Blanca Lake

Trail Highlights:Lake views; mountain views; fungi
Round-trip Distance:7.00 miles / 11.30 km
Location:Wild Sky Wilderness, Henry M. Jackson Wilderness,
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest,
Stevens Pass / Skykomish Valley, Washington North Cascades

Ancestral lands of the Skykomish
  • On U.S. Route 2 just east of Skykomish, Washington between Mileposts 49 and 50, turn left from eastbound/right from westbound onto Beckler Road/Forest Road 65, per signage for "Beckler Rd." and "Beckler River Campground"
  • Proceed 12.50 miles/20.10 km to Jack Pass, an unmarked five-way intersection
  • Take the second left to remain on Forest Road 65
  • Proceed 2.30 miles/3.70 km to Forest Road 65's junction with Forest Road 63
  • Turn right up Forest Road 63 and proceed approximately 2.00 miles/3.20 km to the trailhead on the left
  • Required Pass:Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent for U.S. Forest Service sites
    Additional Trail Info:Washington Trails Association
    U.S. Forest Service

    In noonday sun, Blanca Lake shimmers in its signature turquoise hue.
    Blanca Lake Trail,

    The rugged climb to Blanca Lake rewards with shoreline views of one of the Cascades’ most distinctively hued lakes.  The lake derives its unusually opaque, yet jewel-like color from “rock flour,” or, glacial till – fine, mineral-rich sediment ground from stone by the Columbia Glacier in the mountain hollow just above the lake and mingled with its runoff.  Although Blanca Lake displays its most intense color in bright sunlight, its shade shifts with variations in light and ranges from nearly iridescent turquoise to luminous jade.  The trail to the lake climbs steeply through heavy forest for approximately 3.00 miles/4.80 km before levelling across a short ridge and then descending just as sharply over the next 0.50 miles/0.80 km to the lake basin.  Along the ridge, brief views open to secluded meadows and surrounding mountains, including Glacier Peak, one of Washington’s five active volcanoes.  Although few wildflowers grace the shadowy woodland along the trail, an array of unusual autumn fungi takes their place.

    Understandably, Blanca Lake is a popular summer and autumn destination − expect to enjoy it with others and consider visiting on a less crowded weekday.  Heavy use has eroded the trail to slick roots and rocks in many sections of its already steep grade − appropriate footwear is required and those who prefer trekking poles will find them especially useful here. The reward for the arduous climb will be worth the toil.

    The trail’s first 1.00 mile/1.60 km wends through dense second-growth forest littered with deadfalls and yet to recover the layered middle- and understory plant life characteristic of mature woodland. Blanca Lake Trail, Washington.
    After approximately 1.00 mile/1.60 km, the trail enters the Wild Sky Wilderness and veers upward through more mature forest in rugged, root-writhen switchbacks. Blanca Lake Trail, Washington.
    The forest’s deep shade and damp litter foster an abundance of unusual fungi, including various mushrooms, wood conks, and coral fungi. Blanca Lake Trail, Washington.
    After approximately 3.00 miles/4.80 km of consistent climbing, the trail traverses a short, relatively level ridgeline, where expansive views begin to unfurl. Here, a trailside meadow basks in sun’s last glow. Blanca Lake Trail, Washington.
    As the trail nears Blanca Lake, Monte Cristo and Kyes peaks rear atop the horizon. Still out of sight, the lake pools at their feet below the Columbia Glacier at the lower left of this photo. Blanca Lake Trail, Washington.
    Here and there, parted boughs reveal glimpses of Glacier Peak, Washington’s “forgotten” volcano. Less visible than others and lacking the honorific abbreviation “Mt.” often accorded to volcanic peaks, Glacier Peak is nevertheless known to have erupted within the last 400 years. Blanca Lake Trail, Washington.
    Near Virgin “Lake” – actually more a murky pond – the trail crosses into the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness and begins its steep descent to Blanca Lake. Blanca Lake Trail, Washington.
    As the trail swiftly descends the lake basin, rugged walls rise round about. Blanca Lake Trail, Washington.
    Blanca Lake nearly glows beneath Columbia, Monte Cristo, and Kyes peaks. Columbia Glacier’s leading edge is visible in the cleft between the peaks. Blanca Lake Trail, Washington.
    At the trail’s end, a raft of sun-bleached logs lodges at the lake’s outlet to Troublesome Creek.
    Blanca Lake Trail, Washington.

    © 2017-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.


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