Melakwa Lake, Denny Creek Trailhead, Seattle: Alpine Lakes Wilderness - Snoqualmie Pass - Central Cascades, Washington

Melakwa Lake - 10.0 miles

Denny Creek Trailhead

Melakwa Lake - a popular day hike from the Denny Creek Campground

Melakwa Lake - a popular day hike from the Denny Creek Campground

Round-Trip Length: 10.0 miles
Start-End Elevation: 2,550' – 4,378' (4,514' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,828’ net elevation gain (+2,582’ total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Melakwa Lake - 10.0 Miles Round-Trip

Melakwa Lake is located 5.0 miles up the Denny Creek drainage west of Alpental Valley and Snoqualmie Pass. Unlike Alpental Valley, Denny Creek lies mostly within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. This moderate trail rises steadily past The Slide and Keekwulee Falls to Hemlock Pass (4,510’), where it drops 135’ in .5 miles to Melakwa Lake:

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The trail follows Denny Creek north from the trailhead before veering NW across a bridge (.4 miles) and passing under the I-90 viaduct (.65 miles) to the ALW Boundary (1.0 miles : 2,575').

It runs under a tall canopy to stairs that lead down to the The Slide (1.3 miles : 2,690'), where gushing water cascades over smooth rock slabs and fills natural stone pools along the creek. Exercise caution while exploring this deceptively slick area.

The trail rock-hops Denny Creek to the west side (1.5 miles), a cross that can be impassable at high water. Once over long switchbacks steer the trail south, then west, up exposed rockslides (1.7 miles).

It clears the uneven slide paths to great views of Keekwulee Falls, which pour 70’ over an exposed geometric chunk of granite (2.0 miles : 3,133’). Just past the falls switchbacks climb sharply over a gorge in the creek with a brief glimpse of Snowshoe Falls through the trees (2.8 miles : 3,520’).

It crosses Denny Creek back to the east side on a hewn log (2.9 miles), then negotiates talus (3.3 miles) into sparsely treed terrain that leads into a hemlock forest.

The trail crosses a stream with great views down Denny Creek valley (3.9 miles : 4,125'), and switchbacks through notably large, mature hemlocks up to Hemlock Pass (4.5 miles : 4,510').

The trail descends Hemlock Pass through heavy timber to the Melakwa Lake Trail split (4.9 miles) - keep straight to Melakwa Lake (5.0 miles : 4,378').

Wander along the shore to sun, swim and take in great views of Chair Peak and Bryant Peak. You may also continue north along a small inlet creek to its source at Upper Melakwa Lake, and further up the tapering valley for a challenging scramble to Melakwa Pass.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N47 24.921 W121 26.602 — 0.0 miles: Denny Creek Trailhead - 2,550
  • N47 25.126 W121 26.617 — 0.4 miles: Cross Denny Creek
  • N47 25.349 W121 26.949 — 1.0 miles: Alpine Lakes Wilderness Boundary - 2,575'
  • N47 25.514 W121 27.082 — 1.3 miles: The Slide - 2,690'
  • N47 25.788 W121 27.238 — 2.0 miles: Keekwulee Falls Viewpoint - 3,050
  • N47 25.976 W121 27.265 — 2.8 miles: Snowshoe Falls - 3,520'
  • N47 26.484 W121 27.676 — 3.5 miles: Hiking through open terrain - 3,785'
  • N47 26.608 W121 27.817 — 3.9 miles: Great views down valley - 4,125'
  • N47 26.679 W121 28.072 — 4.5 miles: Hemlock Pass - 4,510'
  • N47 26.984 W121 28.178 — 5.0 miles: Melakwa Lake - 4,378'

Worth Noting

  • The crossing over Denny Creek at 1.3 miles (The Slide) can be extremely hazardous during high water.
  • The open terrain leading to Keekwulee Falls and in the basin above the switchbacks but before Hemlock pass is fully exposed to the sun – bring sunscreen and plenty of water.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Car Camping at Denny Creek Campground

  • The campground has 33 Individual sites and 1 group site for 20 - 50 persons. There are 7 accessible sites. Amenities include water faucets, flush toilets and picnic tables.

  • All developed site regulations apply. Dogs must be on leash, campfires in developed rings only, quiet hours between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. Fireworks are prohibited. Concessionaire sites require a fee paid upon arrival to the campground host. Stay limit is 14 days.

  • Reservations and current fees for the Denny Creek Campground can be made or found via Recreation.gov or by calling 877.444.6777. Advance reservations recommended.
Backcountry Camping

  • Backcountry camping is allowed only at designated sites within 1/2-mile of the following locations: Gem Lake, Gravel Lake, Island Lake, Lower Tuscohatchie Lake, Mason Lake, Melakwa Lake, Olallie Lake, Pratt Lake, Rainbow Lake, Snow Lake, Talapus Lake, and Williams Lake.

  • At Melakwa Lake there is a privy and campsites on the east and west sides of the lake.

  • An overnight Wilderness Permit must be filled out at the TH and carried for the duration of your trip. Max group size is 12.

  • Campfires are not permitted above 4000’, or at Melakwa, Tuscohatchie and Pratt Lakes.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is allowed with a valid WA state fishing license.

  • Contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for more information.

  • wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/
Email: [email protected]
Sport | Commercial Licenses: 360.902.2434
Disability Licenses: 360.902.2460

Rules and Regulations

  • A Northwest Forest Pass or $5 fee is required at this trailhead.
  • A free day use or overnight Wilderness Permit must be filled out at the TH and carried for the duration of your trip in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
  • Dogs must be leashed at all times.

Directions to Trailhead

The Denny Creek Trailhead is located 2.8 miles from Exit 47 on I-90 west of Snoqualmie Pass.

From I-90, exit 47 to Denny Creek/Tinkham Road and turn left off the ramp. After .2 miles, turn right at the T intersection (turning left here takes you to the Pratt Lake/Granite trailhead).

Pass under I-90 and turn left at .2 miles onto FR 58 / Denny Creek Rd. At 2.4 miles, just past the Denny Creek Campground, turn left at the Y into the Franklin Falls Trailhead parking lot. Continue across bridge .25 miles to the Denny Creek Trailhead.

The parking lot holds 50 cars and has bathrooms. 

Contact Information

Mt Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest | Snoqualmie Ranger District
902 SE North Bend Way, Bldg 1
North Bend, WA 98045
425.888.1421
Reference Trail #1014

Trip Reports

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