Backpack Indian Heaven to Blue Lake
Washington › Thomas Lake Trailhead
Added by Vic Garcia
Hike in to amazing views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier. You can score a great campsite by Blue Lake. The mosquitos can get a little heavy if you go in the high season.
Crowds and mosquitoes were nonexistent as we went a bit early in the season. The trails were all covered in snow, but we were able to do some way finding with a GPS and topo map.
3.5 miles in we found a dry spot next to Blue Lake and set up shop. After dropping off our gear we climbed up Gifford Peak to catch some views of the area. We could see Mt Hood, Mt Adams and Mt Rainier along with a nice aerial view of Indian Heaven. That night we made a nice warm fire and drank too much whiskey. Falling asleep was not a problem. In the morning we did some exploring around Blue Lake before packing up and hiking out of the snowy wilderness.
To get here from Portland, head east on 84 and then cross into WA via the Bridge of the gods. Go north thru Carson and then continue into Gifford Pinchot NF. From there you will need good directions to find the trailhead - coordinates are 46.00555, -121.83761. Do your research and you’ll be fine.
If you hit this area early in the season like we did to avoid crowds and mosquitoes. It’s been said that after the mosquitoes are out for the season the place is just a pretty nightmare.
- NW Pass is required at the trailhead
- REI half dome tent
- Osprey 50L Atmos pack
- Snowpeak dinnerware
- Black Diamond trekking poles
- Northface waterproof pants
- Patagonia down sweater
- Mountain House Dinners
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Backpacking, Camping, Hiking
Spring, Summer, Autumn
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Foggy weekend in May
I did a two day, 25ish-mile backpacking loop in Indian Heaven last May and it was fantastic. Relatively flat hiking most of the time, which meant we could get more distance each day. The only drawback was that it was so foggy the entire trip we could usually only see about 50 feet ahead of us. The area was still stunning and the steady blanket of fog made it a truly relaxing, serene experience (especially since we only saw two other people the whole time!) but I do feel like we missed out on some of those mountain views. We camped near Junction Lake as the biting wind coming off the larger lakes was just too cold that early in the season. Overall, I'd highly recommend this trip!
Indian Heaven Wilderness makes for one of the best one- to two-night trips of the summer! It's almost impossible to spend as much time at every lake as each of them deserves, but on a hot day there's certainly no lack of swimming and fishing holes and places to pitch your tent and stargaze. The terrain is fairly mild as well, so it could make a good destination for a family trip or a first-time backpacker. The only thing to watch out for is mosquitoes - definitely plan your trip for early or late in the summer to avoid the worst of mosquito season!
Just got back from Indian Heaven today! Five girls, 3 dogs, 3 liters of wine, ~16 miles, and countless lakes. So amazing! I'd definitely recommend getting a complete map of ALL the trails in the area. Some trails are marked, some are not and there are so many lakes it's hard to know which one you are actually at since they typically aren't marked. The bugs were bearable but bug spray was passed around pretty constantly. We saw some other groups but overall I think the distance scares off most of the crowds. We spent time at Thomas Lake (super close to the trailhead and VERY swimmable!), Junction Lake, Bear Lake (beautiful and swimmable but buggy), Clear Lake (gorgeous and great for swimming), Lemai (not much this year - very low), Blue Lake (so beautiful! Cold but way worth getting in!) not necessarily in that order. I can't wait to go back and see all of the things we missed this time around!
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