I am a woman about simple pleasures. Dunking bread into soup. Pedicures. And bluebird days in the snow. Ain’t life grand?
It sure was grand to hike Skyline Lake on a bluebird day! Located at Stevens Pass on Highway 2, the only drawback of this hike is fighting the crowds of skiiers and snowboarders for a parking spot. I would not recommend this trail on a weekend or holiday unless you arrive early, late, or use a shuttle. We easily found parking around 9am on a Tuesday and set off. You start from the northern parking lot (on the left, if approaching from the west), where there are two areas to hit the trail and begin (they join shortly). As the trail is on a forest road, it is nice and wide, but is a fairly steady incline up.
Weather forecasts had let Jennie from Ordinary Adventures and I know that we’d have a stunning day, but we were like broken records with saying how beautiful it was. The sky to the north was a remarkable shade of dark blue, with the sun making the pristine snow off-trail glisten. It certainly made the climb up better! With every switchback the vistas grew more breathtaking.
WTA’s description of the trail was inaccurate, but luckily between the two of us, GPS, and trail apps we were okay. It’s possible the trail changes a bit every winter, but we went past a second radio tower (and nearly snowed-over hut) that WTA said was too far. From there, it was only a little more climbing to see a clear snowshoe trail from the road that we knew to take to get to the lake.
As this was away from the road, it finally got flat, for the first time in just over a mile. It was nice to get a reprieve, but mostly we were still just enthralled with our surroundings. Pictures do this scene no justice, this is a seriously underrated hike. It wasn’t long before the lake came into view.
Admittedly, with the snow cover, the lake looked more like a field. I would not recommend to anyone walking out on the lake, and I was glad to see no tracks indicating anyone had tried. You can circumnavigate the lake to get a full 360* view.
You can certainly turn around here and have your day be done at just over two miles round-trip. However, from the north end of the lake you can continue upward for an enthralling side-trip. Luckily there was a strong bootpath (snowshoe path?) for me to follow here, but I’d be cautious if you are breaking trail and unsure of where to go. Avalanche danger here is also higher-risk than the rest of the trail, so heed conditions as well.
There certainly was more elevation gain in this sidetrek (I went a little more than 0.25 miles each way), and the trail wasn’t as compacted as the route to the lake (why oh why didn’t I have heel lifts on my snowshoes?!) but the view was so, SO worth it. I’d have readily gone straight here for my snack rather than the lake, to be honest. As I was on a ridge, there were views to either side of me.
There could have been more climbing and exploring, but I respected my limits when it came to tree wells, rock wells, and the sun possibly making the snow soft.
I had to tear myself away from this to re-join Jennie and make it back down. Surprisingly, I felt the steepness of the hike much more going downward than up, as I had possibly buckled my snowshoes too tight and had some pinching on my right foot. Despite that, the views of this hike were incredible and worth every second. I’d call this a beginner-intermediate snowshoe trek–it’s certainly a challenge in terms of elevation gain compared to beginner trails, but it’s not mountaineering-level hard, either. The avalanche risk is low but still always check conditions at NWAC.us.
Distance: As a snowhoe, 3.0 miles RT to the lake according to WTA; my GPS clocked in at 2.6 miles RT to get to and around the lake, 3.2 miles total with exploring the ridge. In snow-free times, 2.5 miles RT.
Elevation: 1000 feet of gain to the lake for a snowshoe according to WTA; if going up to the ridge it is 1300 feet. Elevation is slightly decreased in snow-free times.
Parking: No pass required, but parking will be tricky for snowshoeing on weekends and winter holidays. Look into shuttle options or weekdays if possible.
Bathrooms: Toilets in parking lot