Washington State’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness (Cascade Mountains)


A short week of city work and then we were out.  It was 6pm and we were stocking up, eating, forgetting things, stocking up again, getting licenses, and then heading east up and over Interstate 90.  Seattle – Snoqualimie Pass – Roslyn – Salmon La Sac.  It was dark by the time we reached the trailhead, about 11PM, and we were beat from the seemingly endless dirt road that only became visible through the truck’s headlights.  Everything else was black as the sky above.  We took swigs of whiskey, unrolled our pads and bags, and slept like babies under the canvas’ cover.

From Deception Pass trailhead, we enjoyed the wide path to Hyass Lake, before a slowly inclining climb got us sweating.  Simon and I were conditioned.  It had been too long since we were on the trail, so our mind’s excitement took up the body’s slack.  In less then three hours we reached the pass, an uneventful merging with the Pacific Crest Trail.

We had no plans except a start date and the last day we needed to be back down heading home.  We pulled out the topo maps and traced lines with our fingers.





Our pace didn’t slow, it quickened with ease.  We couldn’t contain the thrill of being out, winding north from Snoqualimie Pass in Washington State’s Cascade Mountains to Steven’s Pass.  The area we were exploring was the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, a land nestled between I-90 and Hwy 2 with enough lakes to last you 10 lifetimes.  And at high altitudes, many cresting above the timber line, they were quiet, and well stocked.  Fly-rods: check.






In less then 5.5 hrs from the trailhead, up to Deception Pass and north along the PCT we reached our first night’s destination: Deception Lakes.  And they were exquisite.  Two glistening bodies of water with long shallow shores that dropped into deep emerald hues.  The fish were going crazy.  Set up camp, pull shoes, rig the rods and throw some line.  But there was one problem.  These rainbow, brook and cutthroat trout were tiny, skipping across the water as they emerged for a vast array of insect life the size of gnats buzzing around your wine.  We had nothing, they had everything.  Hooking one small brook did not afford us the glamorous backpacking dinner we hoped, but the excitement to be here and how far exceeded expectations.





The next day we rose and kept camp at Deception.  With light packs, food, water and fly gear, we headed up to Mt. Surprise for a summit before dropping down further north to Glacier and Surprise Lakes.  More fish, more action, but the same small size.  But what made the day was the Saturday morning spent atop Mt. Surprise.  With a thick rolling cloud cover the temperature of a warm bath and nobody within eyesight or earshot, Simon and I sat, played a deck or two and sipped our libations.  Nowhere else was more accommodating before dropping down through Piper Pass onto Glacier and Surprise Lakes.






To return to camp that evening, we continued along a loop, rejoining the PCT south to Deception Lakes, trying to never walk the same path twice.

With sunrise, oats, and full water jugs, we packed camp and headed west down to Deception Creek, a small tight valley that originated at the base of Mt Daniels.  Simon and I hiked south toward Deception Pass, taking a new less-traveled trail that brought us through a rich land of moss and wild mountain blueberries.  The trail was minimal and our eyes were awake for lingering bears.






By noon we were back at Deception Pass, before turning west along Marmot Trail to Marmot Lake.  And beyond that, a Shangri La called Jade.  It was a long afternoon hike as we took side routes for smaller excursions to ampitheatres of rock and screen.  The views were vast, as if we could reach out to the trails we were on just days prior.  Shortly before the late afternoon, the thick blue waters of Marmot met us, but it was the Jade that took our breath away.





Jade Lake was an additional mile above Marmot, a steep perilous hike under darkness, but just manageable with light packs and three days of hiking under our feet and within our knees.  Jade Lake with it’s hushing sounds of wind screaming through the pass just south, was all to ourselves and the large trolling trout that could be seen beneath the surface, careless about our imitation flies.




One more night, one more morning before the trail descended beneath our boots back to Salmon La Sac (after a morning fish of course).  Beers and billiards at The Brick in Roslyn washed down the 4 day/3 night dream to mere memories.  Next summer will be just as beautiful.




  1. Robin Karsten says:


  2. Fantastic. Your pictures are really telling a story.

  3. Overview: This southern section of the Pacific Crest Trail is a more difficult 21 mile hike or horseback ride. The trail climbs steadily through the ski area to the ridgeline, then drops east to the power line clear-cut. The PCT passes Susan Jane and Mig Lakes, intersecting with the Hope Lake and Tunnel Creek Trail #1061. The PCT continues past Trap Lake and crosses Trap Pass, meeting the Surprise Creek Trail #1060 after 13.7 miles. The trail skirts east of Surprise and Glacier Lakes, climbing over Surprise Mountain. Next, the trail intersects the Deception Lakes Trail #1059. At Deception Pass, the PCT leaves the Skykomish Ranger District.

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