This is an insanely beautiful hike through alpine meadows to a secluded lake that feels very far away, while still being very close to Seattle.

The trail to Gem Lake lies along the same trail that passes by the incredibly popular Snow Lake. While the masses typically stop the first place they can along the shores of Snow Lake, fewer make the short trek from there up to Gem Lake. Park at the giant lots at the end of the road to Alpental (and get there early, because the lots and the trail will fill up quickly!), fill out your trail permit at the trailhead, and then follow the trail back through the valley and then up the ridge along the switchbacks. Right when you start to break a real sweat, you've reached the saddle of the mountain and are peering over to Snow Lake. Continue along down into the basin and around the lake, passing many day use areas and campsites. You'll soon leave the crowds behind and come to a fork in the trail. Hang a left and follow the sign towards Gem Lake. Follow the trail as it winds back down to the shores of Snow Lake, over a log bridge, and up through avalanche chutes with chirping pikas and meadows full of bushes heavy with berries. Soon you'll come around a stark rocky ridge to the beautiful, secluded Gem Lake.

If you want to make this an overnight, check out this adventure: https://www.theoutbound.com/wa...

Pack List

  • Water
  • Shoes or boots that are comfortable on the rocky trail
  • Bathing suit
  • Camera
  • Permit filled out at the trailhead
  • Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass for parking
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RT Distance 10 Miles
Elevation Gain 1800 Feet
Activities Camping, Yoga, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Meandering Trail

The elevation gain is a little off, the trail goes down as almost as much as it goes up, so it is more work than it looks, but it is a beautiful trail. The trail meanders up, down, left, right, and you don't see Gem Lake until you are right on top of it. Wonderful setting with a little snow in the Fall as well.

almost 2 years ago

Gem Lake

Gem Lake is a great hike! Right now the trail is wet/muddy but no snow. It can get pretty crowded on the weekend as it's a popular hike to Snow Lake.


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