General Considerations

  • Start easy. Stay out one night on your first trip. Make it the real thing — not car camping in a state park. Plan to learn from mistakes.

  • Keep the head counts low. Make sure that personalities blend well enough so that the trip does not degenerate into a competition, or fracture into pals and outcasts. It takes a team effort.

  • Backpacking is tiring, especially if you are not used to it. Your travel distance each day should range somewhat less than the combined out-and-back distance of a day hike.

  • Don't skimp on essentials. Be frugal with optionals.

  • Expect unique new experiences from staying out in truly wild country. Those deer can make such a racket as they go stomping around! Even mice and bugs can cause an oversized nuisance. (You did bring the bug repellent, right?)

  • Kids should be able to pack their own clothes, sleeping bag, and snacks. That generally means that other essentials like food, equipment, and shelter, will be carried by others. Stay within your capacity.

With these considerations in mind, the rest of this page lists destinations likely to be appreciated both by the kids and by the supporting cast.

 


Trips suggested here are cross-referenced to geographic regions.

Be sure to check the main hiking section pages for more information.

This is only a directory. Study the sites listed here much more thoroughly before committing to a camping trip. Maybe a good idea to explore the area as a day hike first.

The listed mileages are one-way.


 

 


 

Region 1 - Middle Fork

Warning! Trails in this area are not currently accessible. The Middle Fork Road was severely damaged by washouts during the 2019-2020 winter. Expect the road to be gated 3 miles from I-90, shortly beyond the Mailbox Peak lot.

 

1. Burnt Boot Creek - 4.6 mi
Take the Middle Fork Road out of North Bend. At about 11 miles, turn right to Road 56 just on the other side of the Taylor River Bridge. Creep along this brutal road 6 miles to the Dingford Creek trailhead. The trail as such is a continuation of Road 56, not the most attractive trail but open and easy travel. (A longer, better, much more challenging way is via the Middle Fork trail on the other side of the river.) Find a side road slanting down to the river at 4.0 miles, where a new bridge crosses the Snoqualmie River to good camp sites near Burntboot Creek. Very secluded. The privately-managed Goldmyer Hot Springs (by reservation only, often "adults only") is also found there. Some towering old growth forest can be found about a half mile up-river.

 

2. Taylor River 2-mile camp - 2.0 mi
Take the Middle Fork Snoqualmie road at the 468th Avenue exit from I-90 at North Bend, and follow to the undeveloped trailhead lot at the end. Begin the Taylor River Trail. At 1.9 miles, veer downward to the right on an abandoned logging side road that ramps to a level spot just above the river. River access is down to the left, short but brushy. In August and September, water depth is only a few inches and makes pleasant sunny wading; there might even be sand or gravel bars on the other side — it varies with the year. Leave nothing of value in your car.

 

3. Taylor Falls camp - 0.2 mi
Consider this when there is no available time for real backpacking. Start at the far side of the gated second Taylor River bridge. Only a couple hundred yards down the road/trail, locate a camp off-trail to the left, with a rough brushy descent on the opposite right side. Climb down between berry bushes on the right side, rock-hop across a soggy hollow, then ascend the other side to the top an embankment and find a camp there. Marvel at the miniature Niagara Falls, about 5 feet high but plenty noisy, spanning the Taylor River. The trout are for appearances only; they are well-educated, and you will not catch them. Leave nothing of value in your car.

 

4. Taylor River Split-Rock camp- 4.6 mi
On the Taylor River Trail, pass by the torn-up section of trail near the Otter Creek crossing at 4.1 miles. About 0.4 miles further, look right for a huge boulder with large top-to-bottom split, slightly off-trail in the brush. Turn right onto the abandoned side road just beyond this split rock. It soon turns into a boot-beaten trail leading to a cute riverside camp. The river is shallow, pretty, not that much more than an extended creek here. Unfortunately, the camp is very small, and you might need to move out onto the broad but lumpy gravel bars to have enough room. Leave nothing of value in your car.

 

 

Region 2 - Bandera

5. Rainbow Lake - 4.5 mi
Best reached from the Mason Lake side. Turn north at exit 45 from Interstate 90, and follow the road to the left to Ira Spring trailhead at the end — large, but almost always full anyway. Take the Ira Spring trail 3.6 miles to Mason Lake. Cross the outlet creek and stop for lunch ahead a short distance on large boulders. Continue past the lake 0.2 miles to the ridge. At a "T" intersection, turn right and climb. Up on the plateau, there are nice but often mistreated camp sites (bring an extra plastic bag and do your part to help remove any trash you find) at a small unnamed pond. A little further, there are similar camps at Rainbow Lake. Nice views to Pratt Mountain and across the Pratt River valley. Leave nothing of value in your car.

 

6. Island Lake - 5.5 mi
For older kids who can handle the mileage and elevation. Best reached from the Pratt Lake / Quartz Mountain trail at exit 47 from Interstate 90. Lots of elevation gained, but at a temperate pace on smooth grade. Great overview of Olallie Lake with Mt. Rainier profiled behind. After traversing across the face of Pratt Mountain, arrive at the Bandera Plateau, and very soon reach the signed side-trail turning sharply left and slightly downhill to the lake. Island lake features sparkling water with several small broken-rock islands. There are camp sites along the shores in both directions — try right first. Explore the other direction for overviews of Talapus Lake. Leave nothing of value in your car.

 

7. Olallie Lake - 2.5 mi
Best reached from the Talapus Lake Trail. Turn north at exit 45 from Interstate 90, and follow the road to the left toward the Ira Spring trailhead. In about 0.8 miles, turn onto the right fork. Follow up the hill to the end and limited parking. The steep trail is mercifully short, with a good spot at Talapus Lake to relax a while. Talapus is relatively "busy," good for wading, swimming, or grabbing a snack. The trail continues from the point where you first encounter the lake, heading east. At about 0.7 more miles, in a flat moist area under the trees, watch for a trail branching off to the left. It is about 0.5 miles from this junction to Olallie Lake. Look to the left for campsites. Pretty, but brushy, its shores are quieter and therefore better than Talapus for camping. Leave nothing of value in your car.

 

 

Region 3 - North Fork Snoqualmie

8. Bear Creek Basin- 2.7 mi
The adventurous will love this place, but it is a long and winding road to get there. Go north on Ballarat Road out of North Bend. At Ernie's Grove, angle left steeply up the hill where the road becomes the North Fork County Road. Pavement soon ends. Follow this road 14 miles to cross the Wagner High Bridge above the North Fork Snoqualmie River. Continue 5.5 more miles, to a square left turn at a gravel pit. Cross a low bridge over Lennox Creek. Just beyond, turn right. It is 3.2 miles along narrow and sometimes scary road to limited trailhead parking. The trail, once a mining road, starts easy but quickly becomes steep and lumpy. At 0.6 miles, cross the creek at a road washout on logs and boulders. At 1.2 miles, cross the creek on a rickety foot bridge, reaching more appealing trail. Marvel at the more-than-head-high bracken ferns. Look for the old Bare Mountain lookout site above. When you reach an acute switchback at about 2.2 miles, continue straight ahead through brush. Cross broken-down old foot bridges with great care. Pass a small waterfall. When the trail splits at 2.7 miles, keep left. Just past the bend, turn right again. Cross the creeklet on a stack of water pipes, and follow the barely visible trail around a few trees and bushes to a secluded and spacious creekside camp. You will want to explore above camp and back down in the lower basin; do both. Do not remove any historical mining artifacts.

 

 

Region 4 - Snoqualmie Pass

9. Annette Lake - 4.0 mi
On the south side of I-90, at exit 48. This is a moderate but substantial uphill trek. Older kids can handle it. At the lake, continue to the right, and wade across the outlet creek. Collect water here. Continue around the lake in a counter-clockwise direction. Follow the path somewhat uphill above the west side of the lake, where few people go, to find camping opportunities. Seclusion: rare.

 

10. Margaret / Twin Lakes - 2.5 / 3.3 mi
Take the Gold Creek exit from I-90, the next one east of Hyak. From the freeway exit, go north. Follow as the road swings right, east. Continue straight ahead to a switchback left, about 2.7 miles. As you climb there are more turns: right, then left. Again, right then left. At the next bend, go turn left into the ample trailhead parking along the end of an abandoned road. Follow the main road on foot a couple tenths of a mile to the true trailhead, and then proceed left and up the hill through brush of a barely recovering clearcut. Not the prettiest, but short. Reach the ridge top and make a decision; better camping to the right 0.5 miles on Lake Margaret; cute but busier Twin Lakes 1.1 miles straight ahead. On the ridge 0.2 miles past the decision point, you can scramble up to the top of Mount Margaret for big views.

 

Region 5 - Kachess Lake

11. Rachel Lake - 3.8 mi
Suitable only for stronger, more experienced, sure-footed kids. From I-90 exit 62, drive to the Kachess Lake state park/campground, and at that entrance swing away left and uphill. Only a short distance beyond that, take the next right turn up Box Canyon Creek road, and follow it to the large trailhead lot at the end. The first 3 miles of the hike are a breeze, with level grade and occasional crossings of small creeks. The last mile is anything but — barely more than a scramble through twisted roots, over stones, through oozing mud. You might forget the ordeal, though, when you see gorgeous Rachel Lake. Find camps back from the shore to your left. Unfortunately, don't plan on any serious swimming, as the water runs brutally cold.

 

 

Region 6 - Teanaway

12. Stafford Creek - 5.1 mi
A great camping spot for older kids who can withstand the moderate but persistent uphill mileage. Where the Teanaway River road goes bad at the old 29 Pines campground site, continue on the right fork about 2 more miles and turn right on the Bean Creek road; it is a little better, but not by much. In about 2.6 more miles, reach the luxurious trailhead facility. The trail starts on the opposite side of the road, on a gradual uphill grade. At 3.8 miles, pass the junction with the Earl Peak trail and turn sharply right. When at last you reach the meadows, go left across the soggy area to find campsites on dry land, with a helpful water source just beyond. (The meadows, so called, are unfortunately underwater as often as not.) Be sure to follow the trail back the other direction, around the right side of the meadow, up to the dramatic piles of serpentine chips and to the ridge for stunning views of the Stuart Range.

 

13. Esmeralda Pass - 2.6 mi
A good choice for younger campers. Go to the Ingalls Lake trailhead at the far end of the Teanaway River Road — this is the hard part of the trip. The trail is smooth and easy. Bypass the junction to the Lake Ann trail at 2.5 miles, or explore it a bit if you wish, continuing left to the pass — views are impressive on the other side, but not dangerous. When done exploring, backtrack down about 1.1 miles where a mining side road diverges to the west; you can find a comfortable place to camp in this area. There is a helpful water source a short way along the side road, and you can also explore further for mining relics.

 

14. Ingalls Lake / Headlight Basin - 3.8 mi
A more serious adventure trip, for older kids. Starting from the same trailhead as Esmeralda Pass (above), go 0.3 miles and take the clearly-marked Ingalls Lake trail up to the right. Up is the operative word here. Grind out 1.3 miles to reach the junction with the Longs Pass Trail; stay left. Grind out another 1.5 miles to reach Ingalls Pass; the views of Mount Stuart here (and beyond) will help you forget the gruelling 2000 feet of elevation gain. Descend the other side, and take the right trail fork down to set up a camp in the Headlight Creek basin. Ingalls Lake is only a half mile further — too rocky and harsh for camping.

 

15. Gallagher Head Pond - 4.2 mi
This is a shallow pond in a cute setting below Gallagher Head Point just east of Hawkins Mountain. Best to try this in middle to late summer, because soil can be soggy from snow melt. Start your hike from De Roux campground, about 1.6 miles before the end of the Teanaway River Road. Track easily along the creek for the first 1.5 miles. Stay right at the trail junction, and continue about 1.0 miles on switchbacks. The rest is easier. There are plenty of open meadows. You can explore the south and east sides of Esmeralda Mountain for mining relics. In later summer, you might need to carry drinking water to camp; keep your eyes open for sources, which are available in the surrounding areas. Very pretty, if motorcycles have not trashed the meadows again.

 

16. Bean Basin - 2.4 mi
An exceptionally pretty location considering the mild mileage, but be respectful of the fragile and glorious wildflower in the high meadows. Pass the old 29 Pines campground area and take the fork to the right. Continue to the left about 2 miles later where the Bean Creek road splits from the Teanaway River Road. In 2.2 more miles, take the side road on the right, possibly unmarked, and climb 1.3 miles to the Beverly Creek trailhead. Begin your trip crossing the footbridge, then following the creek 0.5 miles. Stay to the right and do not ford the creek here. The grade steepens significantly, with occasional hops across the creek. At 2.0 miles, there is a signed trail junction and another hop-and-jump creek crossing; do not cross. Continue to the left about 0.4 more miles. Leave the trail here, and very gently cross through flowers on a rough track to a shady line of pine trees at the lower edge of the meadows, where several large camps hide under the trees. Nearby, you should locate a helpful water source. Just in case blossom-smashing horses were brought this way (why?), filter the water carefully, just to be safe.

 

17. Beverly Creek - 2.8 mi
If Bean Creek basin is too busy for your taste, Beverly Creek is a quieter if less generally appealing option. Where you would go right at 0.5 miles when heading to Bean Basin, wade the little creek across to the left. The trail is stony but even. It ascends gradually, high above the canyon, reaching a junction with the Fourth Creek / County Line trail at 2.7 miles; be sure to explore this 0.3 mile side trip to views on the Mt. Stuart side. But, to reach camp, continue left 0.1 mile across (now tiny) Beverly Creek. On the other side, to the left, find flat spots for camping, with water available. It isn't much, but it is quiet, protected, and isolated.

 

18. Ingalls Creek Horse Camp- 3.0 mi
A marvelous seldom-seen camp in thin timber with good creek access close by — but do watch your step, this is snake country. I have run into three species in this area, from docile to seriously cranky. Turn off of Highway 97 to the Ingalls Creek Road, 7 miles south of Highway 2. Continue on this road 1.2 miles to trailhead parking at the end. Just follow the Ingalls Creek trail, easy going. At about 2.2 miles, pass a creekside camp with lots of rocks, water, and sand, but no privacy. Continue 0.8 more miles, and watch closely on the left for faint traces of a side trail through light brush, down about 50 yards to a clean and attractive horse camp (what an anomaly!) amid thin tree cover. Plenty of room here. Creek access is close. Dry and hot in late summer, but the creek helps to make up for that.

 

 

Region 7 - Mt Daniel

19. Hyas Lakes - 2.6 mi
From Cle Elum, drive (slowly) through the little towns of Roslyn and Ronald, then up the east bank of Cle Elum Lake. When you reach the Salmon La Sac recreation area, look for the rough Cle Elum River Road heading uphill to the right. Rough is understatement. Go slowly and carefully about 13 miles to the miserable trailhead parking at the very end of the road. From here, the easy and well-trodden trail reaches recreational access at Hyas Lake in about 1.6 miles; stop here to do your swimming and wading. But for quieter camping, consider continuing about 1.0 additional miles to Upper Hyas Lake. Or even better, bypass both lakes, and continue to the end of the valley another 0.6 miles. Where the trail begins to point to the right and uphill, look for traces of a rough foot path down to the left. Expect water at the stony bottom of the short descent, but easy to bypass. Up on the other side, the sandy flats make excellent and secluded camping. Beware of bee nests in stumps and fallen trees!

 

20. Squaw Lake - 2.8 mi
Start at the trailhead parking lot (typically overflowing on weekends), about 0.1 miles before the one for the Hyas Lakes trail (above). Follow the signs down the hill to the foot bridge across the creek. Strong and experienced hikers of all ages can handle the 1500 feet elevation gain along three major switchbacks and a couple of minor ones to reach the ridge in 2.4 miles. Go along the ridge to the right, gently for a while, then climb a few more short switchbacks to reach the lake. Some have described this little lake as one of the most beautiful and peaceful in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. I don't see it. But it is very popular, offering camping, wading, and swimming options. There are some camps to the left along the lake shore, somewhat removed from the busy day use area where the trail first reaches the lake. There are more rustic camping options along the north shore of the lake if you leave the trail where it starts heading uphill into more switchbacks.

 

21. Wince Lake - 4.0 mi
Dedicated and experienced kids only, because the last mile is a tough undertaking at any age. Take the switchbacks up the hill as if going to Squaw Lake, above. At the ridgetop, 2.4 miles, take the quiet Trail Creek Trail to the left, 0.6 miles on a gradual descent. Carefully seek out the deteriorating side trail that was once part of the Cascade Crest trail system. Following the old trail is easier than finding it, but it is steep and rough, the reason it was abandoned long ago. The ascent ends at a lovely camp on the south shore of the tiny pond/lake. Additional primitive camps are possible in the slots SE of the lake. Beware of savage-looking but harmless salamanders! In late summer, the water is heavenly for swimming.

 

22. Pete Lake - 4.4 mi
Don't underestimate the value of a trip that doesn't require blowing out a transmission or a kneecap to get there. Head toward the Salmon LaSac recreation area, about 17 miles along the east side of Cle Elum Lake on Hwy 903. Look for a left turn to Road 46 across the Cle Elum river on a major concrete bridge. Follow this roughly 4.7 miles to a marked right turn toward Cooper Lake. Take this road straight through to the last large trailhead lot at the end. The trail is wide and easy, one of the easiest wilderness trails in the state, though sometimes smelly from the yellow bricks dropped by saddle stock. There is a wide and gravelly shoreline area where the trail reaches the lake, with lovely views to the high Snoqualmie peaks here, and a good opportunity to cool the feet. For camping, continue the last 0.4 miles to the far end of the lake.

 

 

Region 8 - Skykomish

23. Lake Dorothy - 2.0 / 3.0 mi
Cross the bridge from Highway 2 into "downtown" Skykomish. Turn right at the only obvious choice, and follow the detour route 2.5 miles west to the Money Creek road — this detour will be necessary until the Money Creek Road is repaired. Keep left and continue south about 8.5 miles to the trailhead lot at the end. The Dorothy trail was rebuilt with numerous structures to harden it into a sort of stairway. This throws me off pace, but kids usually seem to handle it better. At 2.0 miles, reach the lake. The trail bends to the left behind a small rise, while side trails branching to the right lead to the top of that rise where camps overlook the lake. The lake shore is relatively hazardous here. If you go 1.0 mile further to the other end of the lake, there are some small camps and fewer hazards. The lake bottom is squishy there at the south end, but the water is excellent for swimming.

 

24. Tonga Ridge - 3.1 mi
This is one of the most unusual trails in Washington — a high ridge trail with no severe elevation gain. Take the Foss River Road exit from Highway 2 about 2 miles east of the town of Skykomish. At about 1.2 miles, swing right, heading more southerly. At 2.5 miles, take the log-truck-friendly left turn, and begin climbing a 4.6 mile upward grade. When you reach a "T" intersection, go right, and very shortly beyond that, take the next left. Follow this (mostly) to the end and park along the road, the best you can. As you begin the hike, the trail takes a bit of mild elevation gain, then levels out for the rest of the 3 miles to meadows, with lots of open views along the way. To camp, you will have to search for a suitably obscure site along the fringes of the meadows away from the trail, looking for something sufficiently clear and flat. You can find water a short distance past the meadows on the far side. The main attraction? Well, blueberries. Lots of them. Big ones. If you can find a red leaf, you can find a berry. Try late August or early September.

 

25. Trout Lake - 1.4 mi
Past the Tonga Ridge junction on the Foss River Road, continue 2.2 miles to a fork. Take the left branch, and continue 2.0 miles to the trailhead lot at the end. The area around Trout Lake changed significantly, thanks to a rock slide in the 1990's that put the original camps under water. The surroundings are very pretty. But the site has several negatives. Lake shore access is relatively poor. Camping is away from the lake, on the opposite side of the busy trail. There is a lot of foot traffic on weekends. If you could handle the remaining savage miles to higher lakes, you would not stay here. It is what it is I guess. Some people like to camp here.

 

26. Evans Lake - 0.4 mi
This remote but extremely short trip could be a good option for very young and novice backpackers. About 2.5 miles past the Tonga Ridge road junction along the Foss River Road, take the right fork, cross the bridge over the river, and drive up the long grade 3.4 miles. Just as you round the north edge of the ridge, take an immediate hairpin turn left to (barely marked) Road 6846. Follow this about 2.6 miles on a narrower but more gentle grade to a marked wide spot in the road. That is the "trailhead parking" (as such) for Evans Lake. It is a true alpine lake, but nothing noteworthy. That might be enough, given the extraordinarily short hike to get there. Campsites are located all around the lake.

 

 

Region 9 - Surprise Creek

27. Surprise Creek Camp - 4.8 mi
Want seclusion? Well, there's plenty of it here. About a quarter mile east of the Surprise Creek Rest Area on Highway 2, turn south on an obscure unmarked forest road. Pass under the railway trestle, and park at the end near the power right-of-way. Enter thick, dark forest that barely dries even late into summer. The trail was rebuilt, and should be in reasonable shape — provided that the foot bridge at 0.4 miles has not washed out. (You might check with the Skykomish Ranger District about that.) Just after crossing Fisher Creek at 4.8 miles, there is a nice little landing spot between Fisher and Surprise Creeks. For longer trips, this could make a comfortable base camp for side explorations to Mt. Sawyer or Deception Lakes. I am generally not fond of camping so close to a trail, but you will probably remain entirely alone here.

 

28. Surprise Lake - 4.6 mi
Surprise Lake has plenty to offer strong and experienced packers. Unlike Surprise Creek valley far below, the area is high, bright, and varied. About two miles east of the Deception Creek rest area, turn off of Highway 2 to the south at what looks like an abandoned gravel pit along the railroad tracks. You have the right place. Go straight (and cautiously) across the tracks on the rough forest road, about 0.2 miles, and park where you can. From there, follow the road grade on foot until you see the marker for the trail proper. The trail is moderately challenging, and features a little of everything. Reach the day use area along the shore on prominent rocks, then search further along the shore for camp sites. The camp sites are all small, and not particularly flat. This is my idea of a pretty lake, but expect a lot of foot traffic.

 

29. Tunnel Creek / Mig Lake- 2.0 mi
Take obscure Forest Road 6095 at the cusp of the hairpin corner where Highway 2 bends left to begin its upward climb on the western slopes to Stevens Pass. Coming down from the east, you must go further west to clear the divided highway, then make a U-turn across lanes after all of the traffic has cleared. Once you reach the side road, go straight about 0.5 miles. A bend to the right crosses a rickety looking bridge, and then a bend to the left returns roughly to the original direction. Continue 0.7 more miles. There is a side road to the left with an unbelievable steep grade. Gear down to low and take your time driving up about 150 yards. After the road swings left and levels, park beside the road where you can. The trailhead marker is at that final bend. The Forest Service considers this trail difficult. I don't. Any strong kid who is attentive should handle this just fine. Don't rush, it is 1.5 miles gaining 1200 feet elevation to reach Hope Lake at a "T" intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail. To camp there, go right and follow the foot path around the lake to the far side. Select the smoother upper camp site. But a better option, go left and follow 0.8 more miles to smaller and cuter Mig Lake. Just before you reach the lake shore, find a side trail turning right toward a patch of trees; there is a small but very nice camp there. For a larger group, go around the lake the other direction to the sprawling but less pretty thru-hiker camp.

 

 

Region 10 - Beckler River

30. Johnson Ridge / Joan Lake - 4.4 mi
This is a good high-mountain trip for more experienced backpackers. Like Tonga Ridge, most of the elevation is gained via road. Take the Beckler River Road north from Skykomish for 7 miles. Paving ends at a 3-way junction, with two roads turning right; take the rightmost. Go 2.8 miles, reaching the junction with road 6520; stay left, and continue 4.2 more miles to sufficient parking high on the ridge. Foot traffic has pretty well defined a beaten path through gravelly clearcut damage for the first 0.7 miles. The trail then becomes more natural, following along the ridge, mildly up and down, as it heads north. Cross open meadows and find a clear trail to the round top of Scorpion Mountain (a harsh name for a gentle hill). To reach camp, swing right and gradually descend from the mountain to the SE. The trail soon drops down off of the ridge, the steepest part of the trail, reaching a big frog pond. Just past the pond, cross to the left, and find an excellent camp between the pond and Joan Lake on an elevated flat. There are also camps the other direction along the lake. Joan Lake is very swimmable, particularly in later summer. Also, if you like fresh trout, the lake is overloaded with eastern brook trout eager to take anything you throw at them.

 

31. Lake Janus via Smithbrook - 3.4 mi
Despite moderate elevation gain and loss, the well-surfaced trails make this particularly popular for young campers. Take the Smithbrook Road exit from Highway 2, about 4 miles east of Stevens Pass (in the divided highway section). Go 2.8 miles to the large parking area on the left. The trail weaves gently up to Union Gap at 1.2 miles, then over, beginning a gradual descent with occasional switchbacks for 2.2 more miles to Lake Janus. It is a relatively broad and shallow lake, with plenty of opportunity to soak feet in comfortable water. There are side paths to camps.

 

 

Region 12 - Chiwaukum

32. Lake Ethel - 5.0 mi
This is probably the toughest trip in this listing. But maybe worth it. The lake has one of the most attractive camp areas anywhere: dry, soft, open, flat, natural. Not only that... a privy! To get there, take the Merritt City exit south from Highway 2, about 2.5 miles west of the state's Nason Creek Rest Area. The road weaves mysteriously among buildings, takes a dogleg bend left across a small bridge, then emerges to a power right-of-way. Follow the widest-looking road, left of the lines a while, then pass under and continue on the other side. The road finally ducks into forest, swings right, then swings back left to reach a primitive trailhead (roadside parking only) at 1.2 miles. Expect no mercy, as the trail immediately enters a series of switchbacks up an avalanche draw. The middle portion of the trail eases, but was mangled by Longview Fiber (for no good reason), and now it crosses several logging roads on denuded slopes. At last, duck into fresh and welcome forest. Continue slightly uphill a while longer, then begin a gradual descent, switching back broadly to rejoin an older route. Take note of where this trail junction is for the trip out! Proceed to the right another 0.3 miles to reach the lakeside camps. Unfortunately, the appealing clear water runs very cold.

 

33. Whitepine Creek - 2.6 mi
In addition to providing a worthwhile destination for a day hike, the comfortable and spacious site at the once busy Whitepine Creek ford make a super spot for rookie campers, and they can get experience crossing a creek safely in late summer when water flow is low and slow. But beware of rabbits! Turn south off of Highway 2 at Whitepine Road, about 6.5 miles west of Coles Corner. (It is easy to miss.) Pass over Whitepine Creek on a stout steel bridge. Continue along the forest road on the other side, being careful not to stray onto side roads. The road becomes more primitive but more pleasant as you go, until you eventually at 3.8 miles reach the small but adequate trailhead lot. The trail has a few mild ups-and-downs, some peculiar moist spots, some prominent viewpoints, a fun rock-hop crossing of a small creek, and even one switchback! At 2.4 miles, reach a signed "Y" junction, go right, and drop 0.2 miles down to the comfortable camps at the creek.

 

 

Region 14 - French Creek

34. French Creek Confluence - 1.6 mi
For the younger ones. Drive to the end of Icicle Creek Road south out of Leavenworth. Take the Icicle Creek trail. For all practical purposes, this trail is flat. Where the trail arrives at French Creek, there are sprawling well-domesticated camps on both sides of the foot bridge, with places to lounge on the rocks creek-side under the tall pines. Because the area has been so vigorously beaten down by so many feet, for so many years, much of the area is marked off-limits as "recovery zone" for vegetation regrowth. You MUST stay within designated access areas. The trail has lots of human and horse traffic, avoid weekends. Even then, rarely very wild, but maybe a good experience for little ones anyway.

 

35. French Creek Horse Camp - 4.2 mi
With somewhat older kids, don't stop at the Icicle-French Confluence camp. After crossing the foot bridge, continue another 0.2 miles, then branch left on the clearly marked French Creek trail for 2.5 miles. There is some moderate elevation to gain, then some brush to penetrate, but these things serve to discourage casual trail traffic. Look below the trail for a short side trail down to an unexpectedly clean and comfortable camp. There is good creek access here, and in late summer the water is pleasant to wade. Or watch the hungry little trout hunt for bugs.

 

36. Icicle Bridge Horse Camp - 4.9 mi
If seclusion is your only concern, you can get it, even on the Icicle Creek Trail. Pass across the French Creek bridge, and continue on the Icicle Creek trail straight ahead for 3.3 more miles. Enjoy the groves of large trees. A small downhill grade takes you to a wooden bridge across Icicle Creek. There is a small camp just on the other side of the bridge, to the left. For more room to spread out, backtrack 0.1 miles to the top of the gentle grade, and find the faint side path to a sprawling horse camp under the trees. Ironically, the horse folks seldom use this, so the camping is good and you should be able to breathe freely.

 

37. Trout Creek Camp - 5.3 mi
For older kids. The main challenges are the distance, and the final creek crossing. Two miles short of the end of Icicle Creek Road, just after the concrete bridge at Rock Island Campground, take the next turn left. Follow this to the well-marked and arguably over-built Trout Creek / Jack Creek trailhead. Despite some elevation gain, the grade is very mild, so the main consideration is the time and patience required to cover the mileage. There are some excellent views in the middle portion of the trail. As you enter thicker forest and hear the creek not far below, find the well-marked "Eightmile Creek" trail junction. Take the primitive trail left... yes, really. Wade or log-walk across Trout Creek. About 100 feet beyond, find a big comfortable camp, with as much seclusion as you could possibly want. For exploration, it is only 1/2 mile to return to the main trail and visit pretty (but buggy and burned) Trout Lake.

 

Region 16 - Nason Creek

38. Merritt Lake - 3.3 mi
From Highway 2, turn north on a forest road about a mile east of the highway department sand facility, about 3.5 miles west of Merritt, about 2.5 miles west of the road-side custom knife shop. The road immediately swivels to the right and quickly turns ugly. Climb along the power line corridor, then double back under the lines to traverse the slopes on the most brutal, narrow, brushy section of the road. At 1.6 miles (it feels like 4) reach an ample parking area. The trail itself is smooth but relatively steep, gaining 1800 feet in 2.4 miles. At that point, beyond a marked trail junction, the trail swings right and becomes easier, reaching the lake in another 0.9 miles. Camps where the trail reaches the lake are not pretty and not well kept. For primitive camping, consider packing up plenty of water and hiking 0.5 miles further up the trail. Stay left at the junction where the main Nason Ridge trail splits off to the right. Pass over the gentle saddle to a secluded little meadow with northward views, where you will be alone for the night.

 

Region 17 - Little Wenatchee

39. Heather Lake - 3.0 / 3.6 mi
1.0 miles beyond the far end of Lake Wenatchee, take the left turn across the White River on the Little Wenatchee River Road. Follow it about 6.0 miles, and turn off to the left to cross the river on a bridge. Continue, now on the other side of the river, for 5 miles to a marked intersection at Lake Creek. Go left, 2.3 more miles to the trailhead. The trail features 1.0 mile of easy trail, 1.0 mile of steep switchbacks, and a mild final mile. This popular lake is cold and pretty, often experiencing wind that sweeps over the crest of the Cascades range. Glacier-scraped rock forms a kind of dam near the outlet. Unfortunately, camping options where you arrive at the lake are limited. There is a better camp further around the lake, 0.6 more miles, but you have few remaining options if this is already occupied. Which, unfortunately, is a real possibility. Seclusion is rare.

 

40. Poe Pond - 4.4 mi
Expert backpackers only. Until some brush control is done to repair the Poets Ridge trail junction near Poe Mountain, the route is too easily lost. I'm going to pretend for now that this spectacular, challenging, and very wild location doesn't exist. Which is a real shame.

 

 

 

Region 18 - White River

41. White River Falls Camp - 0.9 mi
Winter storm damage took out the road, years ago, but still no road repairs. Pass the Little Wenatchee Road turnoff about 1 mile past the north end of Lake Wenatchee. Continue 6 miles straight ahead on well surfaced but narrow road to pass the private Tall Timber camp complex. The road gets truly narrow here, and brush encroaches for the next 2.2 miles to Grasshopper Camp, a cute car camp that is the end of the line for vehicles. Try to park in a location that least interferes with campground access. Walk the damaged road 0.8 miles to reach the access road, down to the left, to the otherwise inaccessible White River Falls campground near the river. In some ways, this camp is a much nicer place with the vehicle traffic missing, but don't expect conveniences like trash removal or toilet maintenance.

 

42. Indian Creek - 4.2 mi
If the Falls campground above is a little too artificial for your taste, you can continue on foot to the ample (former?) White River trailhead, 0.8 miles further up the damaged road. Cross the river on a high elegant foot bridge. Go to the right and continue 2.4 more miles on easy trail. Just across the sagging bridge over Indian Creek, there is an unassuming camp at the next bend in the trail. Good creek access, no river access near the camp. Actually, there is not a lot here other than cool water for a hot day, but you will not be crowded any time of the year.

 

 

Region 19 - Chiwawa River

43. Schaefer Lake - 4.4 mi
This gorgeous destination is suitable only for experienced and disciplined older kids who need a serious challenge. Take the Fish Lake turnoff from the Lake Wenatchee road, 4.4 miles from Coles Corner on Highway 2. At 1.3 miles along this road, take the left turn, marked "Cove Resort." Bypass the resort, go 3.3 miles and cross the Chiwawa River on a low bridge. Take the road fork left to the Chiwawa River Road. Continue north on good road 9.7 miles road past the Basalt Peak trail and Finner Campground. The well-marked Schaefer trailhead is on the left, with plenty of parking. Follow the short trail down the hill and then south along the river bank, until you see a suitable way down to the broad gravel bar. The joy of this trip is also its challenge; you must ford the river here. Through spring and early summer, the crossing is far too dangerous. In late August to September, the water is comfortable and about 2 feet deep, but still swift enough to be intimidating and hazardous for kids. Mandatory: rope up children for safety. Take your time, and make separate crossing trips for kids and for packs if necessary. Be equipped with suitable water-tolerant clothing and safe footwear. Once across, the trail passes river brush, then climbs and weaves, but the difficulty is overrated. There are glorious camps near the rocky lake shore; go left toward the outlet stream. There is good trout fishing and swimming is excellent! If too crowded at the lake, which can happen, there is a nice but seldom-used camp on the south side of the outlet pond just below the lake.

 

44. Carne Meadows - 2.8 mi
This is a harder trip, featuring a camp high in the peaks, an optional mountain summit to explore, and higher peaks to view. Follow the Chiwawa Road past the Schaefer Lake trail 9 more miles to the Phelps Creek Road, branching to the right. Navigate large switchbacks uphill for 2.25 miles to the trailhead parking. Go along the trail a short 0.25 miles, then turn right onto the Carne Mountain Trail at a marked junction. Continue uphill vigorously, gaining 2500 feet in 2.5 miles to reach high meadows, with camps and water. Explore further to the ridge and then north to the summit of Carne Mountain, 1 mile, for grand views of the Entiat Mountains and Mt. Maude.

 

45. Phelps Creek - 3.7 mi
If the vigorous haul up to Carne Basin is a little too overwhelming, simply follow the Phelps Creek trail (above) from the trailhead to a camp near the crossing of Leroy Creek. Keep your eyes open for picas and marmots in the rocks. There will likely be plenty of foot traffic during the day, headed 2.0 more miles to popular Spider Meadows a couple of miles further up the creek.