Surprise Lake, Surprise Creek Trailhead, Seattle: Alpine Lakes Wilderness - Snoqualmie Pass - Central Cascades, Washington
Surprise Lake - 8.4 miles
Surprise Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||8.4 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||2,200’ – 4,470’ (4,485' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,270’ net elevation gain (+2,475’ total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Surprise Lake - 8.4 Miles Round-Trip
The Surprise Creek Trail runs 4.1 miles south from Stevens Pass Highway through pristine old growth forest to Surprise Lake, located in a craggy cirque topped by Surprise and Spark Plug mountains. The trail rises gradually until reaching the final headwall, where it climbs 800' in the last mile to the lake:
The trail heads south into a clearcut area to the main trail junction (.2 miles : 2,288’). It rises gently into an old growth forest via an extensive network of boardwalks and crib steps through boggy plots of skunk cabbage, devil’s club and cedar to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness boundary (.5 miles : 2,510’).
The trail crosses Surprise Creek on a log bridge (1.2 miles : 2,723’) and runs up the east side across alder-choked avalanche paths with several dispersed campsites along the creek. It emerges in more open terrain with the Surprise Lake headwall now in view (2.0 miles : 3,105’).
Moderate grades continue for another mile to the base of the headwall, where travel steepens on switchbacks above Surprise Creek (3.0 miles : 3,675'). There's a nice dispersed campsite at the beginning of this climb, a good option for backpackers not aiming for the lakes above.
The trail tops out on the headwall at the Trap Pass Trail split (4.1 miles : 4,485’), and dips across an outlet creek on a log to Surprise Lake (4.2 miles : 4,470’). Camp only at established sites and avoid revegetation areas. Note the peninsula is for day use only.
A marked spur trail continues 1 mile and 400' up to Glacier Lake.
- N47 42.487 W121 09.399 — 0.0 miles: Surprise Creek Trailhead - 2,200'
- N47 42.402 W121 09.543 — 0.2 miles: Turn out of clearcut onto trail at sign - 2.288'
- N47 42.164 W121 09.543 — 0.5 miles: Rise gradually through old growth - 2,510'
- N47 41.692 W121 09.282 — 1.2 miles: Cross Surprise Creek on a log bridge - 2,723'
- N47 41.510 W121 09.151 — 1.5 miles: Gentle climb up east side of creek - 2,835'
- N47 41.186 W121 08.989 — 2.0 miles: Open terrain with headwall in view
- N47 40.867 W121 08.861 — 2.5 miles: Continue past avalanche paths - 3,300'
- N47 40.665 W121 08.611 — 3.0 miles: Begin headwall climb on switchbacks - 3,677'
- N47 40.576 W121 08.426 — 3.6 miles: Scale headwall on switchbacks - 4,200'
- N47 40.255 W121 08.229 — 4.1 miles: Level out at Trap Pass Trail split - 4,485'
- N47 40.201 W121 08.292 — 4.2 miles: Surprise Lake - 4,470'
- Along with the neighboring Deception Creek valley, this hike has some of the best remaining stands of old growth forest in the area.
- Look for dogwood, coral root and queen’s cup along the trail.
- Surprise and Glacier Lakes are known locally as the Scenic Lakes.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- An overnight Wilderness Permit must be filled out at the TH and carried for the duration of your trip in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Max group size is 12.
- Campfires are not permitted above 4,000' west of the crest, including Surprise Lake and Glacier Lakes.
- Camp only at established sites along the west shores of Surprise Lake and Glacier Lakes. Surprise Lake in particular has been highly impacted by overuse, and special care should be taken to avoid signed revegetation areas.
- Fishing is allowed with a valid WA state fishing license.
- Contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for more information.
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 in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
- The peninsula jutting into Surprise Lake is a Day Use area only.
- Horses are not allowed on the Surprise Creek Trail.
Directions to Trailhead
The Surprise Creek Trailhead is located .3 miles from Highway 2, ten miles east of Skykomish, WA.
From the town of Skykomish on Highway 2 (Stevens Pass Highway), drive 10 miles east and turn right into the BNSF Cascade Tunnel service center. The turn is unmarked, but is located just after (east of) the Iron Goat Interpretive site and just before a bridge over the railroad tracks.
Make a quick left at the “T” and proceed down over a creek, then carefully cross the railroad tracks. Turn right, paralleling the tracks, and continue .2 miles to the small parking area and trailhead for Surprise Creek trail. As of 2014, a small pylon reading 840 is posted along this road.
The parking lot holds 10 cars and has a privy.
Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest | Skykomish Ranger District
74920 NE Stevens Pass Hwy | PO Box 305
Skykomish, WA 98288
Reference Surprise Creek Trail # 1060