The Lightning Creek Trail lies east of Ross Lake and can be accessed from Lightning Creek Landing or Hozomeen Campground. The route follows Lightning Creek approximately six miles from its mouth on Ross Lake to a junction with the Willow Lake Trail. This is a moderately difficult trail with the steepest terrain at the beginning as you ascend from Ross Lake.
To reach the Lightning Creek Trail you must hike nearly seven miles south from Hozomeen Campground or have a water taxi bring you to Lightning Creek Landing. This description will begin at Lightning Creek Landing and lead northward to the Willow Lake Trail junction. From the landing hike eastward to a trail junction. Follow the creek eastward on some switchbacks out of the Ross Lake Valley. On this set of switchbacks you'll gain 600 feet. From the top of the switchbacks the trail contours the southern base of Desolation Peak at an elevation of 2,375 feet.
Following the creek, and the base of the mountain, the trail turns northward after approximately two and a half miles. Shortly after turning northward our route descends 300 feet to a crossing, over a long bridge, of Lightning Creek. Immediately beyond the crossing is a trail junction at three and a half miles from the lake. The trail leading eastward (right) is the Three Fools Trail. It leads into the Mount Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest and eventually joins the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Lightning Creek Trail leads to the left and northward. Less than a half mile from the trail junction you'll reach the Deer Lick Camps, which accommodate both backpackers and groups using stock animals. Along this northbound stretch the trail follows the eastern bank of Lightning Creek between Desolation Peak, to the west, and Skagit Peak, to the east.
Two miles north of Deer Lick Camp the trail reaches Nightmare Camp which can accommodate backpackers and a group using stock animals. A quarter mile beyond Nightmare Camp the trail forks. The left side continues to contour the base of Desolation Peak to Willow Lake. (It is approximately seven miles to Hozomeen Campground using this route.) The right fork leads into the Mount Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest following Lightning Creek to Freeze-out Creek.
Directions: From Lake Ross, Travel to the northeastern shore of Lake Ross and pick up the trail at Lightning Creeks mouth, Lightning Creek Landing.
Elevation: 1,640 feet
Ending Elevation: 2,300 feet
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Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Washington
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