Fall Hiking

Eight distinctively different hikes, varying in length from 2 to 11 miles, lead directly from High Camp to several rewarding destinations. Six of the hikes lead the backcountry traveler into spectacular scenery of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Fishing is excellent in all of the lakes in the region. Wildflowers still abound in late August and early September. Brilliant fall colors begin their month-long display in mid-September and the dramatic changing of the larch trees begins in early October. Wilderness permits are available for hikers in the day lodge at High Camp.

High Camp HIKES

  • Sunset Meadow and Nature Trail – 1.5 miles round trip
  • Inspiration Lookout and Stegosaurus Rock – 2 miles round trip
  • McCue Ridge – 3.5 miles
  • Lake Julius and Loch Eileen – 6 miles round trip
  • Chiwaukum Lake – 6 miles round trip
  • Lake Donald and The High Meadows – 8 miles round trip
  • Lake Ethel – 9 miles round trip
  • Larch Lake – 10 miles round trip
  • McWaukum Scramble – 10 miles round trip

Hikes that are 2 miles or less:

  • Lower McCue Ridge
  • Glacier Peak Viewpoint/Upper Old Julius & Wedding Point
  • Inspiration Lookout/ Sunset Trail Loop

Hikes that are 3 miles or less:

  • Tranquility / Rolling Rock
  • Glacier View/Low Road/Sunset Meadow Loop

SUNSET MEADOW AND NATURE TRIP (1.5 miles round trip)

This short family hike is an ideal way to begin your exploration of the wonderfully scenic Chiwaukum Mountains! To reach the trail, take Mac’s Express for the first hundred yards. At a prominent junction, turn left and follow the winding route as it climbs to the top of Wild Bill Hill and reaches the boundary of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Enjoy the spectacular views of Snowgrass and Big Chiwaukum summits from Sunset Meadow. Feast on the dramatic vistas of Glacier Peak and other distant Cascade peaks as you return to High Camp.

Note: An optional route continues on from Sunset Meadow for about 1/2 mile to the junction with Mac’s Express, where you can either proceed up to Inspiration Lookout or down to your cabin. To follow this route to Mac’s Express, go right at the Upper Sunset junction and follow the signs to Low Road.

UPPER SUNSET TRAIL

Continue beyond Sunset Meadow via the Upper Sunset Trail and enjoy astounding views of the Chiwaukum Mountains. The additional trail is approximately 3/4 mile in length and meets the Lake Chiwaukum trail on the crest of McCue Ridge.

INSPIRATION LOOKOUT AND STEGOSAURUS ROCK (2 miles round trip)

This short, often steep, hike leads to two great vantage points above High Camp. Follow Mac’s Express to its end (about 1/2 mile) and proceed straight ahead on the Cliffhanger ski trail. Continue up this trail for about 1/4 mile to Inspiration Lookout. Stop and enjoy the stunning views of Glacier Peak and other summits to the north and east. For even better views, proceed upward and swing to the west, ascending a short, very steep section of trail. Within a few minutes arrive at Stegosaurus Rock. Views abound in every direction. The prominent mountain to the southeast is Big Jim. Look carefully and see if you can spot the bright green roof of the woodshed at High Camp far below you. Experienced back country travelers may wish to proceed cross-country in a westerly direction to reach the upper glades on McCue Ridge.

McCUE RIDGE (3.5 miles round trip, plus roaming)

McCue Ridge

Great views of the Chiwaukum Mountains and the Central Washington Plateau are among the many highlights of this outstanding hike. Please secure your wilderness permit at the lodge before beginning.

Proceed to the junction of Ridgetop ski trail and Low Road, either via Mac’s Express and Low Road, or by way of Jirka’s Trail and Ridgetop ski trail. At this junction continue straight ahead and climb for about 1/2 mile to the crest of the ridge. (you may also reach this point on the crest of the ridge via Upper Sunset trail) Follow the trail until it begins to drop into the Chiwaukum drainage. At this point, swing west off the trail and begin exploring the high, expansive meadows, enjoying the great panorama of mountains and plains in all directions. Return either the way you came, or watch for the prominent cairn on the crest of McCue Ridge and descend via Upper Sunset.

For those with a strong sense of adventure and good alpine scrambling skills, follow the faint path that begins at the prominent high point about one mile west of the trail. The route traverses a narrow, often rocky ridge with dramatic views of the lakes on both sides of McCue Ridge. After reaching the saddle directly above Lake Donald, continue climbing in a northwesterly direction, winding upward through groves of larch trees and the absolutely sublime Hanging Gardens. Regain the ridge crest and follow it to Tamarack Point where the reward is stunning views of Larch Lake and Ewing Basin. Proceed westward, slowly losing elevation until arriving at a second saddle. Turn northward, dropping immediately into the upper High Meadows. Continue route-finding downward over rocks and through meadows, passing many small tarns. A southeast bearing will eventually bring you to the intersection of the marked route between Loch Eileen and Lake Donald.

LAKE JULIUS AND LOCH EILEEN (6 miles round trip)

Loch Eileen

Two distinctively different, highly scenic alpine lakes are your reward for taking this hike. Be sure to obtain your wilderness permit before departing High Camp. Proceed to the main Lake Julius-Lake Chiwaukum junction, either via Mac’s Express, Low Road, and a brief downhill stretch of Ridgetop, or by way of Jirka’s Trail and 1/4 mile uphill on Ridgetop. At this junction turn north and follow Boundary Ski Trail for about 1/2 mile. When the trail nears the logging road, continue downhill on the Lake Julius Ski Trail as it drops toward Roaring Creek. Cross the creek on the log bridge and immediately arrive at a signed junction. Turn left and climb gradually, arriving at the outlet of Lake Julius in about 1/4 mile. To continue on to Loch Eileen, follow the trail as it passes Lake Julius on the north side and then swings northwest. The trail steepens significantly, but it’s only half a mile to Loch Eileen. Be sure to watch for Western Larch trees in October! These deciduous conifer trees turn gold before losing their needles.

CHIWAUKUM LAKE (6 miles round trip)

Chiwaukum Lake

The largest lake in the area sits in the shadow of the rugged Chiwaukum Mountains beneath the south slopes of McCue Ridge. Secure your wilderness permit at the lodge before beginning this hike.

The quickest and most scenic route follows the Sunset and Upper Sunset trails to the top of the ridge. (Alternate routes to the crest of McCue Ridge are available via Jirka’s Trail and Ridgetop, or Mac’s Express, Low Road and Ridgetop.) Once at the crest, remain on the trail as it crosses the ridge and begins a long, gentle downhill traverse. Enjoy the dramatic views of the sparkling blue water which await you far below! At the lake a left turn will take you along the north shore for about 1/4 mile to the outlet. Those with lots of extra time and energy may wish to tackle the steep bushwhack to Jason Lakes, reached via the southeast slopes above Honour Lake.

LAKE DONALD AND THE HIGH MEADOWS (8 miles round trip plus roaming)

Lake Donald

A beautiful off-trail alpine lake and miles of open meadows with easy scrambles await the energetic hiker.

To reach Lake Donald, follow the directions to Loch Eileen. (Remember your wilderness permit!) Cross the outlet at Loch Eileen and proceed on the faint path that heads upward in a southwesterly direction. Continue heading in this general direction for about 1/2 mile, following the series of rock cairns, and soon arrive at Lake Donald. Above the lake, the High Meadows beckon everywhere. The prominent high point to the north is locally known as Baldy, a favorite destination for backcountry skiers and snowshoers in winter and springtime. An easy walk-up brings you to its summit with excellent views of Nason Ridge, countless peaks in all directions and even Highway 2 far below. To reach a stunning view of Larch Lake scramble west up McCue Ridge from Lake Donald for about one mile to Tamarack Point.

LAKE ETHEL (9 miles round trip)

An exhilarating hike along High Lonesome Ridge brings you to an extremely beautiful lake set within a classic old-growth forest.

To reach Lake Ethel proceed to the signed junction just across Roaring Creek. (see directions for Lake Julius – Loch Eileen) At the junction immediately after the creek crossing, continue on the trail that heads straight ahead, rather than the left-hand fork which leads to Lake Julius and the other Scottish Lakes. The trail immediately gains several hundred feet arriving at a long, open traverse with expansive views to the north and east. After about a mile of ridge walking, the trail begins to drop steeply and enters an old growth forest of spruce and Douglas fir. Turn left at a signed junction and proceed a few hundred yards to the lake. Enjoy the solitude while you explore the shoreline. If you’re lucky, you might spot a black bear feeding on berries high on the open hillside well above the lake.

LARCH LAKE (10 miles round trip)

Larch Lake

The ultimate hike from High Camp takes you through a high, wild basin to one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in the entire Cascade Range. This hike is rewarding anytime of the season, but is a must during early and mid-October when the larch trees are changing color.

To reach Larch Lake, secure your wilderness permit at the lodge and follow the directions to Chiwaukum Lake. When you arrive at Chiwaukum, turn right on the trail, cross the inlet and begin climbing in a southerly direction. As you ascend, the lower forest begins to thin, and you soon emerge into Ewing Basin, complete with boulders, marmots, waterfalls and broad hillsides of larch trees. About two miles from Chiwaukum Lake arrive at Larch Lake, set in an absolutely stunning locale beneath a classic backdrop of rugged peaks! If you have time head up to Cup Lake, which sits a few hundred feet above Larch Lake to the west. Dead Horse Pass is the small notch in the skyline above Cup Lake. (look west, not southwest) By the way, heading over Dead Horse Pass is the key to the route followed by our “Beat the Diner” hikers each fall. Be sure to allow plenty of time to safely return to the warmth and comfort of High Camp before nightfall.

MCWAUKUM SCRAMBLE (10 miles round trip)

Begin anywhere near the west side of Loch Eileen and proceed in a generally west-southwest direction through the High Meadows, reaching the saddle on McCue Ridge about 1/2 mile west of Tamarack Point. Carefully choose your route up the north side of this steep, rocky slope until you are able to scramble over the ridge and reach the south flank of McWaukum. Be sure to note this transition point for your return back down the mountain! Make your way up the steep, broad southern slope of the mountain, being wary of the sharp drop off on the north face of the mountain.

Consult the Green Trails “Chiwaukum Mountains” map for a more detailed look at the scenic east slopes of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Please note that High Camp is shown as a geographic feature on this map. A copy of the hiking guide is provided to all guests.

RECOMMENDED SHORTER WALKS FROM HIGH CAMP (Hikes that are two miles or less)

LOWER McCUE RIDGE

Head up the Sunset Trail (start out on Mac’s Express) until you reach the halfway point at Low Road. Head southeast on this old logging spur, taking note of Echo Point on your left. In about 1/2 mile turn uphill on Ridgerunner, soon coming to Lover’s Lookout. Proceed up the ridge past Big Jim Viewpoint and walk through “Forest Bump” before rejoining the Sunset Trail. Turn right and head back downhill to High Camp. ( a short side trip at this last junction takes you to Sunset Meadow)

GLACIER PEAK VIEWPOINT, UPPER OLD JULIUS & WEDDING POINT

Hike Jirka’s Trail for about 1/2 mile until you reach the side-trail that heads out into the logged area. Follow the bike path through this open area for a short distance until it joins up with the road. Turn left and walk uphill on the road for a short quarter mile. Watch for the sign to Old Julius, heading downhill on your right. Prior to starting down this trail, head up the road another 75 yards and enjoy the grand vistas from Glacier Peak Viewpoint. Return to the upper terminus of Old Julius and walk downhill, soon coming to Wedding Point. (be careful here…it’s a big drop!) From Wedding Point walk west and then south on an old logging spur, soon joining Roundabout. Follow Roundabout back to the road and head uphill about 300 yards to reach High Camp.

INSPIRATION LOOKOUT/SUNSET TRAIL LOOP

Take Mac’s Express to the junction with Low Road. Continue uphill on Cliffhanger, pausing to enjoy the view at Inspiration Lookout. The trail continues to its end at Stegosaurus Rock. From there scramble downhill and cross the open hillside, looking carefully for the Upper Sunset Trail. Turn left on this trail and follow it back to High Camp.

RECOMMENDED SHORTER WALKS FROM HIGH CAMP (Hikes that are three miles or less)

TRANQUILITY / ROLLING ROCK

Head down the road about 300 yards to Roundabout. Walk east on Roundabout to the junction with Tranquility. Continue straight ahead on Tranquility for about one-third mile to the junction with Old Julius. Turn right and walk downhill until you again reach Tranquility at a lower elevation. Go left and soon arrive at the junction with Rolling Rock. Here a short side trip takes you to an overlook of the Roaring Creek drainage and an excellent view of the Alpine Lookout on Nason Ridge. Return and walk down Rolling Rock, noting its level of challenge for mountain bikers. At the bottom of this trail, reach a logging side road and follow it uphill across the top of Big Rock Bowl, a favorite destination of skiers in winter. Continue on the spur road to it’s junction with Tranquility. Turn left and reach the High Camp access road In about 1/2 mile. Return to High Camp by hiking up the road.

GLACIER VIEW/ LOW ROAD/ SUNSET MEADOW LOOP

Hike up the road .9 miles to Glacier Peak Viewpoint. Continue on the road another .3 miles, passing a popular wedding site just west of the viewpoint. Turn uphill on the trail marked Ridgetop and climb for about 1/2 mile to the junction with Low Road. Follow Low Road about 3/4 mile (mostly downhill) and turn right at the High Road sign soon arriving at Sunset Meadow and the top of Wild Bill Hill. Proceed back to High Camp via the Sunset Trail.