This past weekend I suddenly had a couple unplanned days. The weather report was forecasting lots of sun and warmer temps which meant a great opportunity to get outside. I decided to check off a few trails on Mountain Loop Highway, a scenic byway through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
The trails on the southwest end of the loop are very very popular for day hikers from the Seattle area. From where I live they’re just a bit too far away for a day hike. I formulated a plan to hike the popular trails Saturday and Sunday and overnight at a pullout along the highway (yup, it’s perfectly legal!)
My first hike was Lake Twenty-Two.
Saturday morning I hit the road and made it to the trailhead just before 10 am. The main parking lot was already full but the picnic area across the road still had a few spots left. Even with all the cars in the lots, the trail really didn’t feel too busy. It was great to stretch out my legs after so many months without hiking.
The entirety of the Lake Twenty-Two trail is preserved as part of a Research National Area. I was mesmerized by the lush forest, and especially the old-growth Western Cedars and Western Hemlock, along with a great variety of other trees.
About 20 minutes of gentle climbing along the trail, I took a short off-trail detour to get a nice view of a waterfall. It was lovely to sit alongside the roaring falls. However, I strongly advise against detouring off-trail unless you have solid footwear and are very familiar with forest navigation.
The next section of trail continued the climb using stairs and switchbacks. I took a few short breaks under the shadows of the giant trees. Next I came to a large exposed rocky slope. After the winter we’ve had I was not going to complain about the sunshine. The trail made a couple long switchbacks along the slope. The view really opened up through this section. I could see north and east to some snow-covered peaks, including Green Mountain.
I hit the snow line not long after that. I was grateful to have my good boots and my poles with me. Those without were sliding around a lot on the softening snow.
Soon enough I was at the lake! Lake Twenty-Two is an alpine lake set in a stunning basin. The near-vertical walls of the surrounding cirque were an impressive sight and were filled with waterfalls.
I carefully hiked/postholed partway around the lake. I found a nice quiet spot near some trees, away from the melting edges of the lake. I settled in to relax and enjoy my lunch and the views. It was so enjoyable I ended up staying for about 45 minutes. It was nice not having to worry about making the drive home.
As is often the case, the hike down was much quicker and easier than the way up. There were a lot more people on trail by mid-day but I didn’t really mind taking my time to let them pass by. It gave me an excuse to further enjoy the calm of the old-growth forest and the new spring growth around me.
I made it back to the picnic area around 3 and treated myself to a relaxing hour to snack and soak in some sunshine beside the South Fork Stillaquamish River.
So far my weekend away was off to a great start!