Best Hiking Trails in Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Overview

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington state's central Cascade Mountain Range is a hiker's wonderland. Not only is it near Seattle, but it's home to world-class climbing and pristine hiking on roughly 50 trails totaling more than 615 miles, including a jaw-dropping section of the iconic Pacific Crest Scenic Trail. Explore mountain peaks, snow covered slopes, flowery meadows and take a frigid dip in one of the 700 lakes, tarns and ponds. Whether you're looking for a family-friendly jaunt through the woods, a grueling multi-day hike, or to bag some peaks, you'll find it all in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Getting Started

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is easily accessed from various points, and lies in the mountainous areas between Interstate 90 and U.S. Route 2 (known locally as Highway 2). The protected area stretches from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass, and trailheads can be accessed along much of the I-90 corridor east of Seattle within an hour, or from the town of Leavenworth and surrounding areas on the eastern side of the mountains.

There's little doubt that the highlight of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is the Enchantments area near the town of Leavenworth, though difficult to access due to strict permits and the long hikes in. But given the chance, do not pass up the opportunity to visit this incredible part of the world. For those not lucky enough to win the permit lottery, day hikes in are a great option. Check out Snow Lakes, Nada Lake, Colchuck Lake, Lake Stuart or Eightmile Lake, all worth the effort. And if you really don't want to miss out? Organize a shuttle and try the whole 19-mile thru-hike in a day as your big summer hiking or trail running challenge. Beware the elevation gain, and go prepared!

Nearer to Seattle along the I-90 corridor, options abound from easy to extreme. Check out Melakwa Lake, Granite Mountain, Kendall Katwalk, or ever-popular Snow Lake near Snoqualmie Pass. And if you really want to experience the beauty of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, try out the J section of the Pacific Crest Trail, 75 miles of wilderness bliss from Snoqualmie to Stevens Pass. But be warned: this section isn't for the novice backpacker.

As the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is managed by both the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, contact the Snoqualmie Ranger District or the Skykomish Ranger District for questions and up to date conditions.

Permits

In most areas, a backcountry permit is required to enter the wilderness area on a self-issue basis at trailheads. However, a special permit is required to camp in the Enchantments from May 15th through October 31st, and can be difficult to obtain due to high demand.

Check out the Recreation Passes and Permits page for details on parking permits, and take a look at further wilderness regulations, here.

Dog Info

Leashed dogs are allowed in much of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, though not permitted in certain areas such as the Enchantments. A few areas are open to off-leash dogs under strict voice command. Get details on pets, stock restrictions and other information, here.

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