Backpack to Spade and Venus Lakes

Washington Salmon La Sac Trailhead

Added by Jason Zabriskie

Explore two of the most remote lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. If you're looking for solitude, you'll find it here. Plan for at least a 2-night, 3-day backpack trip.

Nestled in a high rocky cirque near the upper reaches of Mt Daniel, Spade and Venus Lakes are two of the most remote lakes in the Alpine Lake Wilderness. But to experience this level of pure isolation, you'll need to earn it; the shortest hike in to the lakes is 14 miles, the majority of which is on flat, mind-numbingly repetitive trail which seems to go on for hours (it does).

The trail starts at the Salmon La Sac Trailhead outside of Cle Elum, meandering on a tree-lined flat trail for six miles before starting to gain a small amount of elevation. You'll parallel Waptus River for the next few miles before having to remove your boots, roll up your pants and ford a shallow, slow moving section of the river at mile 8.

After drying your feet off and having a brief riverside snack, continue another mile to Waptus Lake. Here there are campsites galore, with beautiful views of the lake and mountains in the distance. Many backpackers choose to set up camp here, using this as basecamp for day trips to Spade and Venus Lakes. It's tempting, but if it's true alpine isolation you're after, tighten up your backpack straps and prepare for 4+ miles of steep, lung-busting terrain ahead.

You'll briefly cross the Pacific Crest Trail before you reach the official start of Spade Lake trail. It's a steep go at it for the next 1-1/2 miles before letting up slightly. For the next 2-1/2 miles, you'll continue to gain elevation as you approach the lakes. And then, just as you've cursed your last uphill section, there, in all her teal glory, will sit Spade Lake, with her surrounding granite slabs and stunning distant mountain tops.

If you've come this far with your backpack, it's time to set up camp, as this is where the camping is good. Due to the fragility of this high altitude area, it is recommended that people camp away from the lake and avoid meadows and other sensitive areas. And remember - campfires are prohibited in this and all areas above 5000 feet elevation in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Venus Lake, the uppermost alpine lake in the area, is still a good 2 mile scramble away. Follow a very faint boot path along the right side of the lake as you make your way to the opposite side of the lake. From there, stay to the right of the stream that runs down from above, scrambling on the slabby granite. The more rugged, scree-lined Venus Lake awaits above. Plan for 3-4 hours round trip from the start of Spade to fully explore the upper reaches of Venus Lake.

Aside from day hikers from Waptus Lake, you'll likely have this lake all to yourself. When the night comes, kickback under the stars and revel in what true isolation feels like.

When the adventure is done and you're feet are throbbing, stop in at The Brick - Washington's longest continuously operating bar (est. 1889) - in the town of Rosalyn for a well-earned beer and burger.

Pack List

  • Backpacking gear
  • Water filter
  • Comfortable hiking boots (did I mention this is 28 miles?)
  • A USGA map of the area is highly recommended, as the trail can be difficult to follow at times, although a Green Trails map may suffice
  • Fishing Pole - there's fish in that there lake!
  • Camera
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Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Swimming

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



28 Miles

Elev. Gain:

2300 Feet




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How to Get There

about 1 month ago

Intensely epic.

This is a burly hike. We camped at Waptus Lake the first night to refuel and recharge in order to tackle the butt grind up to Spade Lake. The trail up to Spade Lake is rather steep and fairly challenging with a 60 lb pack on, so we took our time treading up the side of the mountain. The views as we were approaching the highest elevation were phenomenal, looking towards Bear's Breast and the glaciers to the west. Parts of the trail towards the top were treacherous, including loose gravel, sudden drop-offs, and thick brush, which made it a bit difficult to maintain a solid pace. But, as the landscape starts to change and the trail becomes more exposed, it was all the more enticing to get this grand view of Spade Lake up at the top. Spade Lake is absolutely breathtaking, and worth every grueling step. We camped a ways back from the water so we could wake up to the epic view of Mt. Daniel towering over the lake. The wind was a bit rough throughout the night, hence the small rock wall at the campsite. Star-gazing was epic. Plan at least 8 hours to get down to the parking lot from the lake, if you're attempting to trek back all in one day. I would recommend sturdy boots with ankle support, wind-resistant and water-resistant gear, 0 degree sleeping bag with liner, TWO trekking poles (for much-needed balance support), swim suit, and a rad camera, because there's so much beauty to capture. One note - the river crossing is at the Horse Ford, not the Bridge crossing. The bridge is out and the river is a bit more treacherous to cross in this area. Also, it's hard to find the trail when crossing where the bridge used to be. The horse trail is an easy crossing and a good cold hydrotherapy break for your feet.

about 1 month ago

over 1 year ago

Did this in late May, and although we were able to get to the lakes through feet of snow, they were both frozen over and surrounded by snow on all sides. The lakes themselves were still beautiful and the glaciated peaks surrounding them were possibly even more gorgeous covered in white. Spade has plenty of places to pitch a tent but Venus is a little bit more limited so get there early! Also when going from Spade to Venus the Green Trails Map says to head to the left/west of the waterfall, but its far easier to climb up the sloping rock face on the right/east side of the stream

over 1 year ago

over 1 year ago

Stout trip!

over 1 year ago

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