You can’t beat a trail that rewards your hiking efforts with a stunning natural landmark. From our alpine peaks to our hidden waterfalls, there’s no doubt we’re blessed in the Pacific Northwest with our share of natural treasures. But there’s nothing like Northwest lake hikes.
We’ve got lakes that shimmer with crystal-like clarity. We have remote alpine lakes that’ll make you think you’ve entered a primordial era. We’ve even got the deepest lake in the United States. Here are just five of our favorite Northwest lake hikes that are perfect for a refreshing dip and jaw-dropping views.
Location: Snoqualmie Pass, Wash.
Looking for a scenic, family-friendly day hike that’s within striking distance of Seattle? Meet Mirror Lake. Not far from Snoqualmie Pass, this roughly 2-mile roundtrip hike (which can include a short detour to the smaller Cottonwood Lake) takes you on a pretty easy ramble to its namesake. Just make sure to take care around the fallen trees and when you cross the small stream. You’ll be met by a charming mountain lake and beautiful alpine views. The lake’s quiet campsites are ideal for an overnight stay or an afternoon picnic.
Location: Snoqualmie Pass, Wash.
A 9-mile roundtrip hike with only 400 feet of elevation, a swimmable lake and a backdrop of sawtooth peaks make Pete Lake a great option if you’re seeking great Northwest lake hikes. The trail is popular due to the many outdoor activities it provides—from climbing to wildlife viewing—but the lake itself is reward enough for completing this trek. This hike is perfect for experienced little ones and anyone who likes a refreshing plunge after putting in a few scenic miles.
Location: Hood River Co., Ore.
Not to be mistaken with the other Oregon Lost Lake that disappears at the end of every summer into an ancient lava tube, this Lost Lake stands out as one of the most stunning mountain lakes in all of the Cascades. About 45 minutes southwest of Hood River, this hike’s an easy 3.2-mile loop featuring old-growth firs, glimpses of trout and osprey, and views of Mt. Hood that will simply stop you in your tracks.
Location: Klamath Co., Ore.
About 7,700 years ago Mount Mazama exploded, and according to a local Klamath people’s legend, a clash between gods was to blame. Although we now know a volcanic eruption whose power was equal to 42 eruptions of Mount St. Helens was the true culprit, Crater Lake remains nothing short of mythical.
Located in Oregon’s lone national park, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States at 1,949 feet below the surface. There are plenty of hiking options around here, but one of the most unique hikes is a mile-long drop to the lakeshore. The trail ends at the dock for a boat tour of the lake and the lone way to access Wizard Island. The island (a volcanic cone whose crater you can hike to) includes more than 300 acres of rugged beauty. You can explore the island for an additional fee, but you’ll be stuck for at least a few hours until the next boat arrives to take you back. If you’re looking for a unique, remote experience, Wizard Island is hard to beat.
Location: Osoyoos, B.C.
Located about 10 minutes north of the Washington-Canada border, this lake near Osoyoos is one-of-a-kind. It’s not much for hiking, but viewpoints allow for wide-open glimpse of this lake. Its spots come from minerals after the water evaporates for the summer, leaving shimmering pools to dazzle onlookers. The lake holds significant spiritual meaning for the local indigenous people so access is limited, but good views are available even from the shoulder of the highway.
Image of Mirror Lake courtesy of Jessie Hey via Flickr
Image of Pete Lake courtesy of Kristi Kirschner via Flickr