Backpack to Spade and Venus Lakes

Salmon La Sac Trailhead

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
Show More
RT Distance 28 Miles
Elevation Gain 2300 Feet
Activities Camping, Fishing, Photography, Swimming, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Lake
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

A must do!

We started our hike at 8am on a Friday at the Salmon La Sac Trail and got to Spade lake at 7pm. We took an hour break at Waputus for lunch. I did not want to leave!!! This place was Heaven to me....Saturday we took our time getting to Venus exploring the are around Spade along the way. The water is gorgeous and cold! It is so clear and the beautiful rocky mountains around you really feel like the perfect hug from mother nature. We heard and saw cute and fat Marmots on our way up. Following Venus to the left we climbed the little hill to get more Mt. views. I loved looking down at both the lakes and seeing the different shades of blue and seeing the rocks in the water. The wind was coming in hard at night but that did not stop up from bundling up and staring at the stars for hours. The only upsetting part is that someone decided to leave their bathroom mess on a large slab of rock, very disrespectful. Please take care of your bathroom needs at least 8 inches under ground...nobody wants to see it and one of the dogs felt inclined to try and roll in it...come on people. Looking forward to doing it again. We stayed up there for two nights and it was not enough! There is so much to explore and take in.

A beautiful beast!

Once you get up to Spade Lake, you enter an alpine fairyland that makes you forget the struggles of the past miles. Did this as a three day-two night trip, with the first night at Waptus Lake, second at Spade, including hiking up to Venus the day we arrived at Spade. I would definitely recommend planning enough time to get to Venus - the stretch between the two lakes was the absolute best part of the trip - meadows, hidden waterfalls, swimming holes, scrambling big granite slabs (note: the Green Trails map will tell you to ascend to Venus on the left side of the waterfall, which seems ludicrous to me when looking at it. Much easier to go up the right side. In general, the trail is a faint boot path, but it's pretty clear which direction you're supposed to be going). While the destination is completely worth it, the trail itself is a slog. The leg to Waptus is one of the more monotonous stretches I've encountered in WA, which is the only reason this adventure gets four stars from me. Definitely stop in Roslyn before/after - such a great little town!

Life Changing

You will never return as the same person after conquering a journey like Spade Lake. For real transcendence, swim in the river after your decent.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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