Blanca Lake: Just One Place WTA is Working to Save Iconic Trails
Our Trails Rebooted campaign is working to protect some of the most popular and iconic trails all across the state.
As a part of our Trails Rebooted campaign, WTA is committed to supporting 100 of the most iconic and popular trails across Washington. We’re combining the forces of our hiker education, trail maintenance and advocacy work to make sure these trails are here for generations to enjoy. Here’s one area we’re working to protect.
Blanca Lake is a perfect example of an iconic and popular Washington trail. Its turquoise color has drawn hikers from all over the world. But the road to the trailhead has been closed for more than 3 years after a winter storm washed it out. The road closure has slowed the steady stream of hikers that challenge themselves on this steep trail to a trickle.
But, after three quiet seasons, the road to the Blanca Lake parking area is expected to reopen soon. So WTA sent a couple of crews there this summer, in order to get some much needed trail maintenance completed before the road re-opens and more hikers return to this iconic place.
This summer, two WTA backcountry responses teams (BCRTs) totaled more than 400 hours of collective labor on the section of the trail that descends to the lake. Steep, rooty and rocky, the trail is badly eroded in many areas. The volunteer crews repaired a switchback on an eroded area of trail, built a rock wall, created a turnpike to reroute around a steep, slumping section of trail and cut back a lot of brush — which makes the way easier for hikers and preserves the trail by keeping hikers from walking off trail to avoid the vegetation.
The crews found that even though the road closure adds extra miles, hikers are still regularly visiting Blanca Lake, whether for a day hike or an overnight (camping is not allowed in the lake basin, but it's possible to camp on the ridge above the lake.) Because there's still trail traffic, the volunteers were able to visit with many hikers while they were working, and during their daily visits to the lake.
Their conversations centered around trails, trail work, and how beautiful this spot is. Indeed, people travel from miles around to see this iconic lake; one group of Central American hikers who are working in Oregon as au pairs had made a special trip specifically to visit Blanca Lake.
While many people make the trek to Blanca to experience the singular beauty of this area, some hikers this season made the trip to visit the crew specifically. WTA's volunteer community includes a strong sense of camaraderie, the sort that can only develop when sharing an on-trail project together. Volunteers will sometimes surprise each other on trail with treats, and this is just what happened to one of the crews working at Blanca.
During the second BCRT, a trail work volunteer who wasn't part of the Blanca crew hiked up to camp to hand-deliver a fresh marionberry pie. It was his way of supporting and thanking the folks who make so much trail work possible. (We probably don't have to tell you this, but that pie didn't last long.)
The trail is still steep. Blanca remains a challenging hike. But, thanks to the crews’ hard work, the worst sections have been rebooted to hold up to more hikers when the road re-opens, and for years to come.
Blanca Lake isn't the only trail with road access issues. You can help land managers and other hikers stay informed by reporting road conditions in your next trip report.