HikingNorth Cascades

Lake 22 Hike – A Classic Washington Hike

Lake 22 Hike
  • Total Distance: 6.36 Miles
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 1,457 feet
  • Passes Required: Northwest Forest Pass

Lake Twenty-Two is one of the most popular day hikes in Washington State. On a nice weekend day you should expect everyone from Seattle to be out on this trail. Located in the North Cascades, this moderately challenging hike takes you through lush moss covered old-growth forests, views of the cascades, endless waterfalls, and culminates at an alpine lake, cradled in a pristine alpine basin. The trailhead for Lake 22 is located about an hour from Seattle – it’s no wonder this trail is very popular.

Lake 22 Trailhead

The Trailhead for Lake 22 is located right off of the Mountain Loop Highway. You won’t have to travel along any forest roads to get to the trailhead so any car should be able to easily access the trailhead, even during the winter. It’s only an hour drive from Seattle. The nearest town is Granite Falls, Washington. There are pit toilets located at the Lake 22 Trailhead.

Best time to hike Lake 22

The trailhead for Lake 22 is conveniently situated right off the Mountain Loop Highway, making it accessible year-round, even during winter. Given the hike’s popularity, you will undoubtedly encounter numerous hikers on the trail, regardless of the season. Weekends can get particularly crowded, especially when the weather is nice. The trailhead parking area fills up quickly, so it’s advisable to arrive either early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

Trail Stats

  • Total Distance: 6.4 Miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,457ft
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Starting Elevation: 1,180ft
  • Ending Elevation: 2,460ft
  • Total Time: 3-4 hours

How did Lake 22 get its name?

Lake 22’s name is a bit of a mystery, shrouded in the history of the early exploration and surveying of the region. Lake Twenty-two likely got its name from being the 22nd lake cataloged during a late 19th-century survey. This numeric naming method was common for mapping new areas at the time. A more descriptive name would eventually be given but this never happened for Lake 22. In 1947, the 790-acre Lake 22 Research Natural Area (RNA) was created.

What park pass do you need to hike Lake 22?

You will need a Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful National Parks Pass.

The parking situation at Lake 22 Trailhead

For such a popular hike, the parking lot is fairly small! I would estimate there is space for about 50 cars. There is an overflow lot across the road as well. There is NO Parking along the Mountain Loop Highway and you will be ticketed if you park along the main road.

The trail to Lake 22

The trail starts with a gentle ascent through an extremely lush old-growth forest, crossing multiple streams. You’ll cross a small bridge in the first few minutes of the hike. The trail parallels the Mountain Loop High for a short distance. You eventually lose sight of the road and begin climbing up the trail.

The first mile of trail was very wet with multiple stream crossings. In early spring you should expect the trail to be muddy and wet. All of this makes for a stunningly green trail. The moss seemed to climb from the forest floor and up the towering spruce trees. Ferns draped from the steep hillside. This section of the trail was probably my favorite.

At 3/4 of a mile in, large western cedars and western hemlock start appearing along the trail. You will cross Twenty-two Creek via a bridge. This creek originates at Lake 22 and will flow alongside the trail most of the way.

Immediately after crossing Twenty-two creek bridge, you hit your first switchbacks as the trail gets increasingly steeper. You will encounter numerous switchbacks along the trail. There’s a really nice waterfall along the trail after crossing Twenty-two creek.

At approximately 2 miles in, you will switchback through a steep slope scattered with large boulders and loose rock. This section is prone to avalanches so during the winter and spring months you should check current avalanche conditions and recent trip reports to determine if conditions are safe to hike.

Along this steep section you switchback to make your way higher and views start to open up. You can catch a glimpse of Three Fingers and Liberty Peak on a clear day.

After soaking up the sun on the exposed section of switchbacks you head back into the dark forested trail where you climb a bit further up until the trail eventually flattens out heading into the lake basin.

Lake 22

Just before reaching the lake, Mount Pilchuck dominates your field of view as you look up from the trail. The dramatic view will likely catch you off guard and become all too apparent as soon as you see it through the trees.

Lake 22 lies within a basin carved by glaciers, surrounded on three sides by steep rocky cliffs. In the winter, snow and ice tumble off the steep cliffs, piling up in massive mounds of snow. As spring transitions into summer the melting snow and ice create cascading waterfalls.

On a warm spring day I watched as snow, ice, and water tumbled off the cliffs. The mini avalanches would echo through the basin.

The 1.1 perimeter of the lake is worth exploring and expect to see an abundant amount of wildflowers in the summer months. If avalanche danger is high, you might want to avoid the making the hike around the lake.

Will I see mountain goats on the hike to Lake 22?

Although elusive, you might see mountain goats at Lake 22. They would most likely be found along the steep cliffs of Mount Pilchuck along the far side of the lake.

Can you camp at Lake 22?

Camping is NOT allowed at Lake 22. It is a day use area only.

Is Lake 22 dog friendly?

Yes, dogs are allowed on the Lake 22 trail. You will likely see a ton of dogs on this trail. I can’t even count how many dogs I saw on the trail. As always, they should be leashed.

Can you swim at Lake 22?

You can swim at lake 22, but beware the water is going to be cold! There are numerous spots to take a dip around the lake, many of which are fairly shallow.

Important Safety For Hikers

Lake 22 is a super popular hike for Seattle and the surrounding area. It attracts a ton of people who often aren’t well equipped to hike. I can’t tell you how many people I saw slipping on snow and ice in their tennis shoes. At the lake there were numerous people exploring the ice without checking to see if was even safe. These type of actions could put you in serious danger.

Tips for hiking Lake 22

  • Either arrive early at the trailhead or later in the day to avoid the morning rush. The parking lot will fill up quickly on the weekends / nice days.
  • Bring proper footwear. The trail can be very wet. A good pair of hiking boots should work well.
  • Microspikes or snowshoes will be your best friend when there’s snow on the trail.
  • Be sure to check the avalanche reports when snow if present. There are numerous sections of trail that are high risk avalanche zones.
  • To avoid the crowds at the lake, it’s worth taking the perimeter trail that circles the lake.
  • Hike the trail early if you want to get great photos – the lighting would be ideal early in the day.
Kurt on Instagram
Lake 22 MapAvalanche Conditions

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button