Snow Lake was my first hike in Washington as a new resident, so it will always have a special place in my heart. But beyond that, the Snow Lake Trail is one of the most beautiful trails I have hiked, for a few reasons.
Snow Lake Hike Review
- Hiked: mid-October
- Distance from Seattle: 1 hour
- Length: 7.2 miles round trip
- Difficulty: 6/10
- Crowds: 3/10
- Trail views: 8/10
- Water features: 9/10
- Overall: 9/10
Other trail notes: You need a Federal Northwest Forest Pass to park at the trailhead. Additionally, please know that the Snow Lake Trail in the winter months has a high risk of avalanche, so it’s safest to avoid this hike during the snowy season, unless you have appropriate gear, knowledge, and training to assess and address avalanche risk.
Snow Lake is, according to the WTA, “the most visited lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness”. We visited in mid-October, and the trail was quite busy even though it was cold and raining. While the rain and cold temperatures made for a less comfortable hike than it would be in the summer months, I’m thrilled that we were able to experience it in when we did. Not only were there almost certainly fewer crowds than on a summer Saturday, but also the amount of water on the trail was amazing. During the fall, the Snow Lake Trail is overflowing with water. I’ve never experienced anything like it. As you’re hiking, you’re crossing over small waterfalls and flooded rock beds in the trail. It makes for a fun adventure to hop through little waterfalls and streams along the trail (be sure to wear your goretex hiking boots). This is one of those special hikes where I would say that the trail itself is almost as beautiful as the destination.
Then there’s the views of the mountains as you ascend. Though the trail has some forest covering, there are also more open areas, particularly near the boulder fields, where there are excellent views of the surrounding forest and peaks. The densely packed evergreens and waterfalls on the mountainside are magnificent.
Additionally, the trail itself is full of the most exquisite, colorful rocks. There were dark blue rocks, light orange rocks, and almost turquoise rocks along the trail. It was almost like a rainbow trail of rock.
The ascent itself isn’t too challenging, and the first views of the lake when you reach the highest point of the hike are exciting. The day we hiked, it was shrouded in mist, giving the area a mysterious feeling.
Once you glimpse your first views of the lake, it’s downhill for about 20 minutes until you’re at the lakeside itself.
We stopped to eat lunch at this little spot, but unfortunately because of the dropping temperatures and rain, we were not able to really stay and savor the beauty–we were simply freezing. We scarfed down our lunch as quickly as possible and started moving again to warm up. In fact, I was woefully underprepared for the weather. Gloves are an absolute must on the Snow Lake Trail during the fall. My fingers started tingling and turning very pale when we stopped to eat, and they were hurting until we’d been walking (uphill) again for about 15 minutes.
The hike back was admittedly not as pleasant with the cold and rain really setting in, so we definitely hustled our way back to the car. We arrived soaked to the bone and eager to blast the heat! Nonetheless, the hike was incredibly gorgeous and we had a great day. I’ll be back next summer for another round!