Mileage: 11 miles RT
Elevation Gain/Highest: 2900/4500ft
Map: Green Trails Skykomish No 175 and Stevens Pass No 176
Favorite Eats After Hike: Wallace Falls Café
4/15/2015 This was one of those shoulder season hikes where being first on the trail meant making my way through deep but melting snow and a little routefinding. I did this hike before I had either snowshoes or spikes, either one might have come in handy. I didn’t do too bad in my trailrunners, it was just a bit wet!
My first time on the trail, I was glad that it was pretty much snow free past Trout Lake and up the switchbacks to the junction with Malachite Lake. From here there were patches of snow on the trail and footprints making it easy to get to Copper Lake. The lake was thawed out at the outlet and made a beautiful reflection of the surrounding snowy slopes. From here, it was easy to make my way around the lake as the trail hugs the shore but the bootprints had stopped at Copper where most folks had turned around. The hard part was the knee-deep snow and postholing that threatened to send my down into the lake if I slipped too much downhill. On this side, the lake was still frozen over, waiting for weather temperatures to free it.
Even harder as knowing exactly where to turn from the lake and head towards Little Heart without a trail. I had pulled out my map and assessed it ran a fairly typical route along the stream between the two lakes but this meant climbing up waist-high snow and postholing into a ribbon of melting ice water that was supposed the trail. At some points I was crawling along the top of the snow in an effort to distribute my weight and stay above the snow,
It was a little bit sketchy going over the scree boulders that make up the trail just before you get the lake and with hopes of not sinking in and turning an ankle, I hopped/crawled across the snow-covered rocks to eventually make to the lake. I stopped here on the logs of the outlet and enjoyed lunch deciding to make this my turn around based on the amount of snow still left from winter. Little Heart was covered in its winter coat, denying that spring had come. It wasn’t long before some backpackers came up behind having benefitted from my trail breaking to find a flat spot to camp on the other side of the outlet.
My way back was made that much easier having a path to follow, although I did skip around a few areas knowing better this time. Plenty of hikers were on the trail as I descended, again having an easier time with tracks in the snow to follow. I knew I’d be back to make it all the way to Big Heart lake when the snow had receded for the summer.
Directions: Take Hwy 2 to just past the Skykomish Ranger station and turn right on Foss River Road (FR 68). In 2.6 miles cross under the railroad trestle and go over a small bridge. In another mile is a Y intersection, stay right. The left fork goes to the Tonga Ridge Trail. In another 0.6 miles, pass by the TH for the Necklace Valley Trail, and continue on Road 68. In 0.7 miles, be alert for a left turn onto Road 6835. The map makes it look like FR 68 continues to the TH, but it does not. Continue on this rougher FR (6835) for 1.9 miles to reach the TH, for a total of 6.7 miles from HWY 2. At the TH, there is a privy. A NW Forest Pass is required.