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Camp, Hike and Relax in Roslyn

Enjoy a weekend of pick-your-own adventures near Roslyn | by Kari Lutcavich

It’s that time of year again, when springtime rains transition into warmer, sunnier days and the flowers begin to bloom. Summer is nearly upon us, providing the best camping and hiking season, and I look forward to it more than anything.

Every year, my dad and I have a tradition to go camping in the Cascade Mountains. Our favorite spot is a remote region in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, about an hour outside of Roslyn. It’s the perfect spot for kayaking, fishing, nearby hiking and spotting a plethora of beautiful wildlife. It’s also one of the few remaining local wild areas where you can camp for free, and a Discover Pass is not required. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly getaway, this could be a great option for you.

While on the way to our remote mountain paradise, my dad and I like to stop in Roslyn to fuel up on good food and enjoy some social interaction before retreating to the quiet solace of the woods. Roslyn was established as a coal-mining town and has grown to become a tourist destination featuring an array of restaurants, shops, vacation rental homes and nearby trails.

Cathedral Rock and Hyas LakeCathedral Rock, with Hyas Lake beneath m, is one of the iconic spots accessible via Tucquala Meadows Trailhead. Photo by melissapnwa

On our last trip to Roslyn, we were craving pizza. There’s no better place to go than Village Pizza, a small, privately owned hot spot in the middle of town. You can expect thick, Chicago-style pies and they even off er honey on each table to drizzle over your crust for a sweet finish to your meal.

After lunch, we walked off our meal and browsed the different shops on Pennsylvania Avenue. I enjoyed searching for new books (to read later while camping) at Basecamp Books and Bites while my dad poked around the novelties in Cicely’s Gift Shop, better known as Dr. Joel Fleischman’s office from the TV show “Northern Exposure” that was filmed in Roslyn.

As I listened to the trickling river, birds calling to one another and the wind gently rustling through the trees, I exhaled a big sigh of relief. 

Eager to begin our camping adventure, we hit the road toward Fish Lake Campground so we could set up camp and get settled before it got too late. Since the campground is very small and doesn’t take reservations, we were lucky to find the best spot—on the edge of the river, with trees secluding us from our neighbors. Fish Lake Campground is a tiny piece of heaven where the Cle Elum River fills Tucquala Lake (formerly known as Fish Lake) and provides a lush green oasis for surrounding wildlife.

As I listened to the trickling river, birds calling to one another and the wind gently rustling through the trees, I exhaled a big sigh of relief. I was excited to detach from society and welcomed the lack of cell phone service for the weekend. I wanted to simply enjoy the calming sights and sounds of nature.

Hyas Lake can be reached in just a 2.0 mile hike from the trailhead. Photo be brianabear.

We were blessed with a warm weekend, perfect for floating down the river in our inner tubes and paddling down to the lake in kayaks. If you don’t have your own kayak or canoe, you can consider renting one from Cascade Playtime Rentals in Ronald. Water play in this area is extremely convenient because you can easily access the river or lake straight from your camping spot.

When we weren’t playing in the water, we explored the wilderness by foot on one of the many trails in the area. If you continue down the forest road past the campground, you’ll reach the Tucquala Meadows Trailhead that leads to the beautiful Alpine Lakes Wilderness. (Note: A Northwest Forest Pass and self-issued wilderness permit are required.)

Since it was a hot day, we decided to pack a picnic lunch and hike the shorter 2-mile trail to Hyas Lake, where we stopped to enjoy the view while dipping our toes into the lake to cool off. You can hike 3 more miles to Deception Pass, which promises stunning views of Cathedral Rock and Mount Daniel. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, there are longer overnight hikes to various lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

It’s moments like these that make me thankful to live so close to nature and reluctant to leave each time I visit.

On the morning of our last day at camp, I crawled out of the tent to make coffee and breakfast. As I was staring out at the gorgeous horizon, I heard a splash in the river. I went to investigate the noise and to my surprise, there were two river otters playing and chasing each other. It’s moments like these that make me thankful to live so close to nature and reluctant to leave each time I visit.

After packing up camp as the weekend came to an end, we didn’t forget to stop back in Roslyn for one last indulgence before heading home. We rewarded our adventurism with a flight of beer at Roslyn Brewing Company, feeling more relaxed and truly grateful, knowing we live at nature’s doorstep. We didn’t spend a lot of money but managed to make a lot of memories instead. What more could one ask for?

Atop Jolly Mountain, you'll enjoy picturesque views of Hawkins, Ingalls, and Stuart. Photo by jrod.



Coal Mines Trail

4.7 miles of trails perfect for hiking, biking and horseback riding. This is a relatively flat and easy trail that features many of the historic coal-mining remains that define the town of Roslyn. The trail can be accessed from several locations. In Roslyn, you can park your car at the east end of Pennsylvania Avenue behind Old City Hall, and from here you can either head south toward Cle Elum or follow the trail west toward Ronald. If you choose to head west, you’ll reach a historic landmark called Runje Field, with a kiosk and a map that includes the history of the area.


Tucquala Meadows Trailhead

This trailhead, at the end of Forest Road 4330, offers access to several destinations in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Popular Hyas Lake is about 2 miles from the trailhead. The hike is fairly fl at and short, so it’s a great option for families with kids. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy picking an abundance of local berries. If you’d like to go father, continue on to Deception Pass, 5 miles from the trailhead. From here you can branch off  to Marmot Lake and Lake Clarice. This is a great option for a longer, overnight hiking trip. Check Green Trails Map 176S to help plan your route. Note: High-clearance vehicles are recommended to reach this trailhead, especially in early season, for the Scatter Creek crossing near the end of the road. NW Forest Pass and self-issued wilderness permit required.


Jolly Mountain

With 12 miles of hiking and 4,000-feet of gain, this trail is challenging but worth the stunning view of the Cle Elum Valley. Be prepared—sometimes snow can persist toward the top of the mountain as late as August. The trailhead is near Cayuse Horse Camp, near Salmon La Sac Campground.

Where to Stay

Fish Lake: About a one-hour drive north of Roslyn, you’ll find Fish Lake Campground where the small lake has since been renamed Tucquala Lake. This free campground is first come, first served and has five tent-only spots. It opens after the snow melts, usually in June. No passes required.

Salmon La Sac: This is a popular destination, situated between the Cle Elum and Cooper rivers, and is perfect for swimming and other water sports. It offers 69 sites for both tents and RVs and opens the weekend before Memorial Day, weather permitting.

All Seasons Vacation Rentals: If the weather is unpleasant or you’re not up for camping but want to enjoy a wilderness escape with your family or friends, consider renting a cabin from All Seasons. There are more than 40 properties to choose from and prices vary depending on the location and number of guests;

Where to Eat

The Roslyn Cafe: This popular, family friendly diner was made famous by the TV show “Northern Exposure.” Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered, as well as a full espresso bar serving local D&M coffee. Try the Salmon La Sac omelet for breakfast or one of their many mouth-watering burgers (my favorite was the Smoke Stack with BBQ pulled pork).

Village Pizza: The locals claim that tourists come from afar for this delicious pizza alone. You have to try drizzling honey over your crust. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

The Brick Saloon: Washington’s oldest continuously operating bar, established in 1889, features an original, 23-foot running water spittoon, shuffleboard and pool tables. With live music on the weekends and tasty pub food too, you must give this place a try. Minors are welcome until 9 p.m.

The Roslyn Brewing Company is a must-go if you're seeking a post-hike beer. Photo by Doug Diekema.

Roslyn Brewing Company: Check out this small craft brewery that prides itself on locally sourced ingredients and specializes in German-style lagers. Food is not available for purchase, but they encourage you to bring your own food for a picnic in their beer garden. Only open Friday-Sunday; ages 21-and-over only.

Basecamp Books and Bites: Sip an espresso while you browse their many hiking guides and trail maps to prepare for your adventures. You can also enjoy a quiet dinner in the basement or grab a quick lunch and snack to go before heading out on the trails.

How to: Dispersed Camping

Are you willing to rough it? Would you like to save some money? Dispersed camping—camping on public lands outside of developed campsites—is ideal for both. It’s a mixture of the self-sufficiency of backpacking and the convenience of car camping. Before you try it, though, there are a few things to keep in mind to stay safe and preserve the natural habitat.

  • Where: Dispersed camping is allowed in certain locations in national forests and on DNR and BLM lands. To find out where you can participate in dispersed camping, it is best to contact the land manager. In the case of national forest land, contact the nearest Forest Service office. Dispersed camping is not allowed in developed recreation areas including trailheads and picnic areas. Use an existing camping site; don’t clear any vegetation to make a new site. The best Leave No Trace practice is to camp at least 200 feet from a water source.
  • Toilets: Bring a shovel and bury your waste in a hole at least six inches deep and at least 200 feet from any water source or campsite. Local ranger districts say that mismanaged human waste is a major problem with dispersed camping. Ideally, all toilet paper should be packed out. Want to be a superhero? Pack out all your own waste using a portable toilet or bags designed for that purpose. Rangers would thank you.
  • Campfire: Before you head out to camp, check to ensure no burn bans are in place. Campfires can leave long-lasting scars in the backcountry—using a stove is a better choice in fragile areas. If you have a campfire, use an existing fire ring. Make sure any fire rings you use are not near overhanging branches or too close to vegetation or a water source. Keep fires small and under control. Make certain your fire is out before you leave it unattended; it should be cool to the touch.
  • Firewood: If you bring your own firewood, it’s best to buy it near where you’ll burn it so you don’t risk introducing invasive insects. If you collect wood to burn, use dead wood on the ground that is small enough to be broken by hand. Never cut branches from a living tree.
  • Water: Make sure you bring your own drinking water or treat your water if you collect it from a stream or lake.
  • Trash: Take all of your trash with you. Leave your campsite cleaner than you found it.

Camping in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest outside of Cle Elum. Photo by Jason Reynolds.
This article originally appeared in the May+June 2017 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.