Monday, June 24, 2013

Hiking the Cascades' Greatest Hits: Annette Lake

"How is it that I've never done this hike?" says Nanette as we're gazing at postcard perfect Annette Lake.  This über popular 7.5-mile hike to an alpine lake near Snoqualmie Pass is what I call one of the "Greatest Hits" Cascades hikes.

It's my first time here, too. So I can't give Nanette a good answer.  Maybe I avoided  Annette Lake because it is so popular.  But on an early summer week day when the trail is almost snow free and the wildflowers and waterfalls are at their peak, I'm glad we're here.

Here in the Mountains to Sound Greenway along the I-90 corridor east of Seattle, many of the more scenic trails are heavily used.  Think proximity to a major metropolitan area.  But those of us who can escape midweek get to enjoy these treasures without the overbearing crowds.

We start hiking in second-growth forest and soon cross a wooden bridge over Humpback Creek, which is raging today with all the snowmelt.  

Humpback Creek from the lower footbridge.

Antidote for a hot summer day.
We continue up a relatively mild grade through forest, then traverse a major power line corridor, where the wires buzz and crackle overhead.  Within a mile or so we cross the Iron Horse Trail and leave behind signs of civilization (besides the trail) in the increasingly lush forest.

For another couple miles, the trail meanders and switchbacks upward through lovely forest, a few major rock slides, and finally, a bit of snow right before we arrive at the lake.  Along the way we stop and gape at some beautiful little waterfalls and wildflowers.

This huge old downed tree makes a perfect bridge.
After a couple miles we get views of the adjacent ridge.
Trilliums were abundant in some rockslides.

One of many early summer snowmelt waterfalls along the trail.
While hiking upward, we pass an elderly couple on their way down already.  Now these are the type of classic old Pacific Northwest hikers who inspire me.  

Jerry and his wife have been married 62 years and hiked all over the world, as evidenced by patches on their packs from Nepal, Switzerland, Italy, and France.  This summer, at age 82,  they're leading a group of friends and family on the Haute Route in the Alps. They're too modest to pose for a shot, but I sneak a picture as they take off down the trail.

Jerry and his wife leading the charge down the trail.
After parking at a small clearing next to the lake, we snack and gaze across the lake at the surrounding peaks.  Even though I offer Julie and Nanette the rest of my gluten-free crackers if they take a swim, they stay put. :)  But the twentysomethings who passed us did indeed take a dip in the icy cold lake.

Silver Peak towers over the talus basin below that holds Annette Lake.
We stroll back down at a fairly pokey pace, just enjoying the beautiful trail on a lovely day.  It's the perfect temperature for hiking (around 70) and we're ahead of the mosquito season. What more could we ask for?

When You Go
The Annette Lake Trail (Trail #1019) is just south off I-90 at the Denny Creek/Asahel Curtis exit (Exit 47) if you're traveling eastbound from the Seattle area.  You need a Northwest Forest Pass to park in the lot. While the grade is fairly steady, this is not a particularly challenging or steep hike. This link shows a topo map of the trail in relation to I-90.  Different sources attribute different mileage and elevation gain to this trail, from 7.4 miles roundtrip to 7.8 miles, and from 1,400 feet in elevation gain to 1,900. Go figure.  You top out at around 3,600 feet at the lake.


Unknown said...

I've only done Annette Lake once and it was not too crowded, but I went with some girl friends on a rainy afternoon. The lake is absolutely gorgeous! Love the story about the older couple. I sure hope to be like them when I get old!

Mary said...

I think it's a good thing that I'm stuck in the Midwest. If I had trails and views like that so accessible to me, I'd probably be unemployed from calling in "sick" to go hiking!

Anonymous said...

Annette Lake is really pretty, but the last time (of about a half-dozen times) on this trail, I found the trail itself a bit dull. Maybe I went at the wrong time of the year or was out of sorts, because I do like wildflowers, spring growth and waterfalls. Guess I should check it out again. Thanks, Jill.


Jill said...

Rachel, that's great that you hiked in the rain to the lake! How very Northwest of you.

Jill said...

Rachel, that's great that you hiked in the rain to the lake! How very Northwest of you.

MaryAnn said...

I've also hiked Denny Creek trail, nearby. Great for kids, with a dip in the creek as a reward at the end.