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
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 WTA.org: 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.
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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