Backpack to Ice Lakes Basin

Rate this Adventure Washington Carne Mountain High Route

  • Activities:

    Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:


  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    20 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    7600 Feet


Explore some of the most remote wilderness in Washington State and catch views of Glacier Peak, a 10,500 foot, snow capped volcano. This expansive basin has 2 lakes plus a waterfall, unparalled solitude, and makes for a great practice for off-trail navigation

Begin your adventure at the Phelps Creek Trailhead, roughly a 4 hour drive from Seattle. Make sure your car has good clearance and traction because the last section of the forest service road gets a little rough. 

Only a few minutes after starting down the trail, you will reach a split that heads up to your right (labeled for Carne Mountain, trail #1508). This trail is well-maintained and I would recommend following it all the way to the summit of Carne Mountain. From here you have a good vantage point to take in the rest of the route (see the yellow markings on the photo). Ice Lakes basin, your final destination, is located just southeast of Mount Maude. In general, the route traverses the west side of the ridgeline containing Ice Box Peak and Freezer Peak.  For those who are uncomfortable with the cross-country navigation required later on this adventure, Carne Mountain makes a fine day hike.   

If you elect to continue, you will need to descend down the east side of Carne Mountain and begin making your way north towards Mount Maude.  The trail will become a little harder to follow, but it does continue for most of the traverse. If you can stay with it, you will make much quicker progress, but if not, just make sure you remain aware of your location relative to Mount Maude.  I would recommend reading as many different trip reports as you can find.  Searching online for “Carne Mountain High Route” should get you some adiditional reports by experienced hikers on websites like and (Washington Trails Association). The better sense you have for the key landmarks on this stretch of the trail, the easier you will be able to navigate and the more enjoyable your trip will be. Printing out our own topographic maps from and marking key locations to check your bearings may also be helpful. To most effectively locate your area of interest, use the module on the right side of the screen to toggle between the Google maps and US Forest Service layers.  

Eventually, you will want to cross over to the east side of the ridgeline you have been traversing and drop down into Ice Lakes Basin. One point that all of the trip reports agree on is to ensure that this maneuver is done north of Freezer Peak (point 8017 on US Forest Service topo maps). 

To reach the saddle between Freezer Peak and Mount Maude, you will need to circle around the west side of point 7425 before beginning your climb (Note: this extra step is well worth your effort since trying to ascend early by going east of point 7425 will leave you with a much riskier ascent up the north slope of Freezer Peak). Once you’ve reached the proper saddle, descending the basin is not difficult, especially once the snow is melted out.

Now you’ve reached your final destination! Sit back, relax, and take in the views of Mount Maude from Upper Ice Lake, or venture a little further east to check out the waterfall that flows into Lower Ice Lake. For the more adventurous, it is possible to tag a few of the notable summits in the surrounding area. Just make sure to read up on routes and summit guides before you go!

For the photographers among you, Mount Maude catches some nice alpenglow at sunrise and despite being a large body of water, Upper Ice Lake gives some nice reflections. Make sure you’re up early so you don’t miss the show! Lastly, being far away from major cities, you will have some great opportunities for star gazing or Milky Way photos if your camera can handle a long exposure.

Pack List

  • Ten Essentials
  • Multiple topographic maps (I recommend printing your own from at various zoom levels)
  • A good compass (one with degree bearings is particularly helpful)
  • Knowledge of the route
  • General cross-country navigation skills
  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Climbing helmet (not required, but individuals may elect to bring one after reading up on route details)
  • Plenty of water
  • Appropriate overnight gear
  • Camera and other photography gear
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