Snow Lake, Snow Lake Trailhead, Seattle: Alpine Lakes Wilderness - Snoqualmie Pass - Central Cascades, Washington

Snow Lake - 6.6 miles

Snow Lake Trailhead

Snow Lake on the descent from Snow Lake divide

Snow Lake on the descent from Snow Lake divide

Round-Trip Length: 6.6 miles
Start-End Elevation: 3,100’ – 4,011’ (4,372’ max elevation)
Elevation Change: +911’ net elevation gain (+1,619’ total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Snow Lake - 6.6 Miles Round-Trip

Snow Lake is located 3.3 miles from Snow Lake Trailhead in the Alpental Ski Area. This moderate hike follows a busy corridor up Alpental Valley to one of the larger lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness with exceptional views, numerous campsites and access to Source Lake Overlook. Craggy peaks, avalanche slides and a complex drainage system highlight travel in the valley:

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

From the main parking lot for Alpental Ski Area, cross Alpental Road and head uphill 20 yards to the trailhead on the right side of the road, across from the double bathrooms in the upper lot.

The Snow Lake Trail climbs 150' up crib steps through mountain hemlock, silver fir and mountain ash in the direction of Snoqualmie Mountain to the north. Travel moderates above the steps and bends NW across a prominent avalanche path known as the Phantom Slide (.3 miles.).

It steadies up-valley through intervals of forest and open slide paths with occasional views of Denny Mountain and Chair Peak (6,238'), the tallest summit visible in the area.

Grades steepen past 1.5 miles (3,696’) across several small talus slopes before hairpinning at the Source Lake Overlook Trail split and headwall below Snow Lake divide (1.9 miles : 3,840'). Source Lake Overlook is a compelling .4 mile side trip from this point.

The Snow Lake Trail splits right and climbs 500' in .7 miles on rocky switchbacks up the headwall to a saddle on Snow Lake divide and Alpine Lakes Wilderness Boundary (2.6 miles : 4,361’).

Enjoy big views down Alpental Valley and of Bryant Peak and the Tooth on this exposed (and often hot) ascent. It drops north from the saddle on switchbacks with aerial views of Snow Lake and the wilderness interior to a creek and trail sign guiding you right (3.2 miles : 4,045’).

The left fork diverts to old mining cabin remains, and the main trails continues right to Snow Lake (3.3 miles : 4,011’). Stay on established trails in the basin to minimize erosion in this heavily used area.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N47 26.728 W121 25.407 — 0.0 miles: Snow Lake Trailhead - 3,100'
  • N47 26.988 W121 25.822 — 0.6 miles: Trail moderates after initial ascent - 3,363'
  • N47 27.189 W121 26.127 — 1.0 miles: Transition from forest to open slide paths - 3,484'
  • N47 27.417 W121 26.612 — 1.5 miles: Cross several small talus slopes - 3,696'
  • N47 27.498 W121 26.890 — 1.9 miles: Source Lake Overlook Trail Junction - 3,841'
  • N47 27.518 W121 26.737 — 2.0 miles: Begin steep switchbacks - 3,921'
  • N47 27.591 W121 26.854 — 2.5 miles: Emerge from switchbacks with great views
  • N47 27.613 W121 26.818 — 2.6 miles: Crest Snow Lake Divide - 4,361'
  • N47 27.839 W121 26.785 — 3.2 miles: End descent at Mining Cabin remains - 4,044'
  • N47 27.847 W121 26.807 — 3.3 miles: Snow Lake - 4,011'

Worth Noting

  • This trail is known locally as a “superhighway” of the wilderness. It's not uncommon to encounter hundreds of hikers here on a sunny summer weekend. Be patient and yield right-of-way to those climbing up. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.
  • Source Lake, located below Chair Peak and the Snow Lake divide, is the source of South Fork Snoqualmie River. The river meanders below I-90 for 20 miles before turning north at North Bend.
  • The 500’ climb on switchbacks up to Snow Lake divide is exposed and can be hot – be sure to have water on hand for this section.

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 permitted only at designated sites within 1/2-mile of Snow Lake. There is a privy available just before reaching the lake.

  • Fires are not permitted in the Snow Lake Basin.

  • 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’.

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

  • Parking for this trail is on private property – honor signed instructions and road closures beyond Alpental Ski Area.
  • 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 in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Directions to Trailhead

The Snow Lake Trailhead is located 1.4 miles from Exit 52 on I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass.

From I-90, take exit 52 (signed W. Summit) and turn left off the ramp for Alpental Road. Pass under the freeway and stay right where the road forks just beyond the signed Pacific Crest Trail access. Proceed 1.4 miles to the Alpental Ski Area parking lot on the left, beyond which the road is typically gated.

The parking lot holds 250 cars, and two bathrooms are located just north of the lot, across from the trailhead. 

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 #1013

Trip Reports

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