Perhaps it’s the fact that summer is drawing to a close, or maybe it’s the fact that the smoke has trapped us inside for almost a week now, but I’m waxing nostalgic for all the beautiful places we’ve seen and explored this past year. It’s funny. I mentioned on my instagram yesterday that I’ve been focusing a lot on our mental and emotional perspective on 2020, trying to find a better outlook on what this year has brought us, rather than what it’s taken. For us, it’s time. It’s the opportunity to really explore a lot of our local surroundings more than we’ve done in the past. It’s given us the opportunity to slow down the frenetic energy of everyday life and really focus on those new heights – and depths – that we can explore as a family. It’s also probably no surprise that a lot of our highlights have been the lakes we’ve visited. Today, I wanted to share 8 amazing lake hikes around JBLM that everyone will love.
Now, full disclaimer; we haven’t visited all of these. Some are beyond our skill level with littles at this point, and some just didn’t work because things were closed due to COVID. All of these lakes have something in common though. They’re stunning. They’re worth the drive, and they’re 100% worth the work to get to them. Ready?
8 Amazing Lake Hikes Around JBLM
Located in the South Cascades just about 2 hours from JBLM, you’re merely a stone’s throw from Mt. Rainier National Park when you embark on this hike. The Bertha May & Granite Lakes hike is around 4.5 miles roudtrip and actually features a third tiny lake at the very beginning called Pothole Lake. Yes, you can swim here. You can camp here, and it’s even kid-friendly. This remains one of our favorite hikes this summer, and the views are incomparable!
2. Colchuck Lake
This gem is in the Central Cascades region near Leavenworth. It remains a huge and elusive bucket-list hike for me, but it’s a bit beyond our kids’ skill level for now. At 8 miles roundtrip and with an elevation gain for 2,280 ft., it’s rated hard – and deservedly so. But, if you manage to do this hike, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views all around, and you may even see mountain goats. Beware though, because the hiking season for this one is summer-only, as the FR 7601 from Icicle Creek Road to the trailhead closes each winter.
3. Snow Lake
So, this one deserves a caveat. There are actually two Snow Lake hikes in the area, and I’ve heard both are equally impressive. In our case, however, we’re sharing Snow Lake Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park. This one is only 2.5 miles roundtrip, and you can actually see another lake on this hike – Bench Lake. We jumped in Snow Lake, as per usual, and it was cold…and well worth it! This one is kid-friendly and oh-so-fun. The other Snow Lake trail I mentioned is actually in the Snoqualmie Region and 7.2 miles roundtrip, so make sure you select the right one for your skill level.
This one was big on my summer list. I wanted nothing more than to see the milky turquoise water in person, and we finally made it happen! Emmons Moraine is nothing short of spectacular. The hike is moderately challenging at 3 miles roundtrip. You’ll have to go a bit off the trail and sidestep your way down to the actual lake, but you are rewarded by incredible water that is, as it should be, glacial. It’s chilly and well worth a dip after a hot hike!
Okay, you got me. This isn’t a real lake, and it’s not even a natural pond at that. It’s man-made, but it is well worth a visit if only for the spectacular views. There are a few things to note about this one. It’s not a real hike, per se. It’s about a mile-long walking trail around the pond, and it’s heavily trafficked because it’s about as easy as it gets. It’s also popular in the winter for sledding and snowshoeing, but you’ll need a Sno-Park pass for that.
6. Spider Lake
When I shared this beauty on my instagram, I got some mixed opinions because, apparently, Spider Lake is named for the water spiders that often cover the surface. Let it be known that we didn’t see a single water spider, and it was gorgeous! The water was warm, clear, and beautiful. The kids and I swam in it, as per usual, and it’s a great loop hike at about 2.5 miles. Best of all, it’s both kid- and dog-friendly, and if you’re comfortable hiking in to camp, the area welcomes campers.
7. Lake Serene
This is a well-known hike in the Snoqualmie region, and for good reason. It’s gorgeous. It’s also the hardest hike the kids and I have done this year by far. At 8.2 miles roundtrip, the Lake Serene hike is rated moderate (though I’d err on the side of hard here), and it’s often wet. You’ll be treated to stunning peekaboo views after you reach Bridal Veil Falls, and then you’ll climb a lot. If you’re like us, you’ll hike in the rain and experience a massive temperature swing. Basically, just be prepared. It’s incredible.
8. Lake 22
You may remember we attempted Lake 22 in early July as a family. Unfortunately, it was still crazy rainy, and it was very slippery. We actually didn’t make it to the top to see Lake 22, and I don’t regret turning around. While it is both kid- and dog-friendly, I highly recommend gauging your individual skill level. With three young kids and a dog in the rain, it was too much for us, and we didn’t see the risk being worth the reward. That said, this is a popular hike, and the end views are spectacular!
With all of these lake hikes, I highly recommend you consider arriving at the trailhead early, off-season, or during the week if possible. Because COVID seems to driven lots of people outside this year, these lakes have been crazy busy. I would also recommend that if you plan to swim, please gauge both your comfort and skill level in terms of swimming. Most of these are cold, and at least one had a death this summer due to fatigue in the middle. Just be smart. They’re all so worth it, and we’re so glad we embarked on each hike, but we’ve also learned a lot along the way. We can’t wait to see what we conquer and experience this fall!
Tell me – do you enjoy hiking? Do you have any bucket list hikes?