Washington Trails: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/heather-lake-1
Location: 48°04’58.9″N 121°46’26.2″W
Mountain Range: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (Northwest Forest Pass required)
Distance: 4.6 miles, roundtrip
Time: Must bring a watch next time
Elevation gain: 1100 ft.
Highlights: running streams, wooden bridges, waterfalls, switchbacks, alpine lake
This popular hike is classified in many places as a child-friendly hike, but the big steps, fallen tree hazards, and steep inclines put this in the “adult” category for me. It’s muddy, rocky and wet, so lush vegetation abounds. On a sunny day, like the one we had, the afternoon light will hit just right through the trees and give you a whimsical sense of being in a fairyland. The diverse trail and large lake at the end make it understandable why this hike is a favorite for many.
On a weekend, the trailhead was packed full of cars, but there’s enough overflow parking on the side of the forest road to accommodate extra vehicles. We parked there and began our hike. It was an immediately awesome hike, with amazing greenery and just enough mud to remind you that you’re in the great outdoors and not a perfectly maintained leisure trail. Roots, rocks and streams abound, so you’ll keep your head down a lot and sturdy hiking boots I recommend. Because Spring was approaching when we did this trail, the melt-water ran down much of the trail in the beginning. It felt as if we were walking upstream, which we may very well have been.
To reiterate the kid thing, there were plenty of families on this trail; however, the ones with small children were going extremely slow due to obstacles and inclines. I imagine not all the families made it to the top, but those carrying babies got quite the workout! If I had to pick an age, I’d say 7 or 8 minimum for children to enjoy the entire hike.
Plenty of people do this hike in full-on winter snow, and I’m sure it’s a beautiful sight. We saw snow for the last 30 minutes of the trail and the glistening was—again—magical like a fairytale. I’ll keep it on my list of winter hikes for next year. Heather Lake was still frozen when we reached the pinnacle, but we didn’t dare walk on it as it was a sunny day and the outskirts of the lake showed signs of thawing. We found a nice rock to post up on for some snacks, but next time I think I’ll bring a waterproof blanket. I was jealous of our neighbors who had one and left with dry butts. I could not say the same.
It was a breezy day-hike and a beautiful vista at Heather Lake. It’s easy to see why this is a popular place to go year-round and also to camp in the warmer months. Happy trails!
Spoiler Alert: Trail Play-By-Play
Immediate inclines over rocky and rooty, shaded terrain
Walking, quite literally, up a stream
Wide, open and flat trail for 10-15 mins
Various wooden steps
Rocky switchbacks (but not the annoying kind) and fallen trees
Uneven wooden bridge/path
More wooden steps and some steep ascents on granite terrain
Snowy trail and glistening forest beds
Path veers left and goes around the lake