For my final week in the PNW, the duo headed south a couple of highways to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, a magical place full of, you guessed it, Alpine Lakes. We backpacked, hiked, and enjoyed the beauty of the outdoors.
Alpine Lakes Wilderness
On the way to our Mt. Daniel summit, we quickly stopped by Snoqualmie Falls. It’s a nice area, but it’s also a touristy area with a lot of people. Not ideal during a pandemic. We didn’t spend a long time here (which wasn’t bad as it was really warming up in central Washington).
Summiting Mt. Daniel
This was a gnarly hike. At 16 miles roundtrip, it’s not too long of a hike but it has some serious elevation gain: 5,000+ feet. The first 6 miles are pretty straight forward but the final two bring you up a tight, dusty trail, and depending on the route you want to take, either hugs a steep ridge or takes you over a snowfield.
We went up the ridge, consisting of lots of scree and massive drop offs on both sides. I didn’t like the scree one bit but the climbing parts of the ridge weren’t bad. However, the snowfield would have been much easier and saved us 45 minutes. Once at the top, our views were to die for. We could see Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Baker plus so many lakes and layers, layers, layers.
There are sleeping spots built out right under the summit, allowing us to spend a night under the stars. It was truly incredible. Austin and I woke up for a phenomenal sunrise before going back to sleep for a few hours. The hike down was anticlimatic, taking the snow route down.
A sunset hike to Colchuck Lake
Even though our legs were a bit tired from the summit hike the day before, we wanted to hit Colchuck for sunset. At just over 4 miles up, we felt each step but it was all worth it once we reached the top. In the shadow of Dragontail Peak, we went swimming in the alpine lake to soothe our muscles. I hadn’t been back here since backpacking the Enchantments, and it reminded me why the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is so special.
Backpacking to Gem Lake
The final hike of my trip, we wanted something that wasn’t too hard, but also allowed us a chance to backpack. We chose Gem Lake which was nice but nothing to write home about. The bugs sucked and we were in bed by 9:30 (early for the two of us). It was nice to spend the night away from the crowds, but the next morning, we passed easily 100 people (probably more) on our way down. This hike is super popular as it’s only an hour from Seattle and gives people a chance to go swimming in the lower Snow Lake.
With that, we’ve reached the end of my western US road trip! Getting to road trip and backpack throughout some of the most beautiful parts of the country is something I’ll never forget. In all, Austin and I visited five National Parks, countless mindblowing vistas, and created more memories than ever before.
Stay tuned for detailed trail reports from each of the hikes which mean lots and lots of more photos!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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