Central Cascades; Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
7.91 miles, roundtrip
(This is from what we recorded on a Garmin Fenix 6x)
Gain: 3442 ft.
Highest Point: 4707 ft.
If you are flying into Seattle and coming across the Eastern part of Washington, there is a good chance if you look out your window you can see Blanca Lake.
It is a very pronounced turquoise lake that is fed by the Columbia Glacier. Unfortunately the glacier is quickly heading towards the end of its life, which means eventually the unique colors of this lake will eventually fade out.
The hike itself is a real butt kicker, but the reward is worth it. Go early in the morning or a non-weekend day to avoid the college crowds throwing mini parties and blasting their music for all to hear.
I never realized that there are multiple roads to take you out to Blanca Lake, but I always used Beckler River Road out of Skykomish. From Skykomish it is about a 30 minute drive to get to the trailhead.
The trail starts off relatively flat for a few hundred feet, just long enough to trick you into thinking it'll be easy. Then it starts to climb.
We spoke to a ranger and he said there are about 37 switchbacks (each ranger counts differently and none get the same number), which helps you to climb nearly 3000' in vertical to reach the top. At the end of summer, you get the reward of huckleberries, as long as the bears didn't get them first.
Unfortunately you have to climb down about 500-600' to reach the lake, which means exiting you have to climb back out of there.
The Descent to Blanca Lake
Right now there are a few blowdowns on the descent to Blanca Lake that are kind of a pain to get around. But such is life in the PNW, and you will learn to adapt.
Again you are faced with more switchbacks taking you down closer to the lake. If you use your ears, you can hear the outflow of the lake way before you see any views.
You'll catch the first glimpse of the lake through the trees if you are keeping your head up, otherwise you will pop around a corner and see the lake in all its glory. Trust me when I say that on a clear sunny day, the coloring of the lake will blow your mind!
Hang out on the shores of the lake, take a dip in it if it's warm enough outside, and when you are ready, head back uphill to make your way back to the car.
Click on images below to see a bigger picture
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Practicing LNT Principles, and Giving Back
We really want to encourage everyone to practice LNT principles when they explore these beautiful places. We spent years trying to minimize social impact on these locations, but the cat is out of the bag and these places are easy to find online. So it is our mission to share more about ways to keep these places as pristine as possible.
We also donate 3% of all our profits to organizations supporting the outdoors and working hard to keep these areas protected and safe.