Backpack to Tank Lakes

Necklace Valley Trailhead

Distance

18 Miles

Elevation Gain

3400 Feet

Activities

Photography, Swimming, Backpacking, Hiking

Skill

Advanced

Season

Summer, Autumn

Type

Out-and-Back

Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Swimming Hole

Dozens of tarns. Solitude. High alpine lakes. Breathtaking peaks as far as the eye can see.

Tucked high in the heart of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Tank Lakes has everything you could ask for out of a Washington hike. You start low at the Necklace Valley trailhead just south of Skykomish along Highway 2 and meander five miles to a giant log crossing of the East Fork Foss River.

From here the trail turns UP for a thigh-burning 2.5 miles before emerging into the wonderfully named Necklace Valley, comprised of a strand of lakes named Jade, Emerald, and Opal.

Enjoy the relatively flat valley, because the route finding and scrambling begins at the end of Opal Lake! Note that the route from the small boulder field to the Foehn Lakes drainage you're looking for can be rather confusing and there are multiple paths. Keep your heading to the southwest through the patch of trees and be on the lookout for cairns.

After that, it's an off-trail paradise following sparse but reliable cairns to the saddle between Foehn Lakes and Tank Lakes, two remarkable clusters of tarns. Think of it as a miniature version of the Enchantments but without the permits or crowds.

Find a camping spot by one of the Tank Lakes and eat your dinner staring out at the sunset behind the jagged peaks of Bears Breast, Overcoat, and Lemah. Take a good look around - you won't find any signs of civilization as far as the eye can see. No lights, no roads, no clear cuts. Pure wilderness.

For the more adventurous, route variation and peak scrambling abound. An area I've heard referred to as 'The Magic Carpet' lies on a shelf just below Tank Lakes, and beyond that is the traverse over Iron Cap the the West Fork Foss drainage - a loop Fred Beckey called the "Alpine Lakes High Route." (Something that should only be attempted by experts, as there is very difficult and committing route finding involved.)

A trip to Tank Lakes is just as much about solitude as it is the views. Not 'famous' enough to require permits and not easy enough to draw hordes of adventurers, this is a wilderness experience that will be earned and cherished for a lifetime.

Community Photos

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations.

Nearby Lodging

From $400/night

LOGE at The Pass Life

Snoqualmie Pass, Washington

From $55/night

LOGE Leavenworth

Leavenworth, Washington

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Joe Sedy

over 2 years ago

Great Adventure...

...But it's closer to 22 miles out and back, and 4200 feet elevation gain. You have been warned! :)

Distance

18 Miles

Elevation Gain

3400 Feet

Activities

Photography, Swimming, Backpacking, Hiking

Skill

Advanced

Season

Summer, Autumn

Type

Out-and-Back

Nearby Adventures

Adventure

Photograph the Foss River Trestle

Adventure

Hike to Foss River and Lakes

Adventure

Hike to Big Heart Lake

Adventure

Hike Beckler Peak

More Nearby Adventures

Related Stories

skiing

An Introduction To Ski Touring

Enjoy the peace and quiet of the backcountry and untracked powder.

backpacking

Marmot 4-season Thor 3p Tent Review

Marmot recently gave me the opportunity to test out their 4-season tent during my latest travel t...

More Stories