Backpack to Gem Lake, WA



10 miles

Elevation Gain

4850 ft

Route Type


Added by Felix Madrid

Be prepared for breathtaking sunsets that have the most amazing colors. With alpine views and Icy-blue water that you can actually swim in.

This hike shares the trailhead for Snow lake at the Alpental Ski area in Snoqualmie Pass. You'll start out with a great warm up, walking through dense green underbrush and a brief wooded area. Before too long the trail increases in inclination slightly and begins to offer up some small rocky sections where rock slides have created little obstacle courses. The accent continues to gradually steepen as you traverse a series of well maintained switchbacks. As you reach the top before descending into the Snow Lake basin you will get some epic views of Chair Peak to the west. Continuing on past Snow Lake, you travel through many small meadow areas as the trail steepens further. You will arrive on the SE shore of Gem Lake and be greeted with sapphire blue water and stunning views of sharp rock formations to the west. This hike lends itself to staying the night once you've reached the lake, and making the return trip the day after in order to experience sunset.

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Known for

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Swimming Hole



Leave a Review

about 1 year ago

Great after you pass Snow Lake

We hiked this trail Fourth of July weekend and can confirm the first half of this hike is a human highway with a majority of people climbing up to Snow Lake. Past Snow Lake the trails open up and we only saw a few other groups of hikers. Absolutely stunning vistas and crystal clear lake water. If you go on a weekend I recommend hiking in early, and hiking out early to avoid the crowds. We made the mistake of hiking out in the afternoon and constantly had to pull off the trail for people coming the opposite direction. Overall great hike.

almost 4 years ago

Beautiful But Crowded

It's a very nice hike. A very well maintained and easy to follow trail. Beautiful views every which way. And the lakes sure are nice for a dip. But oh my super human highway 😳. It might be a little too accessible for peace and quiet. I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't do it again.


over 5 years ago

Great hike close to Seattle. Easy to get to and lots of parking. Great for a trail run or a hike, and the ability to stop at Snow Lake or continue to Wildcat Lakes and beyond makes this trip very versatile

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Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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