On Cinco de Mayo I went to Ancient Lakes in Eastern Washington for some sunshine and hiking with meetup. This is a great place to go in the spring when it is gloomy and rainy in Seattle, as it is often sunny on the other side of the pass.
There are two trailheads, we went to the “backpacking” entrance. The day hike trailhead has a steep descent next to a waterfall over some talus rock. If you want to take the easier way in take the following directions:
“For the backpacking trailhead, you need to enter from the west. Similar to the day hiking entrance, you head north along 281 and turn west onto White Trail Road. However, instead of turning off to the fishing area, continue on White Trail Road. The road swings north after about four miles, and you continue about another 3.5 miles (approximately) until you turn left (west) on Rd 9 NW. After about two miles, the road swings south and turns into Ancient Lake Rd NW. Head south on here about four miles until you reach the trailhead.” The road was in good shape. My Honda fit would have made it with no issues.
The stats on this trail can vary as there are many routes you can take. Here are the stats per WTA:
12 miles round trip, 625 feet gain, highest point 1200 feet.
Parking Pass required: Discover Pass
For more info and directions see: wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/ancient-lakes
Ancient Lakes has beautiful mesas, coulees and waterfalls. In the spring, you can also catch some spring flowers. If backpacking, do not drink the water even if it is filtered, much of the water is irrigation runoff and it is not safe to drink. Also, watch out for rattlesnakes and ticks. We were warned that the rattlesnakes were out on the trail on the day we went, and we did see one cross the trail. It is best not to go off trail into the sagebrush just in case one is hiding under a rock, etc.
From the backpacking parking, we followed the trail to the left around to the lakes. You can make this a loop hike around the lakes, which allows you to get different perspective on the scenery along the way.
We continued around the loop around some of the lakes. Some of the lakes had some nice trees and bird life…and snakes around them. Eventually you come to a steep side trail that goes up to the top of the mesa. Part of our group went up, but I chickened out because I was concerned about coming back down the steep talus. Apparently they saw a marmot and Dusty lake on the other side. The little group that stayed spotted some hawks and magpies nesting in the hillside.
Along the loop on the way back there were some interesting rock formations carved by water. Take some time to ponder these and how they were formed.
It did end up getting pretty hot by the end of our hike. Make sure you bring lots of sunscreen and water and get an early start. It is amazing what a different landscape we have on the other side of the mountains. Beautiful.