap, at 4400 feet of elevation. This little notch on Lost Creek Ridge is forested. Take advantage of the shade before continuing on.
Now comes the ridge-run and what a spectacular one it is. From the flanks of Lost Creek Ridge you'll see a host of Mountain Loop Highway peaks, including Sperry, Sloan, Vesper and Pugh. Repping the Alpine Lakes wilderness are Mount Stuart and Daniel, and, capping them all is majestic Mount Baker. It's stunning country. Take a moment to soak it in.
After 1.5 miles of this, you'll arrive at a junction. The main trail is Lost Creek Ridge, which just keeps on going for miles (though in deteriorating maintenance condition). For Round Lake, take the left fork. Go through a small gap that affords a view of your destination.
It's a steep one yet. It's just three-quarters of a mile to the lake, but it's 550 feet of elevation loss. Make your way down, and be sure to recharge and refuel with food and water before heading back up and out.