Mileage: 11+ miles
Elevation Gain/Highest: 1600/1800ft
Map: Square One Chuckanut Recreation Area, GAIA (my stats)
Favorite Eats After Hike: Skagit River Brewery and Pack a Cooler
Find out current conditions and as always, practice Leave No Trace. Pretty Please.
I’d heard about a waterfall on the Lost Lake Trail, so I set out to explore the area. I parked at the Fragrance Lake TH and set out about 10am.
Fragrance Lake was my first destination today, with a short .4 mile detour to the viewpoint about 1.1 miles from the TH. The gently switchbacked trail was snow free and I only briefly saw 2 other people out with their dog.
Samish Bay and the San Juans had lost their morning glow and the Olympic Mountains were on the horizon. The trees through here are a mix of old growth and salal, with some very interesting nurse logs and trees, their roots enveloping large boulders deposited a long time ago by the forces of Mother Nature. This trail is worn and well used.
Heading back to the Fragrance Lake Trail, I continued to the Lake another .9 miles. Here the snow begins intermittently on the trail and there was plenty of black ice to watch out for. I look the loop to the right and stopped several times to admire the frozen lake.
It was interesting to see how the bubbles had stopped mid-ascent in the ice and how the edges have expanded up towards the shore.
I walked most of the way around but having eyed the ridge above the lake as I came in, I went looking for a way to head up. As I came around the loop, I noticed a trail that might just take me there. The view from the top was a bit obstructed but it was cool to look down at the lake and see the dark dendrite designs of ice marking the thaw and freeze of the water.
This trail dropped me back down at the junction for the lake and Fragrance Lake Road after running the ridge. I walked up to the road and turned right. In a little less than .2 miles, I came to the South Lost Lake Trail junction and turned left up and through the open gate.
This trail was mostly wide and flat as I followed what must be an old forest road 1.2 miles to the junction for Lost Lake. I could see through the thin trees at the Puget Sound and Olympics. The trail was mostly compact snow and ice. I didn’t feel the need to put my spikes on but was glad I had my poles.
I continued toward Lost Lake and soon passed the junction for the Rock Trail which I planned to go back on. The trail here took me along the lake but from above. I passed a set of runners going the other way, a slippery adventure I’m sure.
Coming around to the north side of the lake another 1.2 miles from the South Lost Lake Trail, I wondered where this waterfall I had heard about would be. I checked the map and noticed the outlet was on the east side, so I took the East Lost Lake Trail .2 miles to the shore.
There is the coolest upturned root ball here!
I stopped a moment to admire the length of the lake and noticed I had 2 options at this point. I knew the trail continued around the lake but then went straight, not looping me back to the trail I came in on. And I could see there was a boot path (or most likely, fisherman’s path) that hugged the shore. So, I took that.
At about a quarter way along a “trail” etched in salal and brush, I came to a nice spot for a snack. I sat down for a bit but the cold kept my rest short. I continued on, looking for the outlet.
Soon, I came to a rock face that went straight into the lake and my path ran out. Hmmm.
I could see there was more land on a short distance ahead AND I heard the sound of water from what had to be the outlet.
Time for spikes.
With the extra traction, I walked along the edge of the lake and over to where the path continued. At least I told myself it was a path under the snow. Up and over and I soon connected with the official trail and the outlet for the falls. I crossed over and climbed down to get a view.
The water spilled over a dark rock face and onto ledges frozen over with icicles and white globs of ice stuck to the downed trees lining the stream. I hadn’t taken my spikes off yet, so I explored the area below the waterfall for a bit.
On my way back up, I opted not to go all the way back to the trail but stay on the other side of the rock ridge and see where it would go. I walked the slope and marveled at the icicles dangling down of the grey slabs above. I started to think a helmet might have been good on this trip.
Eventually I came to a spot where there was a break in the rock that I could climb over and back to the trail.
I stayed on this a bit as it went around the lake but there was a junction again with my boot path closer to the shore, so I took that in hopes of making my way around the lake and back to the Lost Lake trail.
Well, that was my idea anyway. My idea that there was actually a path. My guess is that some folks come down this way to fish but then go back because as I got closer to the end of the lake, there was less of a path to follow. And more snow. And brush.
As I rounded the end of the lake, noticing beaver activity and thinner ice on the lake, it appeared that where the lake ended it turned into a large marshy area. A large marshy area between me and the trail I wanted to reconnect with.
Fearing I would soon be mucking my way across and hiking out with wet feet, I realized that the lakeshore was lined with sizeable trees and I was saved. There was just enough land to walk on and where the lake seeped into the marsh it was frozen enough to keep me on solid footing.
A bit more wandering had me meeting up with the Lost Lake Trail in no time.
For some reason I turned left here, thinking that the junction with the Rock Trail was BEFORE the lake, and added a few extra steps by walking back to the junction with the South Lost Lake Trail, realizing my mistake and turning around to go back to meet the Rock Trail which is part way along the lake. It was totally worth it. Not only because the South Lost Lake Trail isn’t that exciting but because the Rock Trail has some pretty cool, well, rocks.
This newly built 1.2 mile trail weaves its way through large freestanding boulders and sandstone cliffs, sometimes striated and pitted with cubby holes. There so many icicles clinging to the rock overhangs and curving over the outcroppings, the trail was littered with large chunks of ice. I imagine the trail will be even more dangerous as the weather warms up in the next week.
And where the trail goes straight up, there are stairs. Lots of stairs. I had to marvel at the amount of work that must have taken the volunteers to put in.
After navigating the rock features, the trail comes up and meets with the Double Diamond, a multiuse trail, that travels at a pretty good descent back down to meet the Fragrance Road junction in .7 miles. You have to pay attention because it isn’t clearly marked but there is a loop off of this that is designated mountain bike only. I stopped to look at how far I had to the car and saw I had ended up on it. I cut across and met up with the hiker section. It wasn’t until I had continued on and eventually came to where the loop connects that I saw the sign.
Although I never saw any bicyclists today, I was glad I had hopped over when I read that the bikes come down at high speed!
After arriving back to the road and reconnecting with the Fragrance Lake Trail, it was smooth sailing back to the car. I passed a few more people heading in for sunset views and a gentleman who had been out adventuring like I had and was making his way back after being out most of the day. We briefly compared routes and talked about how we enjoyed the Rock Trail. He told me he didn’t know it was possible to go around Lost Lake and I told him it was. Kinda.
I was back down to my car by about 4:30pm, just as the sky glowed orange over the bay and mountains. I had skipped the viewpoint on the way down, so I pulled over on my drive home to gives thanks for the day.
Another fun jaunt in the Chuckanuts! Did you know this area is being threatened by logging? Read more HERE
about how you can help save this wonderful trail system.
Directions: Head north on I-5 to exit 231 just past Mount Vernon, through the roundabouts to head north on SR 11/Chuckanut Dr. At approximately 15 miles, just past the entrance for Larrabee State Park, look for Fragrance Lake TH parking pullout on the right. You will see a larger parking lot BEFORE the state park that says Lost Lake, that takes you in a different route. There is room for about 8 cars at the Fragrance Lake TH, you can also park at the state park. From Bellingham, head south on SR 11 for 7 miles. You will need a Discovery Pass.
If you want to skip the scenic section of SR 11 that goes through the farmland, it is possible to go further north on I-5 to the Cook Rd or Bow Hill exits and cut over to meet SR 11 closer to where the road winds between the mountain and the bay.
For more of my latest trip reports, click HERE.