Trail review

Trail review

Lake 22 Trail review; an accessible alpine excursion.

Colter Co. Lake 22 trail review

This trail review was written by a hiker and guest contributor, Sarah Okey (@sokey10). Thank you for sharing, Sarah!

I’m a fan of all kinds of trails but if I had to pick a hike “type” it would be alpine lake trails. We’re fortunate out here in the Northwest to have our fair share of alpine lake escapes and so on Labor Day to celebrate the holiday, myself and a few friends decided to head to Lake 22 - a very popular hike just over an hour north of Seattle. The trailhead for Lake 22 is near Mt. Pilchuck State Park (another incredible hike!), just outside of Granite Falls, WA. 


 Date we hiked: September 2 – Labor Day!

 Distance: 5.4 miles to the lake, roundtrip

 Elevation gain: 1,350

 Difficulty: Easy to moderate

 Kid friendly: Yes

 Dogs: Yes, on leash

 Permits: None

 Parking passes: Northwest Forest Pass

 Other considerations: This is a super popular trail so go early or be prepared to have a tough time finding parking. There is a warning listed on Cars blocking the highway near the Lake 22 trailhead will be towed. Park in designated areas only or visit this trail during the week to avoid parking concerns

 Gear: None required (at least from May-November). Note that it is rocky and you do cross a few creeks so waterproof hiking boots are ideal.

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I cannot emphasize it enough - get there EARLY or be prepared to hike with crowds. Given its accessibility to the city, Lake 22 is a popular pick - specifically during May-early September. We left the city around 7:15AM, putting us at the trailhead around 8:30AM. The parking lot was already starting to get full, so we were glad we had set an early wakeup time. 

Although we were barely into September, the hike already had hints of fall. A few leaves were starting to shift colors and the air was crisp.

We were all pleasantly surprised/reminded how well-maintained the trail was. The beginning portion includes a lot of dirt stairs which make it an easy climb for the first portion of the trail. We wound our way through the forest, crossing a bridge over a creek before the incline really started. 

 About a mile and a half in, the trail opens up to a beautiful vista looking North towards Liberty Mountain on the other side of Mountain Loop Highway. This part of the trail becomes quite a bit rockier as you make your way back and forth along the switchbacks. We were focused on getting up the trail when we realized we needed to take a break to stop and take the view in!

As we made our way to the top, we started to see the clearing of the lake and could hear dogs splashing around in the water. It took us just shy of an hour to get the lake.

Although I had been to Lake 22 before, there is something absolutely breathtaking about walking up to the clearing of an alpine lake, even if you know what’s coming. There was still snow on the far side of the lake (not any impediment to the trail), despite it being in the 70s and at the end of summer. 

We walked around to the end of the boardwalk to get a bit closer to the water. We didn’t get in the water but watched some hikers blow up kayaks and jump right in. There is a trail that goes around the perimeter of the lake but we didn’t go all the way around. The lake loop adds about 1.5 miles to the total trip. 

 We hung out by the lake for a bit, soaked in the beauty and snapped some pics before heading back down the trail. On the way down the trail was really starting to get crowded (started heading down around 10:15). The sun was also more directly overhead making the non-tree covered parts of the trail quite a bit hotter.

Lake 22 is a staple Seattle hike. It’s a great quick easy/moderate well-marked trail with a highly rewarding finish. On a hot day, wear your swimsuit and jump right in!

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Trail review

Olympic Peninsula South Coast Wilderness Trail - Third Beach to Oil City.

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The coastline of the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful and unique ecosystem. The moment you step out of the car you can smell the salt of the sea and feel the heavy ocean air. The trees grow tall and in areas block out all the light creating a shadowy canopy. The forest near the coast is thick with dense ferns and salal bushes 6 to 7 feet tall, as far as you can see. The only possible way to pass through is the trail you are on. Most of the trail isn’t overly steep, but there are spots where the only way to get past the big bluffs is to climb straight up. There are ropes from washed up fishing nets and sometimes ladders built into the cliff. It makes it feel like a true adventure. Like Indiana Jones on his way to some ancient temple in the jungle. This dense rainforest trek is interrupted by stunning vistas of beaches and rows of sea stack rocks that are home to sea birds, eagles and tide pools. There are long stretches of beach hiking where you see what the surf has brought in from the sea. There are always a broad range of floats broken off of the industrial fishing nets in the Pacific. Some of the camp sites along the way have trees decorated with these floats like the walls of a quant beach house. The freshly swept sand and low tides shows the tracks of passing wildlife. We saw the wanderings of raccoon, coyote, deer, squirrel and pelicans.


Date we hiked: August 15-17

Distance: 17 miles point to point

Elevation gain: 2,004 over the whole trail. The highest point is 250 feet.

Difficulty: Moderate with several Rope ladders, and rock scrambles.

Kid friendly: I took my 12 and 9 year old boys on this hike. It was very challenging to be sure, but they rose to the challenge when they felt the thrill of real adventure. The rope ladders and rock scrambles were my biggest concern. They were very challenging, but they boys did well.

Dogs: Not allowed on this trail

Permits: You do need to get permits for this trip from the ranger station. There are quotas for each camp area and you will have a designated area for each night you stay. Not a reserved site, mind you. But there will be an area there for you. You can find out more about the permits here.

Parking passes: None

Edible plants: This trail is lined with salal berries that were in season while we were there.

Other considerations: Bear cans are required (you can get one at the ranger station). Take a current tide chart! You will need it in passing certain areas and for determining safe camp sites.

Gear: Trekking poles were a must on this one for the rock scrambles and river fords. Work gloves for the rope ladders (I was skeptical of these but very glad we took them). Bear can is required. Water shoes for river fords. Water filter (even with filtering there was a high amount of discoloration in the available creek water and using water treatment tablets wouldn’t be suggest…) I took gaiters for my boots to keep sand out of my socks and would highly suggest doing the same.

There are sections of this hike that must be passed at low tide. If you miss low tide you have to wait about 8 hours for the next low tide. There’s no way around this, so make sure you take a tide chart! In retrospect we would probably do this one from south to north if we could have a do over. The most tide sensitive parts were close to Oil City so leaving that close to the end left us with little flexibility on time. We ended up waking up at 5 AM the last day to cover 4 miles before that days low tide at 9:30 AM. It was a bit of a rush and didn’t leave time for breaks or to enjoy views. But that was just because of the way the tides landed during our trip. I suggest checking on the tides during the window you will be there and then decide if you want to go north to south or south to north.

 We started out at the Third beach trail head (not Beach 3. That’s a different beach. Very confusing…) We left a car at the Oil City trail head with the plan to shuttle ourselves back up to Third beach at the end. Lots of people will do part of this trail as an out and back to avoid the shuttling, but since we had 2 adults and 2 cars we did it as a point to point hike. Third beach to Toleak point is a common out and back. I would definitely suggest that if you are short on time or two cars.

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It’s only a little over a mile from the trail head to Third beach. That’s where the first set of ropes and ladders comes in. You can see from the elevation map exactly where the big climbs and descents are. Each time you drop out of the rainforest and onto the beach is amazing. It never gets old! 

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We camped at the first night just south of Scott’s bluff. There are several campsite there and a water source at Scott creek.

That brings me to the water sources… There are several creeks and small rivers that you will be crossing and can filter water from. While we were there the water sources were discolored and even after filtering it looked a lot like ginger ale. It made me a little nervous, but tasted fine, and nobody suffered any ill effects from drinking it. One note on filtering water near the beach. Make sure you go far enough up stream to avoid getting water that may be tainted with sea water that can wash up stream with high tides.

 We arrived at low tide, but we could see a clear line of where that last high tide had been. We made sure to camp in an area out of the splash zone.

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Another bonus to this trail is the plentiful firewood on the beach. You are allowed to burn driftwood. Obviously, pick the dry stuff. It made our evening camps very cozy on the beach.

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In order to save on weight and space (those bear cans aren’t huge…) we used almost exclusively freeze dried meals. This worked out great for us. It’s also nice to only have to wash a spoon at the end of a meal :)

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 Day 2 was our long day. We did around 8 miles to end the day at Mosquito creek. There was a fair amount of climbing over bluffs and even a couple small creek ford: Falls creek and Goodman creek. We took the opportunity to eat lunch after crossing Goodman creek and let our feet dry out. We did bring flip flops or water shoes for water crossings to avoid having wet feet during the rest of the trips.

 The stretch of the trail passes Toleak point which is a big draw for a lot of hikers. It’s at almost exactly 6 miles in. There are several campsites in the area, including some off the beach in the woods that are quite nice. Most of these sites are clearly marked with hanging fishing floats and bouys. Toleak point is amazing, and it’s very clear to see why people make this spot a destination! Coming around the corner at Toleak you can see a lot of sea stack rocks and amazing bluffs going all the way down to Hoh head near the Hoh river.

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 The second half of the day was mostly beach hiking with the exception of one overland stretch. We ended the day at Mosquito creek, camping up at the top of the bluff overlooking the beach. It was a great site, big enough for 3-4 tents. There was a nice firepit and even some flat benches there. There were some other sites around and even a pit toilet. Mosquito creek was a beautiful spot that (thankfully) did not live up to its name.

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Day 3 was a shorter than day 2, but required us to be on the trail at 6:20 am to hit the tides at the right time. No time for breaks or lollygagging! Our tight pace wasn’t helped out by us marching into a very angry bunch of hornets that made clear their displeasure with us being there. Most of us sustain a sting or two or 5. The overland section of this leg was about 3 miles before dropping back down onto the beach. About a mile later is Diamond Rock. This is the area we needed to hit at low tide. There are two outcroppings that are only accessible at low tide. Even at low tide they are a challenge! The smooth sand of the beach is interrupted by large boulder fields. We tried to stay up closer to the dry rocks as the ones that spend a lot of time underwater tend to be covered in slippery seaweed. It is a pretty challenging stretch and requires making your own route through the rocks. It’s slow going but it’s the last major obstacle of the trail. After that it’s a little bit more beach hiking and then less than a mile along the beautiful Hoh river to the trail head.

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In summary, this was a fabulous trip that my boys and I will surely remember and talk about for years to come. A fabulous mix of sand, sights, and challenges. I would do it again in a heart beat!

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Let me know if you’ve done this trail, or if you have others you’d suggest. I’m always looking for new trials to explore.

Trail review

Alpine Lakes Wilderness


Last week was our big backpacking trip for the year. 4 days and 3 nights with my two boys and a couple friends and their boys to a couple different lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It's an area north of Snoqualmie pass. I've hiked several different trails in the area and it never fails to amaze me. 


We started out on Wednesday evening and hiked the 3.25 miles to Snow lake. Wednesday, it turns out, is a good day to go to Snow lake. More on that later. Snow lake is a good sized lake with a fair amount of good camping spots around the south east side of the lake. There are at least a couple pit toilets around that make things a bit easier as the ground isn't super easy to dig. The lake basin is filled with huckleberries and they were perfectly ripe last week. The water is clear and the deep blue of snow run off. Great for swimming... After some acclimation.  

We camped there that night, awoke to make pancakes for breakfast, broke camp and headed to Gem lake. The trail winds around Snow lake, giving you a spectacular view of the lake from all angles. 1.7 miles later you get to Gem lake. As soon as you get a peek at Gem lake, you know how it got its name. It looks like a sapphire set in the rough mountains around it. Beautiful, clear and blue. But don't stop there. The view from the east side of the lake is so much better. It would be a shame to get to the lake and not get the view from the east side. 

We swam in the lake, replenished water and did a little laundry that afternoon. The next morning my oldest son and I made the .33 mile trek to the top of Wright Mountain. The trail is about 1/3 scramble over rocks lead by cairns. The trek is steep, but well worth the trip! You can see for miles in every direction. Mostly it's more rocky peaks and glacier carved valleys as far as the eye can see. You can see Gem lake, Snow lake, upper and lower Wildcat lakes and couple other smaller lakes. 


In an effort to make the last days trek out not as hard, we broke camp that morning and headed back to Snow lake. We had originally wanted to stay at Gem lake 2 nights. Actually I wouldn't have minded staying at Gem lake for two weeks... But the idea of a 5 mile hike out the next day with the smaller members of the group already pretty exhausted didn't seem like a good idea. So we headed back to Snow lake, enjoyed another swim there and stayed the night. 


There are good stretches of the trail that are pretty rough. Liam made the trip with a broken arm. What a tough dude... He didn't complain about anything, but he did slow down quite a bit when he got tired. Another member of the group and I would occasionally take his pack so he could pick up the pace.


Snow lake is amazing, well worth the trip. But I would HIGHLY recommend going during the week. Friday night there was at least one pretty loud group staying the night. Up laughing and yelling until at least 4:30 am. Not cool, guys. The next day, Saturday, we counted over 500 people on the trail going up to the lake as we hiked out. Pretty crowded... Very different from our experience on Wednesday. 


In our down time at camp we enjoyed a few rounds of checkers on the Cabin Fever bandana. Rocks vs. Pine cones. This bandana always comes in handy, especially on a trip where you know you'll have time at camp and don't want to carry any extra weight. 

Over all the trip was amazing. Enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Washington never ceased to amaze me. Driving through Snoqualmie pass, I would never had guessed such amazing views were just a few miles off the main road. Such a blessing to live in a place like this. 

Have you backpacked in this area? What are your favorite trails to hike?

Trail review

Olympic Peninsula 50-miler


There are few 50-milers out there as epic as the Washington coast. A local Boy Scout group I've been involved with over the years just got back from that trip. They started at Oil City and ending at Shi Shi beach, near the northern most point of the Olympic Peninsula. It was all just a walk on the beach, though. There's some seriously rugged terrain in between those two points, including a lot of bouldering and areas so steep they require ropes to ascend. Some parts of the trail have to be timed with low tides, making it very important to keep pace on those days. Overall the trip went very well. They all arrived back home tired and a bit blistered.

I've lead a Scout group on a 50-miler backpacking trip and it was amazing. It's one of the best experiences a young man can have in the outdoors. There are so many skills and experiences that can be learned on a long distance backpacking trip. It's an experience they will never forget and will always be proud that they accomplished.

I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story. 

Colter Co. was proud to have a few bandanas make the trip.

Colter Co. was proud to have a few bandanas make the trip.