Weekend Backpacker: Seattle
Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Cle Elum Ranger Station
Cle Elum, WA 98922
With its 450 miles of trails, 700 lakes and countless saw-toothed ridges, the Alpine Lakes region is one of the most popular hiking areas in Washington. It's also one of the closest to Seattle (only 1 hour by car) so it can be overrun with hikers on nice weekends. A quota system is in place for the most popular spot, Enchantment Lakes, but there are still places where you can find some breathing room.
Recommended trip: Cathedral Rock to Deception Pass loop.
This trip is a two-day backpack with lots of chances for scenic side trips. Go clockwise starting at the Cathedral Pass trailhead (about 100 yards before the road's end; see directions below). You'll get the steep switchbacks out of the way early, and can lunch at Squaw Lake after two miles. Leave the day-hikers at the lake, and after two more miles the trail will intersect with the PCT. Instead of turning north right away, go south one-tenth of a mile to get on the ridge top for views of the Waptus River drainage, Deep Lake, and peaks like Bear's Breast, Summit Chief, and Citadel. The loop continues north again, going gradually downhill to the Mount Daniel ford: This is dicey early in the season, so wait until July for the water to ebb (rangers recommend you call ahead for conditions regardless). After crossing, it's back uphill to Deception Pass. Enjoy the views along the way because the actual pass is forested (you've been warned). Follow the Deception Pass trailhead back down to Hyas Lake to complete the loop.
Getting there: Drive east from Seattle on Interstate 90 to the Roslyn exit, and follow the road north past Salmon La Sac campground. Keep going north on Fish Lake Road (#4330) until you get to the end of the road and the Hyas Lake/Deception Pass trailhead.
Permit information: Fill out a free self-issued permit at the trailhead, and you'll need a trail park pass to park. The pass system for parking is being reevaluated this year; in 1999 it cost $25 for an annual pass and $3 per day to park, though by summer 2000 those rules may be changed. Call the ranger station for current price information.
Maps: Green Trails No. 176 Stevens Pass.
Recommended guides: 100 Hikes in Washington's Alpine Lakes (Mountaineers).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication