Pacific NorthWest during the summer time is a treasure trove of alpine lakes, wildflower-filled meadows, gleaming glacial basins, thundering waterfalls and more. Over the past few years of living in the Seattle area, I have been fortunate to go on some amazing hikes. In general, I prefer day hikes and keep photography as my main objective, with swimming being a close second. Here is a list of jaw dropping trails, all accessible within 3 hours drive from Seattle and of moderate difficulty. I have linked to the WTA entries for the hikes, so you can read the fine print, and read the recent trip reports before you head out!
1. Maple pass loop: This is one of my favorite hikes for the kind of variety it offers. First of all, it’s a loop – so you don’t have to drag your feet on your way out! And the kind of variety that this hike offers is unbeatable: from ridge-walks to the beautiful lake Anne, and splendid views of high sierra. The favorite part is being able to pick huckleberries!
2. Colchuck lake: An easy access to the Alpine Lake Wilderness on a day hike. Yes, you heard me right! A dream like landscape, be forewarned that you wouldn’t want to leave this place at all. The famed Asgard pass and the Dragon-tail peak loom high over the lake. This may be my favorite lake in the region – it gets warm enough for a quick dip in the summer!
3. Sahale Arm and Cascade pass: Even if you drove back from the trailhead, you would not be disappointed. The final 45 minutes of drive is on a forest gravel road, but the scenery is sublime. You will stop counting the waterfalls plummeting down the sheer rock cliffs.
4. Ingalls lake: Another gem of a lake in the Alpine Wilderness, and accessible on a day hike. However, the terrain that you would traverse on this hike is so different from the Colchuck lake hike! Passing multiple eco-systems, the approach to the lake is as varied as it can be. The lake itself sits on a high-basin, with rocky cliffs of Mt. Stuart providing stark contrast. Many climbers come to conquer the Ingalls peak as well. Pro tip- hike-up the boulders on the left bank and you will gift yourself with killer views looking down at the lake.
5. Lake Blanca: This may be the most striking of all the lakes on this list. The glacial deposit makes the lake come alive with a a turquoise blue color, and you just can’t stop looking at this beauty. This may also be the most brutal hike for your knees. With close to 4k of effective elevation gain, this is surely about the destination more than the journey.
6. Blue lake: my fall favorite. This one is pure larch delight all the way. Especially on a quiet autumn evening, the larches reflect perfectly in the calm waters of the blue lake.
7. Park Butte: This one is a slight departure from rest of the hikes on the list. No major lake on this hike, but the unobstructed and close-up views of Mt. Baker more than makes up for it!
8. Lake Serene: The easiest access from Seattle and the busiest trail, but Mt. Index is the biggest draw on this hike. Bridal veil falls on the way adds a great rest stop.
9. Eunice lake and Tolmie fire lookout: On a clear day, this hike would reward you with some amazing views of Mt. Rainier. The fire lookout makes for an interesting objective and provides sweeping views in all directions. One of my favorite Rainier hikes!