Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kendall Peak Lakes

3 Miles of Dirt Roads

There's something about hikes that begin on dirt roads. In parts of the Northwest you are more likely to get solitude on dirt roads than the popular maintained trails. The Kendall Peak Lakes trail is like that. Its a sunny Saturday morning and the trails all around Snoqualmie Pass will be teaming with parades of hikers, but you have a feeling you might find some solitude by choosing the dirt road less taken!

Views South to Snoqualmie Pass Area

You drive to the the Hyak Exit (54) from I-90, go north under the freeway and straight onto a dirt road over a concrete bridge and then about 1/3 mile to where cement blockades force you to park. The first three miles of hiking is wide-open, double-track dirt road.

From 2010 Fishing

As you approach the last mile you start to get significant views of the Snoqualmie Pass area below. You've brought your GPS since several of the roads fork and its not always obvious which way to go. Eventually Mt. Rainier starts to show! You place your camera on a stump, set the timer and get a cheesy self-portrait!

Three lakes between You and Kendall Peak

A cairn of rocks on the road marks the start of the off-road trail. As you enter the brush, you start getting excited because there are three lakes, each more beautiful than the last, between you and stony Kendall Peak above.

The Lower Lake

Within a minute you're standing in a meadow looking at a beautiful mountain lake surrounded by bee-filled meadows. Many people stop right here, and this would be a very nice place to hang out and just kind of look around, if it weren't for the fact that there's a much prettier lake just 10 minutes on.

The Middle Lake

You tip-toe across muddy patches and rivulets criss-crossing the mountain meadow to pick up the trail again. It rises through the forest, little more than a game trail now. You emerge from the trees by a nice campsite at the middle of the three lakes.

More Middle Lake

Of the few people who make it to the middle lake, most stop here, and that's perfectly fine. But the best fishing, and most impressive views, are at the upper lake. And you've come three and a half miles and 1500 feet. You might as well go that last little bit.

Looking backward on way to upper lake

The short trek to the upper lake is daunting. It's almost straight up on a quaint fisherman's track; about 400 vertical feet in a 1/4 mile. Half way up, you look back toward the middle lake and you see exactly HOW vertical it is! Huffing and puffing and dragging your 25lb pack, you top the saddle and into the first views of the upper lake.

the Upper Lake

A giant bowl, with steep sides all around, jealously grips the upper lake. On this particular day, the lake is two-thirds covered in ice; you've arrived to witness a one-day ice-off! You bushwhack clockwise across dangerous cliff-sides and emerge to the open water on the far side of the lake and inflate your four pound trail boat. You fish for a couple of hours, lazily drifting back and forth across across the sunlit water. The ice is retreating quickly, making a constant crackling sound as it melts, uncovering the deeper water. Like the middle lake, this water is crystal clear and you can't tell which is more unnerving, floating over giant boulders that you can see, or floating over blackness that must be fifty feet deep or more.

Upper Lake Panorama

Eventually, you hook a rainbow trout! Its a healthy, fat fish about a foot long. He's been eating well on a diet of big midges zinging across the surface and caddis too. You've walked 4 miles and bush-whacked another, up 2000 vertical feet to catch this single fish. You release it and note that the steep shoreline is making a premature sunset. You pack your boat and begin the long trek back to your car.

Getting Late

As you walk, you note to yourself that you haven't seen a single soul since you left the freeway that morning. You marvel that you're only 25 miles from millions of people in Seattle on a sunny Saturday and yet you had three beautiful alpine lakes all to yourself. Its got to be those dirt roads, keeping Eden quiet just for you!


  1. Beautiful photos and a great find! You tell a great story! Thanks for sharing!

  2. My gf would love this. She hikes at least once a week.

  3. Excellent trip and trip report. It looks like you are getting taste of hiking to offtrail lake. Great! :)