Backpack to Surprise Lake

Rate this Adventure Washington Surprise Lake Trailhead

Added by Katie Ryan

This is a great destination for a group with all different fitness levels seeking adventure! Start from a scenic meadow parking lot, hike through river beds, pass through open cattle pastures with a few snow capped mountain view-points, then finally kick back by the pristine lake, and call it home for a short while.

Take Road 1000 to start your hike at Conrad Meadows, which is also where you will park your car, be sure to leave your Northwest Forest Pass properly displayed on the dash of your car before you leave.

Surprise Lake trailhead is one of the very few trailheads that starts out on the east side of Goat Rocks Wilderness, making for a gentle hike with scenic views along the way. (Side note: You don't need to register at Bear Creek Mountain - the actual register for Surprise Lake is a couple miles up the trail.)

Begin your journey on what could be the location for a western movie, through Conrad Meadows. In late summer the trail becomes more dry, it can be helpful to bring a bandana to help breathing with all the dust. For about 3 more miles with little elevation gain you will make your way through valleys and forest meadows, pass creeks and rivers, through spruce forest and ponderosa pines. There are plenty of places to stop along the way to hydrate, take in the scenery or stop for a snack. Also along the meadows, don’t be alarmed if you run into elk, deer and cattle.

Some hikers find the vast amount of meadows and forest great for an off-trail traverse up to the lake. This can be a great opportunity to practice your off-trail skills, but it would be wise to make sure you bring a map and compass with you and the skill to use them effectively.

The last portion of this route will take you on gradual switchbacks through a dense forest. You will know you are getting close to the lake when the forest breaks open into pristine alpine clearings. Once you see the gem colored lake, it will draw you in. You can’t miss it!

There is a campsite right when you hike up to the lake but if you can keep pushing farther on there are also plenty of camping spots around the lake. (Note: Always remember to camp 200 ft from lakes and streams.) My advice is to bring your fishing pole (and valid license) and try to catch some dinner, and finish the day relaxing in a hammock at sunset. Ahhh, home sweet home!

Pack List

  • 10 Essentials
  • Maps (Goat Rocks Wilderness)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag/Sleeping Pad
  • Head lamp
  • Food
  • Water/Filter System
  • Bug Spray
  • Clothing for elements (Layers)
  • Hammock
  • Fly Rod (and valid license)
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

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



Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Fishing, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



10 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1200 Feet


Dog Friendly
Easy Parking

Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

Have you done this adventure? Have something to add? You could be the first to leave a review!

Added by Katie Ryan

More Adventures Nearby

Hike Mount Catherine

Washington / Mount Catherine Trailhead

Start off on the extremely rough Forest Service 9070 road. Follow this for just over 4 miles until you see a sign for trail #1348 on the right.

Bryan Carroll
25 Saves

Hike to Gem Lake

Washington / Snow Lake Trailhead

The trail to Gem Lake lies along the same trail that passes by the incredibly popular Snow Lake.

Shelby Pothier
19 Saves

Hike to Elk Pass via "the Knife"

Washington / Snowgrass Flat Trailhead

This is a rather long out and back, however, it can also be done as a backpack, which would give you more time to explore the Goat Rocks Wilderness, which is highlighted in other Adventures.

Isaac Desautels
17 Saves