Day Hike to Lila Lakes and Alta Pass
Washington › Rachel Lake Trail
Added by Nathan Wall
- Forested valley
- Tiny tarns and large alpine lakes
- Meadows and mountain scenery
- Endless cross-country explorations
- 12 miles roundtrip with 3000' elevation gain
From Seattle, drive Interstate 90 to Exit 62, Signed Kachess Lake/Stampede Pass. Turn left and head north over the interstate; you'll reach Kachess Lake Campground in five miles. Turn left where the pavements ends and drive four miles on Box Canyon Road (FS Road #4930) to the Rachel Lake Trailhead. Pack your bags, get on the trail, and begin your trek into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness high country.
The trail begins with a brief meandering ascent and shortly begins to parallel Box Canyon Creek. With the soothing babble of the creek always within earshot, you'll gently traverse through shaded mossy forests and open slide-alder covered avalanche slopes. Soon you'll gain astounding views to your right of Hibox Mountain as you make your way to the end of the Box Canyon Creek Valley.
At 2.5, miles the trail begins a moderately steep ascent, gaining 1300 feet of elevation before finally relenting at the gorgeous turquoise waters of Rachel Lake. While catching your breath, enjoy a snack or snap a few photographs before turning right to regain the main trail. Hike further switchbacks up through talus, meadows, and ever expanding views to the south for another half mile. The way levels as you reach a trail junction on Rampart Ridge signed for Rampart Ridge Lakes and Lila Lakes. Turn right and make your way towards Lila Lakes, traversing steadily through meadows, crags, and forested slopes.
After a placid mile of ever-increasing views and mountain vistas, you'll descend slightly into the Lila Lakes Basin. The trail leads straight to a promontory that offers the iconic and well-documented view of the lower lakes with Hibox Mountain seated nobly beyond.
For lesser known explorations, turn left and ascend a cat trail adjacent to a small outlet stream into the upper cirque. Here, you'll find innumerable tarns and larger lakes that are often over-looked by most trekkers. Explore the basin slowly, snapping photographs, and finally reaching Alta Pass where views expand East and Northward towards Alaska Mountain, Huckleberry Mountain, and Chikamin Peak with the Gold Creek Valley sprawled out far below. Working clockwise you can now descend from Alta Pass through talus and forested slopes to the lower Lila Lakes basin rejoining the crowds before making your way back down the trail. Consider combining this adventure with a climb of Alta Mountain or with a trek to Rampart Ridge Lakes on the Southeastern flank of the ridge.
- Hiking boots
- Rain jacket
- The 10 essentials
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, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Running
Spring, Summer, Autumn
Are we missing something?Suggest an edit
ReviewsLeave a Review
Perfect for Beginning Adventurist
July 2016 Overview: 5 of us (1 expert, 3 intermediate and 2 beginners) used this day hike up to Lila Lake as a "backpacking" trip, spending two nights at the lake. With 35 pound backpacking packs this 5.5 mile/+2,500 ft. elevation/4.5 hour hike wasn't easy, but we all made, and all felt it was well worth the sore legs. Weather: We were lucky enough to have an overcast day on the way up. If it was warm and sunny, the hike could of been twice as hard — sore legs + sweat. Once we were at Lila Lake, the clouds opened up and the weather was perfect. Things to Do: There was so much to do here! -Swimming in the main lake. -Romping around in the tens of watering holes around the main lake. -Exploring the creek which has an amazing view of the valley and Rachel Lake, below. -Meeting other camping neighbors. -Exploring other trails and lakes (Rampart Lake). Things Not to Forget: -Bug spray & bug resistant clothing. Seriously, bring an arsenal and not that organic stuff. -Trekking poles. They were a life saver. -Water filtration system. You don't want to lug water up this hike. Final Thoughts: This is the perfect place to get your feet wet with backpacking, minimalist camping and trail life.
Crowded for backpacking
Did an overnight backpacking trip here on a Saturday night in the summer so needless to say it's not your typical tranquil experience being so close to Seattle. Felt like camping in a car campground once up to Lila Lake. One group had a blow up couch, and two other groups had fires despite them not being permitted in Alpine Lakes Wilderness at the moment, another group used a hefty bag as a bear bag and hung it next to someone else's campsite. If it weren't for these things it would be such a great destination and is absolutely beautiful. Probably better to be saved for the off season!
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.
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.