Snow Lake isn't an easy hike in good conditions, but if you've got the equipment and experience and are looking for a colder way to enjoy the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, winter camping here is truly unforgettable.

Starting at the Snow Lake Trail Head you climb up the boot pack or ski track of those before you (hopefully) from ~3120 ft. to ~4400 ft. at the ridge line where Snow Lake becomes visible. If there are no tracks, follow the South Fork Snoqualmie River NE and aim just east of the lowest point of the ridge line. Winter route finding may be necessary, so bring a compass, study the map, and have a contingency plan. Check the WTA site to bone up up before you head out: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/snow-lake-1

I was amazed at how dramatic the land scape was here. Chair Peak disappearing into the clouds, Snoqualmie Mountain standing over me bold and wide. This was my first real winter camping experience in the PNW and it was certainly one for the books.

Once you reach the ridge you've got three options and assessing them at this point is best because it's hard to tell how long the ~2.5 miles will take and how good you'll be feeling. You can: 1.) head down to the lake and set up camp on the east side and enjoy the crazy views of the valley to the north and peaks to the west and east; 2.) head down to the lake and follow the north brim of Snow Lake to Gem Lake which sits another +800 ft. up, there's a wonderful landing on the S/SW side for your camp site; or 3.) work your way east from the ridge to a landing at ~4440 ft. just below the western arm of Chair Peak for impressive views of the peaks immediately to the west.

Option 3 is easiest and is what we ended up doing this particular outing. If I had to do it again, I might push for Gem Lake, but it is easier said than done.

Definitely bring a camera and a tripod if the weather looks clear. You'll certainly want some good snaps to remember this trip by.

Pack List

AVI GEAR The switch backs up were covered by at least two different slides. Avi risk is real. Do not take unnecessary risks.

North West Forrest Pass Required

  • Snow shoes
  • Skis
  • Poles

PRO TIPClosed cell foam pad: won't absorb water, good for sitting, sleeping, laying your things on while setting up or crashing camp

Lots of fuel to melt snow and fill up those nalgenes to keep you warm at night.

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RT Distance 7.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 1800 Feet
Activities Chillin, Camping, Photography, Snowshoeing, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Winter
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Forest
Lake
Scenic

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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