Before hiking to Copper Glance Lake, I had never ventured past Mazama, let alone this far north in Washington. But let me tell you, it was entirely worth it to venture into the eastern side of the North Cascades and explore this stunning larch-heavy area of Washington.
I detail the hike below, but overall, it’s a steady climb to the lake, with one false decline, before you can put eyes on the lake. I’m sure it looks great year-round, but fall is when you should make your trip out.
I promise you, you’ll be blown away by the larches at Copper Glance Lake!
Copper Glance Lake Hiking Guide
Here are the most pertinent details of this stunning hike.
What to know before your hike
How to get to Copper Glance Lake
Copper Glance Lake is one of the furthest larch trails from Seattle. From Seattle, it’s around a five-hour drive. However, depending on how fast you drive and traffic conditions, it might be shorter.
Maps said the time from Winthrop to the trailhead would be 1 hour, but we did it in 25 minutes – though this was at night with little oncoming traffic. The road is narrow but paved for all but the final five miles.
While this isn’t a popular trail, especially on the weekdays, the parking lot is only big enough for five cars, so you may need to park on the road or find a place to park further away.
The best time to visit Copper Glance Lake
I believe this is best for fall colors when the larches turn gold and glow in the early or evening light. The view enamored me, and I couldn’t believe how stunning the scenery was.
How hard is the hike
I won’t beat around the bush. I was exhausted going up it.
It has about 2,500 feet of gain, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. The first 2.8 miles are all up (maybe 2,300 feet of gain). Then, you drop down to a small lake. Here, you have a small flat portion before heading back up over a ridge.
From this vantage point, you’ll be able to see the lake below, but you have to get down there. This portion of the Copper Glance Lake trail is steep but not terrible. While it’s nice to be going down, you have to come back up this on the way back, so that’s what makes the elevation gain for this hike a bit misconstrued.
I would estimate the uphill on the way in is only 2,200, and you have 200-300 feet of gain on the way back.
Lastly, the lake’s surrounding area is almost all rocks, so keep that in mind. You’ll have to be comfortable walking on large and small rocks to get down to the water. (It’s not had, but I wanted to note that in case some people really don’t like walking on rocks.)
How long is the Copper Glance Lake trail
Copper Glance Lake is a six-and-a-half-mile round trip hike to an otherworldly alpine lake in the North Cascades. It should take you about two hours to get up.
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Two Water Crossings
There are two water crossings to get to Copper Glance Lake. The first is at the half-mile mark. This one’s the “biggest,” but the flow rate in the fall is pretty low, and it isn’t dangerous. I recommend hiking poles and waterproof boots to simplify your crossing.
The second is a much smaller creek crossing at the 2.5-mile mark.
Both of these have rocks and logs to walk over.
The final one, which you don’t have to do, is to the left of the lake. If you wish to get to the left side of the lake (and not walk around the long way), you can cross the creek where the lake’s water exits. This is a stronger flow rate and is trickier.
Thankfully, you can hold onto some bushes/trees for balance, and you should be good.
A sunrise mission to Copper Glance Lake
Hiking up in the dark
Our crew slept at the trailhead and awoke at 4:30 a.m. for a sunrise mission to Copper Glance Lake. While the chilly morning air was a bit hard to wake up to, it also helped motivate us to get moving and warm up.
Per usual, I wore too many layers and had to stop to remove them.
The trail ascends rapidly, though it’s about the same grade throughout the hike. Luckily, there are a few 40-yard stretches that are flat, allowing you to take a second to catch your breath and give your legs a second to chill.
Because we were heading up in the dark, we didn’t notice the burn zone you hike through. (Obviously, we did on the way down.) This place was decimated by a fire years ago, but it is having a tremendous rebirth with a lot of business and flowers growing.
As we climbed and climbed, the sun slowly began to rise with us. Eventually, the morning glow was enough. We no longer needed our headlamps. At this point, the towering peaks around us were visible and beginning to have a faint alpine glow.
That glow only intensified as we neared the lake.
Sunrise Colors at Copper Glance Lake
After a final uphill from the small lake to a small ridgeline, we could finally see the lake and the golden larches surrounding Copper Glance Lake. It was a magical sight!
From this upper view, you have another 5-minute walk down to from this upper view the lake. The trail eventually turns to rocks as you gingerly walk across them down to the lake. We found a nice place to sit at the bottom left of the lake as you’re looking at it.
You can also walk around the lake on the left side from here by crossing the stream mentioned above. I’m sure there’s a route on the right side, but we never ventured over there as the photo opportunities are not as grand, thanks to the mountain peaks being behind you.
Coming back down
As we hiked down, we did see three other solo hikers. So, even during peak colors, the trail was quite empty. Overall, I set a speedy pace, getting down in about 77 minutes.
It’s an easy trail to fly down, but you will feel it in your quads, as it’s all down all the time.
FAQ: Copper Glance Lake
A few more random questions people may have about the hike.
Can dogs hike at Copper Glance Lake?
Yep! Dogs are welcome at Copper Glance Lake. Please remember to pick up after your dog and not leave wag bags on the trail.
Besides larches, are there any other fall colors?
There were minimal other fall colors on this hike. This is especially true for the lake, as not many other plants are growing besides the larch trees. I do think there were other fall colors on the way down. I did notice good colors in the valley below, which you can see as you are hiking up/down.
Can you fly drones here?
Yes, this is a national forest, and drones are allowed here. Please be respectful of your surroundings when flying.
Can you backpack to Copper Glance Lake?
Yes, you can backpack, though I did not see any spots to camp near the lake. As I said, it’s very rocky and uneven. There might be a spot closer to the smaller lake that has better terrain. (I also wasn’t looking too hard, so do your research on this one.)
Final Thoughts: Copper Glance Lake
You’re going to have a field day at Copper Glance Lake. It’s remarkable, offers solitude, and is something great that few people adventure to simply due to its proximity.
So enjoy it and treat it right!
Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.
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