|Trail Highlights:||Lake and mountain views; wildflowers
|Round-trip Distance:||≅ 7.50 miles / 12.00 km (may vary depending on route)
|Location:||Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest,
Snoqualmie Pass / Upper Yakima Basin, Washington Central Cascades
Ancestral lands of the Kittitas
|Directions:||From east- or westbound Interstate 90, take Exit 54
From Exit 54, turn right from eastbound/left from westbound onto State Route 906 (road name may not be posted) and proceed to the intersection of State Route 906 and Hyak Drive
Proceed straight onto Hyak Drive
Proceed 0.50 miles/0.80 km to end of Hyak Drive and turn right onto Treatment Plant Road/Forest Road 9070
Proceed 0.50 miles/0.80 km to a broad fork and take the left fork
Proceed 1.00 mile/1.60 km to a "T" intersection and continue straight (right)
Proceed 1.30 miles/2.10 km to the trailhead and small parking area (for a total of 3.30 miles/5.30 km from the State Route 906/Hyak Drive intersection). The trailhead is marked by an easily missed sign to left of a sharp right turn; the small pull-out for parking is on the right immediately after the turn.
Note: Pavement ends shortly after Hyak Drive turns onto Treatment Plant Road/Forest Road 9070. Watch for potholes and washouts.
|Required Pass:||Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent for U.S. Forest Service sites
|Additional Trail Info:||Washington Trails Association (Cold Creek Trail -- Pacific Crest Trail Loop)
Washington Trails Association (Mirror Lake via the Pacific Crest Trail)
The Cold Creek Trail’s namesake
is a prominent feature throughout
most of its distance.
Cold Creek Trail, June 28, 2020.
Not far from many of the ever popular Snoqualmie Pass hiking trails just off Interstate 90, the Cold Creek-Pacific Crest Trail loop offers a surprising bit of backcountry tranquility. Few venture onto this network of trails (especially on a week day), where no noise from the freeway or other human civilization mars the woodland silence. The potholed gravel access road, poorly marked trail junctions, and steep, often overgrown Cold Creek Trail section seem just enough to discourage all but the hardy. Old-growth forest cloaks the trailside, which, although punctuated with distant mountain and lake views, offers more woodland solitude than grand vistas. The trails form a broad circuit around Twin Lakes, climbing high up the slopes of Tinkham and Silver peaks on either side and dropping down to the boggy valley between them. In season, wildflowers and berries are abundant throughout. As a short side trip, the loop also offers a backdoor route to Mirror Lake that avoids its often crowded main road and trail access.
The loop consists of the Cold Creek Trail and segments of the Pacific Crest Trail, Mount Catherine Trail, and Forest Road 9070. It officially begins (and ends) at the Cold Creek Trailhead, but can also be accessed at points farther up Forest Road 9070 where the Mount Catherine Trail and Pacific Crest Trail’s Section I cross the road. This trail description begins at the Cold Creek Trailhead and follows the loop clockwise. Those wishing to descend rather than climb the loop’s steepest segment (the Cold Creek Trail) may opt to hike it counterclockwise. At 0.70 miles/1.10 km from the trailhead, the Cold Creek Trail reaches its junction with the Mount Catherine Trail. Take the left fork to remain on the Cold Creek Trail and hike the loop clockwise. (To hike it counterclockwise, take the right fork and follow the Mount Catherine Trail to Forest Road 9070, turn left and follow the road approximately 0.30 miles/0.50 km to the Pacific Crest Trail crossing at Windy Pass, and turn left onto the Pacific Crest Trail. You won’t actually hike Mount Catherine, as the upper section of its trail continues to the summit on the opposite side of Forest Road 9070.) Continuing clockwise, the Cold Creek Trail reaches Twin Lakes a short distance from the junction. Beyond the sketchy-looking but quite solid log bridge across Cold Creek, the trail climbs relentlessly for approximately 1.40 miles/2.30 km to its ridgetop junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. From here on, the trail gains and loses some elevation, but the grade is gentle. At the Cold Creek Trail-Pacific Crest Trail junction, turn right to continue on the loop, but consider first turning left for a short, 0.50-mile/0.80-km side trip to Mirror Lake. (If hiking the loop counterclockwise, watch for the trail junction at a wide spot on a forested ridge approximately 2.50 miles/4.00 km from Windy Pass, as it is easy to miss coming from this direction. The Cold Creek Trail will be on the left, marked by a nondescript sign on the right. If you reach Mirror Lake, you’ll know you need to retrace your steps.) Continuing clockwise, the Pacific Crest Trail segment of the loop crosses under the eaves of Tinkham Peak before descending to the upland valley where Cold Creek’s headwaters gather in boggy tarns. The trail then climbs briefly to Silver Peak’s talus slopes before declining gradually to Forest Road 9070 at Windy Pass. Turn right onto the road and either follow it to the trailhead or, after 0.30 miles/0.50 km, turn right again onto the unmarked lower section of the Mount Catherine Trail and follow it back to the Cold Creek Trail and on to the trailhead.
Those wishing to add some distance to the hike can opt to continue on the Pacific Crest Trail beyond Forest Road 9070 to Olallie Meadow, Lodge Lake, and Beaver Lake or take the short but steep jaunt up to the summit of Mount Catherine.
In deep forest approximately 0.70 miles/1.10 km from the trailhead, the Cold Creek Trail reaches its junction with the lower section of the Mount Catherine Trail. At this point, one can hike the Cold Creek – Pacific Crest Trail Loop clockwise by taking the Cold Creek Trail left or counterclockwise by continuing straight onto the Mount Catherine Trail to its junction with Forest Road 9070 and then the Pacific Crest Trail. Cold Creek Trail, June 28, 2020.
Shortly beyond the Cold Creek – Mount Catherine trail junction, the Cold Creek Trail reaches Twin Lakes. Not only are the lakes more like large ponds, but the westernmost twin is almost subsumed by an encroaching, brushy bog. The shore of the larger lake provides the first full view of Silver Peak. The Pacific Crest Trail segment of the loop crosses about mid-way up the mountain, where the watchful will catch glimpses of Twin Lakes back down across the treetops.
Cold Creek Trail, July 24, 2021.
The trail crosses Cold Creek where it spills out of Twin Lakes by means of a sturdy, even if haphazard-looking log bridge. Cold Creek Trail, June 28, 2020.
Beyond Twin Lakes, the Cold Creek Trail climbs steeply through old-growth woodland to its junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. Cold Creek Trail, August 12, 2020.
In late summer, blueberries (Vaccinium sp.) are abundant throughout the woodland, especially along the Cold Creek Trail. Cold Creek Trail, August 12, 2020.
The shadowy woodland glades about the trails host a surprising variety of wildflowers, including, top row, left to right, Sitka valerian (Valeriana sitchensis), pinesap (Monotropa hypopitys a.k.a. Hypopitys monotropa), broadleaf arnica (Arnica latifolia), tall bluebells (Mertensia paniculata), and fringed grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia fimbriata); middle row, left to right, Pacific bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa), vanillaleaf (Achlys triphylla), western bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis), Columbia lily (Lilium columbianum), and American twinflower (Linnaea borealis); and bottom row, left to right, western pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), pipsissewa, or, western prince’s-pine (Chimaphila umbellata), common beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax), thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), and woodland beardtongue (Nothochelone nemorosa).
Cold Creek Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, Section I, June 28 and August 12, 2020.
Lying a mere 0.50 miles/0.80 km farther down the Pacific Crest Trail from its junction with the Cold Creek Trail, Mirror Lake is a worthy detour. A side trail leads along the lake’s eastern edge to a full view near its outlet. Given the lake’s elevation, Tinkham Peak’s summit on its far shore does not appear nearly as imposing as it does from the loop trail on the other side.
Pacific Crest Trail, Section I / Mirror Lake – Cottonwood Lake Trail, September 06, 2020.
Not far from the Cold Creek Trail-Pacific Crest Trail junction, the loop offers one last glimpse of Silver Peak before dipping down to the bogland at its feet and climbing back up to cross its flank.
Pacific Crest Trail, Section I, September 06, 2020.
Cold Creek’s headwaters pool in quiet tarns in the upper valley between Tinkham and Silver peaks before beginning their noisy descent to the Twin Lakes and beyond.
Pacific Crest Trail, Section I, September 06, 2020.
Summer wildflowers fill the meadows burgeoning along the trailside tarns between Tinkham and Silver peaks. Pacific Crest Trail, Section I, August 12, 2020.
In the trailside meadows, bogs, and lakeshore shallows, look for delicate, moisture-loving wildflowers, including, clockwise from top left, broadleaf lupines (Lupinus latifolius), dwarf brambles (Rubus lasiococcus), creeping St. John’s-wort (Hypericum anagalloides), Columbian monkshood (Aconitum columbianum), white rhododendron, or, Cascade azalea (Rhododendron albiflorum), subalpine spirea (Spiraea splendens), lovage (Lingusticum sp.), and alpine leafybract asters (Symphyotricum foliaceum). Cold Creek Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, Section I, August 12, 2020.
From the valley meadows, don’t forget to glance up at Tinkham Peak’s imposing gable towering above. Pacific Crest Trail, Section I, August 12, 2020.
Although mostly wooded, the Pacific Crest Trail section between Tinkham and Silver peaks affords peekaboo glimpses of other surrounding summits, including Denny Mountain and Snoqualmie Mountain (Ieft), Kaleetan Peak and Chair Peak (upper right), and Red Mountain, Kendall Peak, and Mount Thompson (lower right). Pacific Crest Trail, Section I, August 12 and September 06, 2020.
Near the valley headwall, Silver Peak’s talus slopes offer unobstructed views of Tinkham Peak rising across the wooded folds between. Pacific Crest Trail, Section I, August 12, 2020.
The trailside’s open boulderfields are home to additional flowering plants and shrubs, including, clockwise from top left, red elderberries (Sambucus racemosa), rose spirea, or, hardhack (Spiraea douglasii), sylvan goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), Cascade asters (Eucephalus ledophyllus), western, or, Sitka columbines (Aquilegia formosa), fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium), and salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis). Cold Creek Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, Section I, June 28 and August 12, 2020.
High up on Silver Peak’s flank, the Pacific Crest Trail spies the Twin Lakes lying in the hollow below. Pacific Crest Trail, Section I, September 06, 2020.
In contrast with the Cold Creek Trail section’s relentless incline, the Pacific Crest Trail section maintains a surprisingly gradual grade as it traverses Silver Peak’s bristling, steeply pitched woodland. Pacific Crest Trail, Section I, August 12, 2020.
At Windy Pass, the trail suddenly emerges into the open air of a recent clear cut. Where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses Forest Road 9070, turn right and follow the road approximately 0.30 miles/0.50 km to the Mount Catherine Trail that loops back to the Cold Creek Trail or continue 1.70 miles/2.70 km all the way down the road to the Cold Creek Trailhead. Pacific Crest Trail, Section I, August 12, 2020.
If taking the Mount Catherine Trail route back to the trailhead, keep a watchful eye for it to branch from Forest Road 9070 approximately 0.30 miles/0.50 km from the Pacific Crest Trail’s junction with the road. It is unmarked but otherwise invites exploration, descending almost 1.00 mile/1.60 km into deep forest before rejoining the Cold Creek Trail approximately 0.70 miles/1.10 km from the trailhead.
Mount Catherine Trail, August 12, 2020.
The lower segment of the Mount Catherine Trail follows Cold Creek’s mostly unseen north fork chattering down a gorge just off the trail. Little maintained, this section of the trail can be overgrown, but is also little trafficked by other hikers. Mount Catherine Trail, August 12, 2020.