Mileage: 12.8+ miles
Elevation Gain/Highest: 2,395ft/1900ft
2/18/2017 I had signed up for a Meetup hike a few weeks back to Ancient Lakes and this week the weather had it changed to the Chuckanut Mountains. I had been looking forward to an Eastern Washington hike and I was reluctant to head back to this area since I had just been here last month. But they were starting at the north end, so I opted to go hike some of the trails I hadn’t done in that big loop. Plus, signing up for a group hike means not wimping out in the morning when I wake up to grey skies.
The group met at the North Chuckanut Mountain TH and started up the trail around 9am with the North Lost Lake Trail as our target goal. The trails was several intersections, including a horse detour so it can be a bit tricky to know where to go.
But the nice thing about this area is that every intersection has signage of some kind! Just familiarize yourself with the map beforehand and head in a mostly southern direction (right) and you’ll be fine.
We decided to take an indirect route and visit the Chuckanut Falls, arriving there in about 35 minutes and 1.5 miles from the trailhead. It’s always fun to start a hike out with some nice scenery.
This stop is an in and out, but you don’t have to go all the way back to the junction so we opted to take a turn left out from there and go up to Hemlock to connect with the Lost Lake trail. We saw some recent trail construction in this section, you can see a lot of work went into the new tread.
From the junction with the Hemlock Trail, you go right to find the North Lost Lake trail. Once here, you are on decommissioned service road until you get to Lost Lake. Shortly after leaving Hemlock and heading south on the North Lost Lake trail (the junction has a kiosk and map), we came to the intersection for the ridge trail at about 10:30 am and 3 miles into our journey.
I had hoped that the day would have been clear in the morning and at this point we could head up the ridge here for views, but it was already drizzling and skyline would be limited all day, so we decided to go to the lake first.
It was an hour at a social pace to get to the Lost Lake junction and GAIA totaled us at 5.27 miles so far. When I had been here last month, the trail had been snow covered and icy, this time the theme was mud and slick. Footsteps were carefully placed as we navigated wet roots and rocks dodging puddles.
There isn’t a large area to stop for snacks at the north end of Lost Lake, so I suggested we head up towards the waterfall at the outlet on the trail that runs on the east side of the lake. Last time I took a boot path that runs along the shore but I knew that was a no-go today as the lake was completely thawed out.
There were several view points out onto the lake on this section, but we stopped at the outlet and waterfall for lunch at noon with 5.73 miles so far. The waterfall was melted out from last time but I took the opportunity to visit it from a few different angles. I really just love how the water comes down over the steps of rock.
Our next destination was the Rock Trail, so we went back around the north end of Lost Lake (I didn’t want to suggest the group walk around the south end as I was unsure if it was more than a boot path and we had varying levels of interest in bushwhacking with us today. This got us to the junction with Rock Trail @ 12:45 am and 6.8 miles. The Rock Trail was just as cool as last time, but without the threat of large chunks of icicle falling down from the cliffs of rock above our heads.
The sets of stairs were also nice to hit when we were already warmed up from the first miles of our trip. Of course, by the time we hit the 5 or 6 flights near the end of the trail, folks wanted to know how many more there were!
When we reached the end of the Rock Trail, we took the furthest right and headed over to the Cyprus Gates Lookout. We knew we wouldn’t have a view of Chuckanut Bay, the islands or Canada but there was a privy to make folks happy and plenty of jokes about panoramic views.
By this time it was 1:30 pm and I had totaled 7.8 miles. I say “I” because several of us had GPS tracking going on and it was here we observed that we had a large variance of miles tallied, mine being the least amount. Several of their apps had even stopped recording during the Rock Trail section and still had more miles than me. Hmm…
From the parking lot (you can drive up Cleator Road to this TH), we walked down the road a bit to connect with the ridge trail and head back to the junction with the North Lost Lake trail. This is a really nice trail that I’m sure has some amazing views of Baker but we had nothing but eerie trees enveloped in fog.
No worries, though. We needed our attention to be on the trail as it maneuvered rocks and roots, up and down, for the little more than 3 miles of this section.
We were back to the junction with North Lost Lake at 3:20pm, almost 2 hours later. Now we were at almost 11 miles.
Our trip back from here was uneventful but be careful as it is easy to leave the trail and end up walking down California St. instead (there are houses) or taking a right turn and walking away from the parking lot. You won’t go far but when you are ready to take your wet gear off and get dry it can be disappointing. I was back to the car by 4pm with a total of 12.76 miles for the day (Another tally had us at 14 miles and 2600 gain for the day). The person who finished with me had pretty much the same reading as I did. Not bad. Next time, I think I will explore the trails off to the east that include Raptor Ridge and Pine and Cedar Lakes, or maybe try to combine this loop with my last one. Overall it was a great day and a great group to hike with!
Directions: Take exit 250 off I-5 and follow Old Fairhaven Parkway/SR 11W 1.3 miles to 12th St. Turn left onto 12th St. and follow Chuckanut Dr./SR11 south 1.5 miles to TH parking area on the left. It is a large lot and there is a Port-A-Potty. You will need a Discover Pass.