Mileage: 3 miles RT (to the lake)
Elevation Gain/Highest: 1100/5100ft (to the lake)
Map: Green Trails Benchmark Mountain No. 144 and Stevens Pass No. 176, my GAIA
Favorite Eats After Hike: Wallace Falls Café
1/30/2017 I had a weekday off, so I decided to head up to Stevens Pass and visit a few lakes when the crowds would be considerably smaller. The forecast was for cloudy skies, so I chose Skyline Lake and Lanham instead of Valhalla, where I already knew the views are exceptional on a clear day.
I pulled into parking lot D on the north side of HWY 2, the one closest to the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead. I wasn’t sure exactly where the beginning for Skyline Lake would be, but it was pretty obvious when I parked that there were multiple ways to get there as the there were tracks heading up towards the power lines all over the hillside.
I opted to walk over to the PCT trailhead and follow tracks up from there because there was less of a berm to climb over (you can follow a service road up if you park closer to the overpass). I started my trek about 8:45am.
I soon passed some cabins and connected with the service road. Turning right, it continued a short way and brought me back to the clearing for the power lines again. Due to the popularity of this area, there were tracks to follow in all directions, but I figured they all would get me there eventually.
There was evidence of snow shelter building every 10 feet or so, maybe from classes or just folks having fun in the snow. I crossed under the power lines and just headed up into the woods on one of the many snowshoe tracks.
In a few minutes I hit the main trail, which is wide and groomed. Don’t forget to be considerate of skiers and others by walking on the outside of the trail, especially if you are wearing boots. Holes made are dangerous to those on skies!
The trail was easy to follow from here, switchbacking up most of the way to the lake. I could see plenty of cuts, particularly by those on skiing. That would be my plan for the way down…
The clouds came and went, I got a few glimpse of blue and the ski resort as I made my way towards the lake. There was no one else out today, the benefit of getting up early, I guess. The snow was hard and crunchy, my snowshoes going “clink, clink, crunch” most of the way.
As I got closer to the end of the trail on the map and things began to level out (shortly after passing a smaller tower and building), the tracks went left in towards the lake. I did the same and soon came out to a gorgeous view of a frozen Skyline and Tye Peak in the background.
More evidence of snow shelters here (as well as plenty of other humans not practicing LNT) as I made my way around the lake to the left and headed up towards Heather Meadows and more views. I will definitely not be venturing here on a weekend.
The clouds cooperated and I was able to see down at the ski resort and out at the surrounding peaks.
It was fun to be able to look down and see the glittering lights of the ski runs, something I imagine you don’t see on a clear day. Once you to the lake and around, the snow is much less compact and powdery, with a thin hard layer on top.
Although there were multiple tracks everywhere, I was still able to wander and find a few patches of undisturbed snow for myself.
I found my way over to the popular stone garden that seems to be what everyone comes to Skyline for. I could see Tye Peak again and realized it wasn’t as far as I thought it would be.
I continued to weave my way through the large boulders, marveling at their size and how the snow covers and drapes them so elegantly. Watch out for dips in the snow, with all that white on white it is easy to fall into a “ditch” around the rocks. Just sayin’.
My approach to Tye Peak took me around to the north side and could see a peak of Glacier and Sloan off in the distance. I made my way up to a saddle about 5390ft up and stopped for a snack there. The summit was up another 80 ft or so, but I hadn’t brought my spikes or ice axe and I knew that although it looked “right there”, I knew it was further than I wanted to go by myself today. Sometimes, more knowledge makes you more cautious.
The views were still spectacular and I was happy there was no breeze as I took in the day.
One my way down Glacier became easier to see, lit up by what little sunshine we would have for the day.
My trek down was uneventful. I loaded up the garbage I found at the lake and cut pretty much straight down to my car. Periodic breaks in the treeline allowed me to gauge where my car was parked and I set a course to there. I came out just a bit onto the Pacific Crest Trail, about 30ft or so from the TH. Walking out at 11:25am, I saw the only other people I had seen this morning. My stats came out to 3.3 miles RT with the addition of Tye Peak and subtraction of taking a direct route down. Not satisfied with only 4.1 miles, I headed over to Lanham Lake to round out my day.
Another great day of solitude!
Directions: Drive east on HWY 2 to the Stevens Pass Ski Resort. Just after you go under the overpass, you will see parking on the left (north) side. Parking is free and there are portable bathrooms. The trail starts out on a service road near the overpass, but you will multiple paths heading up in to the woods from the parking lot. As long as you head for the power lines (and cabins), you are in the right direction.