Boulder River Hike, April 1, 2017

Out with the snow (no, it is not all gone in the Pacific NW) in with the mud. Time for spring hiking. Yesterday, I hiked the Boulder River trail with my favorite meetup group, the 40+ Slackers. The road to this trailhead is off Hwy 30 about 23.6 miles past Arlington. Make a right turn on French Creek Road just after mile post 41 and follow this to the end. Note, the road had some pretty big potholes in it. We had a couple of sedans that made it their way there, just drive with care. Also, currently, there is a big tree blocking part of the parking lot, so I would advise you to arrive early to grab a good spot.

Boulder River

Large tree fell in parking lot

Here are the stats per the WTA site:  8.6 miles roundtrip, 700 feet of elevation gain, highest point 1550 ft.

No parking pass is needed.

For directions and more information see

This trail is supposedly hikeable year-round, but it would be advisable to check trip reports before making your way there in the winter months. I did see some earlier trip reports that noted snow on the trail, and we did see a few small patches off the path on the day we went, but the trail itself was clear. This trail was overall fairly easy not too much elevation gain, the trail meandered by the river with some ups and downs along the way. The difficulty came with some of the obstacles along the way. There were two big trees that had fallen that you had to climb over, and a few small ones. We got lucky because per a recent trip report, the forest service had just put  a notch in one of the trees making it slightly easier to get over. The next obstacle was mud.

Boulder River

One of the many muddy spots

There was a lot of it. This is to be expected in spring hiking, so it is advisable to have waterproof boots and gaiters. I was really to happy to have mine yesterday, as I stepped in at least one or two mud spots that were about ankle-deep, possibly covering my whole boot (thank goodness for gaiters). Luckily there were a lot of streams which became a great spot to wash off your boots. The most challenging muddy spot was at the end where you have to climb over fallen tree’s roots, then drop into the mud. There were also a few slippery little log bridges to cross that test your balance. Needless to say, we were all nice and dirty by the end.

The route starts on a nice wide flat trail, enjoy the mossy forest around you, the ferns, trees, etc. So beautiful. Once you are a little more than a mile in you will see the first water fall. The WTA site notes two waterfalls but we saw three, so I am wondering if we got a bonus with spring run-off.

After you pass the first waterfall keep going past a switch back and admire some one of the old growth trees on the trail (there were many worth hugging). Further up the trail is the second waterfall. The WTA site says the second waterfall is 1.5 miles down the trail but I am unsure of the distances since we saw three falls.

Eventually we came to a 3rd waterfall, which was also impressive, as was the forest along the way. There are also a few nice river views along the way.

The trail eventually drops down into a marshy area (lots of mud) and ends at a nice lunch spot by the river. The largest mud obstacle that I mentioned above was close to the end of the trail, so if you have gotten there, don’t give up. At this time, I didn’t notice any mosquitoes on the trail, I think it is still too cold for them, but there were a few in the parking lot, when it warms up you may want to bring bug spray.

Return to Goat Lake, November 19, 2016

On November 19th, I headed back to Goat Lake with my favorite meetup group. It was a little wet and drizzly but not as bad as the last two outings. What a difference since the last visit on July 30th! See the hiking stats and WTA info on my last posting. The road out was VERY pot-holed, definitely recommend a car with higher clearance if you plan to go out on the Mountain Loop Highway before they close the road down for winter.

Goat Lake

Goat Lake Trail, November 2016

Part of our group (including myself) chose to go out and back on the Lower Elliot Trail and part of our group chose to return on the upper Elliot trail. I personally prefer the lower trail as the upper starts feeling a little bit like a road to me, plus it is longer. The trail was pretty muddy which is to be expected, most bad spots could be skirted around fairly easily. There were also a few smaller creek crossings that weren’t too bad. The main creek that the trail follows (I think it is Elliot Creek) was very full and beautiful. I didn’t take the adventure down the hill this time to get a picture of the big waterfall, but it was impressive. Don’t forget to stop and admire the huge trees! The mountains were all snow-capped and beautiful. The trail was still snow free, but I am sure it will have snow soon enough.

The flowers and blueberries were gone but the mushrooms were out. I don’t know much about mushrooms, so I cannot tell you which ones these are, but here are some photos of a few we saw along the way.

Since I previously posted about this trail in the height of summer I thought it might be nice to add some comparison photos from summer to fall. The area with the asters was very different with the leaves off the trees you could see the mountains peeking through. Also the overgrown plants around the lake were mostly gone. The view from the lake was also very different. Here are some contrasting pictures. Some of these may not be from the same spots, but you will get the gist.

Independence and North Lakes, November 5, 2016

Another VERY wet hike! Somehow we hit the wettest day of the week on this one. On Saturday November 5th the 40+ Slackers headed to North and Independence Lakes in the North Cascades off of the Mountain Loop Highway. I have no idea what the trail traffic would normally be like on a decent day but on this particular day we saw 3 other people, so very light. According to the WTA site, this is a good place for solitude, so I think it is generally not too crowded.

Independence and North Lakes

Independence and North Lakes

Here are the stats according to WTA: 7.0 miles round trip, 2200 feet elevation gain, high point 4950 feet.

Parking pass required: NW Forest Pass

The road going up was a little rough, although one of our drivers with a sedan made it okay. I think on a clear day there may be some nice views from the road, but we did not see them.

For more information and driving directions see:

The trail to Independence lake was pretty muddy (but it was a very wet day) and a bit rooty and rocky with some ups and downs. Don’t forget that you will have a little uphill on the way back. During this time of year don’t forget your rain gear, layers and a set of dry clothes for the drive home. The lake was very pretty despite the rain, had it been a nice day I may have taken a longer pause here. There was a slippery log jam to cross which was a little tricky, but not too bad. The trail continues around the west side of the lake then descends to a marshy meadow at the north end.

From here you continue on to North Lake. From this point forward the trail gets pretty steep, many switchbacks. There is a huge double-trunked Alaskan Cedar which is a good place to take a break, drink some water and capture a photo before continuing on.

After the cedar there were a couple of waterfall crossings nothing major and one harder rocky section to go up. There was one intersection that we came up with a sign for Helena Ridge Trail. Go Right here. (On a side note, there were some interesting mushrooms on the trail, one was on the tree with the sign to the Helena Ridge Trail.)

We had a little bit of trouble with the trail from here due to the wet day. You had to keep an eye out for the trail direction in a  couple of places and there were a couple of blow downs to get around (passable). We ended up at a couple of Tarn’s Not sure if one of these was North Lake, but I don’t think it was. According to WTA, “about a mile past Independence Lake, the first of several ridges is reached with views of Mount Baker and Three Fingers. Continue on past several tarns before reaching a second ridge with views of Glacier Peak. North Lake can be glimpsed in a basin 700 feet below.” We were pretty wet and cold at this point so decided to call this our ending point.







Snow Lake, October 29, 2016

I am a little behind on getting my posts up. On October 29th I set out on a soggy NW day with the 40+ Slackers group to Snow Lake. Our original destination was Gem Lake, but we started to encounter sleet and wind and decided to turn around shortly after Snow Lake.

Snow Lake is part of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Snoqualmie Pass. This hike is usually a super highway for hikers because it isn’t too far from Seattle. Here are the stats:

Snow Lake Trail, Snoqualmie

Snow Lake Trail, Snoqualmie

Round trip 7.2 miles, 1800 feet Elevation gain, High Point 4400 feet.

Parking pass required: NW Forest Pass

On a nice day this trail can be very crowded, so I recommend getting there early. In the winter, make sure you check on snow conditions and avalanche danger. For more information and driving directions check out

Note: there is more than one Snow Lake in Washington, make sure you are checking trip reports for the correct trail.

On the day we set out it was VERY wet and foggy. The trail starts on the north end of the main Alpental Parking lot and gradually climbs up to the top of the saddle before dropping down to the lake. Don’t forget your rain gear this time of year in addition to a hat and gloves. I also highly recommend hiking boots and poles for this trail on a wet day as it is rocky and may be slippery in places. The fog was kind-of interesting in the trees and valleys.

Half a mile from the saddle and a 400 m drop in elevation you will arrive at the lake. There is a little creek crossing that may be a little tricky, just take it slow, and continue around the lake.

We continued a little ways around the lake as our original destination was Gem Lake which is a couple of miles further. When the weather turned so did we. I need to figure out what to do with my camera in wet weather, it is really hard to keep it dry. I guess with some trial and error I will get it.