Mileage: 9 miles RT
Elevation Gain/Highest: 1930ft/5100ft
Map: Green Trails Benchmark Mtn No 144, my GAIA
Favorite Eats After Hike: Wallace Falls Café
I have had it on my mind to do Lake Valhalla as a snowshoe and although the weather could not make up it’s mind today and we had near whiteout for most of our time on the ridge above the lake, it was yet another wonderful day on trail.
We parked on the shoulder of HWY 2 and walked the berm to the Smithbrook Rd. It was hard not to notice how deep the snow still is.
It was here that we put our snowshoes on, but we could have done so from the cars. Postholing was inevitable as soon as you stepped off the narrow boot path in the snow.
The walk up the road was beautiful and the skies teased us with hints of blue and the sun occasionally made the new snow sparkle but for the most part it was light snow and cold wind. I got a little excited when we got to the first switchback in the road when I saw track taking off cross country but they were just from some skier who must have come through yesterday. We continued on…
The final stretch of road up to the second switchback had more open views and plenty of avalanche history. Thankfully today was moderate, another good reason to check NWAC for current conditions.
We took the second switchback that points west and began our trek cross-country, following the Smithbrook Creek along the valley wall as described in Dan’s Snowshoes of Washington book. Some of this was gradual, and some parts were quite steep as we negotiated the deep snow.
There were no tracks to follow so we used a mix of GAIA and Green Trails to ascend towards the PCT. The closer we got, the more the wind picked up so that by the time we got to the top of the ridge, visibility was low.
We headed over to the viewpoint for the lake but the biting snow had us taking shelter in the trees shortly. We talked about following the PCT to get a better view of the lake but decided that the steep slopes covered in snow weren’t worth risking for what would probably not be a better viewpoint.
We stayed long enough for a short snack and then made our way back down. The sky did brighten a little more as we descended and there was plenty of fun glissading to be had in our steep tracks. I and a few others opted to cut the short middle switchback for more glissading.
Although the book says this is 7.5 from the TH and makes it seem like that means from HWY 2, my total for the day was 9 miles car to car. It took us just under 6 hours to make the trek.
With all that snow, I’m sure I’ll be able to make it up again as a snowshoe in the next few months!
Directions: From Monroe, drive east on US Highway 2 to the summit of Stevens Pass and continue another 5 miles east and make a left hand turn onto Mill Creek Rd. After switchbacking down to westbound HWY 2, turn left and head back 1.4 miles. Park in the large pullout just before Smith Brook Road (Forest Road 6700). There is no privy.