Note Forest Rd 63 is closed, adding 2 miles of flat gravel road to walk both ways. The road is supposed to open soon, but a definitive date has not been set
The trail starts in cool second growth forest, but the trees are quite sizable. In the fall, the squirrels roughhouse in the trees high above your head. Occasionally they drop gigantic pinecones from high above, and while the resulting crash is startling, it is fun to watch.
The trail is in excellent shape, and gets right down to business, starting off venturing through a close forest with very little understory, but lots of moss. As you climb, you move swiftly from one steep but well-designed switchback to another, and yet another, gaining a little under 3,000 feet in a little under 3 miles.
While this can be draining, rewards await you at the top. Huckleberry bushes line the trail, and tired hikers can stop and munch on the sweet treats their their heart's content. After three miles, the trail reaches a ridgeline with a set of switchbacks heading up a rocky face. If you look to the east, some stellar views of the mountains can be seen, and on a clear day Glacier Peak graces hikers with an up-close and personal view.
Once you've conquered the ridgeline, most of your climbing is over. The trail continues much more gently through sub-alpine flower meadows that glow with lupine when in season. Eventually, the trail drops to pretty but stagnant Virgin Lake. There is no inlet or outlet, so the water is entirely snowmelt and rainwater, and by late fall the water is more like a bog. Often, this is a breeding ground for frogs and salamanders, so keep your eyes peeled for plenty of amphibian friends.
This trail goes by Virgin Lake.
As of 10/12/19 an extra 4 miles round trip exists for this hike to account for the road closure on NF-63. WTA had stated the road would reopen at the end of Sept but that is not yet the case.
Bring a NW Forest pass to park. If hiking in fall, winter, or early spring you will need microspikes as the trail is icy in many areas
Not good for small children, this hike is demanding, long, steep, and in some places narrow.
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