A reflection at lake 22.

Lake 22 Trail: Guide for a Great Washington Hike

The Lake 22 Trail is consistently one of the most popular trails in Washington. And there’s a good reason for it. It’s gorgeous, relatively close to Seattle, offers something for all hikers, and isn’t too hard of a hike. 

Combined, these hikes are must-dos for those visiting or living in the Pacific Northwest—even if you have to battle crowds. 

So, thanks to jagged peaks, lush forests, waterfalls, and pretty great views, you’re going to have an amazing time on the trek! 

Inside, you’ll find a short trail guide for the Lake 22 hike and some pictures to inspire your trip into the mountains. 

Hiking the Lake 22 Trail  in the Washington Cascades

Quick Hike Stats

  • Lake 22 Distance: 5.5 miles round trip to the front of the lake
  • Elevation Gain: 1,400 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Snow Present: November through April/May
  • Very crowded on weekends during the summer
a half frozen lake 22 in washington
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Trail Report for the Lake 22 Trail

Finally, after living in Seattle for 18 months, we finally tackled the popular Lake 22 trail. We knew that going during the summer would be a madhouse, so we opted to go in late spring, knowing full well we’d see snow once we reached the upper echelons of the trail.

And boom, we were right! For the last quarter mile, we gingerly walked on the melting snow toward Lake 22, hoping and praying we wouldn’t posthole or slip (we had microspikes, but they weren’t necessary). 

Before that, though, the trail was in great condition.

The first half is through a lush forest with various water crossings and waterfalls. Unfortunately, none of them are in a place that offers epic photography opportunities without literally getting into the river itself. Still, it was nice to enjoy the views, catch your breath, and listen to the sounds of nature.

one of the waterfalls you see on the lake 22 trail
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

The Lake 22 trail is mostly gradual uphill, though we found our breathing increased once we exited the forest and tackled the switchback portion of the trail. Simultaneously, the trail got cruddier, with bigger rocks and more annoying foot placements. Thankfully, this was only a short period of time. 

Then, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes came the towering peaks of the Washington Cascades. It was gorgeous, and thanks to a half-frozen lake, there was a gorgeous reflection.

Because of the snow, we didn’t hike around, but if you visit in the summertime, you should have an easy time. 

Once at the lake, we found a nice spot to sit, eat lunch, and soak in the sun that had been hiding for the majority of the winter months. 

a hiker going through the forest on the lake 22 trail
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

What you need to know for Lake 22

Where is Lake 22 Located

Lake 22 is in the Central Washington Cascades, just east of Granite Falls on the Mountain Loop Highway. It’s a 65-minute drive from Seattle, and the road is open year-round, with exceptions for a massive snowstorm. 

On the way, there are a handful of campgrounds perfect for summer camping and also pull offs that allow you access to the river. Once it warms up, this would be a perfect place to spend an afternoon. 

Trailhead location

Screenshot via Google Maps

Finding the Trailhead

Getting to the Lake 22 Trailhead is super easy. It’s right off the Mountain Loop Highway, and there are signs pointing you in the right direction. While there’s not great cell service, you should be able to download your maps offline and have them direct you the entire way. 

If there’s no parking available in the lot, you might be SOL. I remember seeing signs prohibiting parking alongside the road. Have a backup plan in mind, especially with the lack of cell service in the area. 

Snow on a rock in a black and white photo
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

How Hard is the hike to Lake 22?

I wouldn’t worry about the hike up to Lake 22. This is a moderate-level hike and is only 2.5 miles to the front of the lake. Compared to nearby Heather Lake, though, it felt a little harder, but that might be due to being slightly out of shape after a gloomy winter. 

If you’re an active person with some experience hiking, you’ll be fine for this hike.

Looking to camp nearby? Find a Hip Camp

What is the hiking time to the lake?

The Lake 22 trail took us just under three hours round trip, not including our lunch on the lake shore. We were pretty consistent, going up and down in about 90 minutes. (I did take more photos on the way down, and we stopped at the waterfalls, too.)

Are there any bathrooms?

You’ll find pit toilets at the Lake 22 trailhead, but none exist at the lake or on the trail. It’s not a long trail, so you should be fine if you go beforehand. 

Are dogs allowed on the hike?

Yes, dogs are more than welcome on this trail. Please keep them on a leash and make sure you pick them up after them. 

When is the best time of year for the trail?

You can theoretically hike this year-round, though I would check avalanche reports during the winter months. But the best time to hike to Lake 22 is spring through fall when the ice thaws and you can enjoy the warm weather. 

But it’s a crowd favorite, which means that you can expect heavy crowds by 8am on weekends (maybe even earlier), and the parking lot is not too big. 

a perfect reflection on the lake 22 trail in Washington
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Will I have cell service?

Chances are low you’ll have cell service while hiking to Lake 22. This part of the Mountain Loop Highway has crappy cell coverage, and I usually just throw my phone onto airplane mode while I’m in the area. 

Can you Backpack to Lake 22?

No. You’re not allowed to camp or have campfires in the Lake 22 basin. If you’re looking for backpacking trails in the area, check out Gothic Basin and Vesper Peak. These are challenging but are frickin amazing! 

What gear to pack for your hike

Here’s what I brought on the hike.

  • Hiking backpack
  • Down jacket
  • Hiking pants
  • Microspikes
  • Hiking poles
  • Camera and lens
  • Snacks and water
  • Waterproof boots

More Photos from the Hike

FAQ: Lake 22 Trail

Are drones allowed?

Yes, you are allowed to fly drones at Lake 22. It is located in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and does not have restrictions. Please fly with caution, though, and do not do it over large crowds. 

Is Lake 22 safe to swim in? 

There are no signs or prohibitions against swimming in Lake 22. Remember, it is a snowmelt-fed lake, so it’ll be cold throughout the year. The warmest it’ll be is probably August, after months of sunlight and no snow. 

Can I fish here?

Yes! Fishing is allowed here, and with depths of 53 feet, you might be able to find some good catches. If you want to do this, you might want to bring a small blow-up to get away from the shoreline. 

What pass is required for this hike?

You will need the America the Beautiful or Northwest Forest pass to day hike here. Put it on your dashboard when you arrive to the Lake 22 trailhead, and you’ll be set for the day!

Are there bears around here?

I’m sure there are, but I wouldn’t be too worried about them. if you do happen upon one, it will be a black bear, and they’re quite skittish of humans. Also, no need for bear spray. 

a hike on the trail surrounded by trees
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Final Thoughts on the Lake 22 Hike

I was pleasantly surprised by this hike. Usually, I stay away from overly crowded trails and opt for harder ones in the backcountry. But in winter/spring, you have to take hiking opportunities when you get them. And Lake 22 was an awesome trail with superb views. 

I totally recommend you check it out and take the plunge – literally and figuratively!

Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside