Looking to take a dip in a lake before the summer comes to an end? Then you won’t want to miss these amazing lake hikes all within three hours of Seattle. From novice to pro, these hikes to some of Washington’s most gorgeous lakes make for a perfect summer day.
One of the most popular Alpine lakes in Washington, and rightly so. Lake Snow is only one hour outside of Seattle, and just off I-90 highway. This 7.2 mile roundtrip hike is beloved because you don’t have to destroy your body to get there.
In the summer you will see a variety of wildflowers like Paintbrush, Beargrass, and Tiger Lilies. The hike up follows many switchbacks through a beautiful boulder field. A bit rocky in places, but by watching your step you will be just fine.
You’ll get to the boulder field and then lose about 400 feet of elevation before making it to Lake Snow. Once there, check out the remnants of an old stone cabin right off the trail. There are many places to sit down at the lake and take in its beauty while enjoying a snack. Here you can enjoy the vast peaks before you.
Because of the lake’s popularity, weekends are always packed. If you can visit on a weekday, do it. The serenity of seclusion is well worth it to take in Lake Snow’s beauty. Be aware, this hike requires a Northwest Forest Pass, but you can hike the trail if you bring five dollars for a day pass.
TALAPUS AND OLALLIE LAKES
The trail to these lakes is the perfect way to introduce a newbie to the great outdoors. This hike is short with its 6.2 mile roundtrip length. But also in that you don’t have to visit both lakes, you can stop for the day at Talapus or continue on to Ollalie if you want to see both.
The path is well cleared out and wide and doesn’t have a steep grade so people new to hiking or families will have an easy time getting to the lakes.
Once you arrive, try and spot the crawdads tooling around the logs that have piled up in places along the lakes. This hike is also right of the I-90 highway and just about an hour outside of Seattle. Just make sure you bring your hiking boots, because the trail to the lakes can be muddy in places, especially after a typical Seattle drizzle.
If ever there was a lake as gorgeous as it is difficult to get to, this is the one. A little more than an hour and a half outside Seattle, Lake Serene is off Highway 2. The hike is 8.2 miles roundtrip, and in the four miles you hike to get to the lake, you gain 2000 feet of elevation. Most of it in stairs.
The nice thing about this hike, besides the epic payoff, is that along the way you can stop and check out Bridal Veil Falls, a beautiful waterfall so close to the trail you’ll get splashed if you want.
Once past the falls, the stairs begin, and just when you think you’ve cleared them, you’ll turn a corner and look up to find more stairs. This is the type of hike where you will be thankful you packed extra water. You’ll know when you’re almost to Lake Serene because suddenly Mt. Index will appear jutting out from the trees. But just you wait because the views of this mountain only get better when you arrive. Once at the lake, make sure to sunbathe out on the giant rock a short way down the shore trail. If you’re brave enough to jump into the glacial waters of Lake Serene, the big rock is the perfect spot to launch from.
A wonderful quick hike for those wanting a quick workout, with a lovely view. The lake is situated about two hours north of Seattle on the Mountain Loop Highway.
The trail is only 4.6 miles roundtrip so you can spend your whole day here unless you don’t want to. This is another hike where a good set of hiking boots is desirable. The trail can remain muddy throughout the summer so watching your step is important.
What’s fun about this trail is as you meander your way up to the lake you pass by some very big ole-growth trees that managed to escape the old logging days of this area. As you get to the lake the trail forks and you can go left or right. Both trails lead around the lake so it doesn’t matter which one you take.
Once settled, take some time to enjoy the views of Mt. Pilchuck. If you think you have the stamina, you can even attempt that hike too, as its trailhead is very close by. Be sure to keep an eye out for bursts of wildflowers near the lake. Some flowers to spot would be Trillium and Marsh Marigolds.
A lake that is truly mesmerizing. This hike is about three hours away from Seattle, very close to Leavenworth on Highway 2. Bring lots of water for this one, and make sure to give yourself a full day to get there and back and take the time to climb to the lake.
The hike is eight miles roundtrip and definitely worth the mileage. It’s also one of two gateways to the Enchantments, so get there early because the parking lot fills up fast. This hike is amazing because the views it gives of the Cascades are some of the finest in Washington.
When you reach Lake Colchuck you will stand in awe of the aqua green colors it has on a sunny day. Once you take your eyes off the lake you will drop your jaw again looking at Dragontail and Colchuck peaks jutting out in front of you. If you’re really lucky you may even see some mountain goats and their ‘kids,’ but make sure to give them plenty of space if you do!
Remember to check out Washington Trails Association for more trails, and to review trip guides for the lakes you want to hike to. The website provides great information from how to get to the lakes, to people noting snow levels and obstacles along the trails. Also, note that each of these hikes requires a Northwest Forest Pass.
Most sites have day passes available for purchase as long as you bring the five dollars for the day. So get your boots, pack your lunch and lots of water, and get out to these gorgeous lakes before the summer ends!