Thursday, April 30, 2020

Pete Lake

Pete Lake
9 miles round trip, 500 feet elevation gain
Difficulty: Easy-moderate, due to length
Access: Good gravel road to trailhead, Northwest Forest Pass required

Pete Lake is a gorgeous subalpine lake at the foot of Lemah Mountain in Washington State's Alpine Lakes Wilderness and unlike most of the other lake gems in Washington State, this one takes minimal effort to reach: although the hike is 9 miles long, there's barely any elevation gain on the way there. The catch? In early summer, the trail is swarming with mosquitoes.

I hiked this trail on the July 4th holiday, when snow had long since melted from the trail but remained to decorate the high Cascade peaks. From Seattle, I took I-90 east to cross Snoqualmie Pass and took Bullfrog Road at exit 80 north towards Suncadia and Roslyn. Bullfrog Road ended at Highway 903; at the traffic circle, I took the far exit to head north towards Roslyn and Salmon La Sac. Highway 903 took me through downtown Roslyn, once the heart of coal mining in the eastern Cascades; 903 continued north through a few other small communities and then traced the east shore of Cle Elum Lake. I made a left turn at Forest Road 46, which took me across the Salmon La Sac River on a bridge with pretty mountain views. I continued another four miles until I got to Cooper Lake, where I took the right fork for the road to the Owhi Campground, which led across the Cooper River and then dead-ended at the Pete Lake Trailhead.

Cle Elum River
From the trailhead, I headed north on the Pete Lake Trail, which skirted the banks of the Cooper River and climbed over a small hill before coming to a trail junction with the Tired Creek Trail at 1.2 miles, where I followed the bottom of the valley and continued straight towards Pete Lake.

Cooper River
I passed a second junction after another mile of hiking; I continued straight on here as well. The trail crossed multiple streams along the way; in summer and fall, these will probably be easily manageable but I could see the crossings being more difficult with higher water in spring.

Dogwood bloomed in the underbrush around the trail during my July hike.

About three miles into the hike, the trail started to gain a bit of elevation, the only real bit of ascent on the trail. Two miles after passing the second trail junction, I arrived at a third. Here, the trail continuing straight led to Spectacle Lake and the PCT, so I took the spur to the left that led to Pete Lake. I followed this short spur through a camping area and past a toilet to the lakeshore, where I enjoyed views of the lake with Lemah Mountain and Chikamin Peak towering behind. Unfortunately, the swarms of mosquitoes here forced me to beat a retreat shortly afterwards and return to the trailhead. This is an easy hike to a lovely destination, but be sure to bring your bug spray if you want to have an enjoyable time here in the summer.

Pete Lake

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