Backpack to Spade and Venus Lakes

Details

Distance

28 miles

Elevation Gain

2300 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

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.

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Backpacking
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Reviews

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Great First Backpacking Trip!

I decided on this trip with my dad for our first backpacking trip because we wanted a real challenge, and boy did we get one. The early part of the hike is pretty easy, but we ended up getting to the trailhead a little later than expected (around 5 pm) and decided to go in and find a suitable area to camp in early on the trail. We ended up at some creek campground a few miles in, and we got water from the river and set up just before sundown. The next day we woke up and hiked the rest of the trail; most of it is moderate incline and declines with some amazing mountains' views. We set up camp on the far end of Waptus lake right near the water, and went swimming in the crystal clear lake. The next morning we woke up at sunrise when the light is pouring over the mountains, and the water is glassy so you can see the reflections of the mountains. Waking up early is a must-do. The hike back took around 4 hours, and we stopped for lunch at a campsite along the trail. Overall this hike is amazing, and I would recommend it 10/10. This was in late August.

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.

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.

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5.0/5

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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