Lake Twentytwo

Trail Highlights:Mountain views; lake views; waterfalls; old-growth forest; wildflowers
Round-trip Distance:5.40 miles / 8.70 km
Location:Lake Twentytwo Research Natural Area and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Mountain Loop Highway / South Fork Stillaguamish River Valley, Washington North Cascades

Ancestral lands of the stuləgʷábš, or, Stillaguamish
  • From State Route 92 in Granite Falls, Washington, turn left onto the Mountain Loop Highway
  • Proceed 12.80 miles / 20.60 km
  • Turn right into parking lot at trailhead, per signage for "Lake Twentytwo"
  • Required Pass:Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent for U.S. Forest Service sites
    Additional Trail Info:Washington Trails Association
    U.S. Forest Service

    Unlike much of the surrounding wilderness, Lake Twentytwo and the virgin forest that cloaks its watershed remain untouched by logging or fire and have been protected as a research natural area since 1947.  The trail up to and around the lake climbs moderately through subtly varying ecological layers, ranging from plush mosses to stony barrens and accented throughout by massive conifer columns.  Water is a consistent feature. Rivulets frequently cross the trail, often co-opting it for short distances before slipping elsewhere out of sight. Glimpses of the South Fork Stillaguamish River appear through the forest fringe before the trail turns upward, never meandering far from Twentytwo Creek’s many boisterous waterfalls, collectively known as Twentytwo Creek Falls. At the foot of Mount Pilchuck‘s sheer northern face, the trail loops around the lakeshore, continuing through distinctly varying habitats including bogland, boulderfields, and subalpine forest.

    Lake Twentytwo’s unusual name is thought to have derived from numeric designations on early surveyor’s maps before English names had been assigned to the local water bodies, with this particular lake and creek never receiving any other moniker. The lake’s now official designation flouts standard English punctuation, with several other iterations also in common use, including Lake Twenty-two, Lake Twenty Two, and Lake 22.  The names for its creek and falls follow suit.

    Although wet and rocky in places, the trail is heavily used. Be prepared with appropriate footwear and, especially on weekends, expect the company of fellow hikers. Boot paths lead to views of several of the falls, but care should be exercised when exploring off the main trail, as the side trails are rugged and often end at ledges obscured by foliage. Enjoy the cheery voice of water cascading everywhere as you climb to its very source beneath the mountaintop rafters.

    The stars of the old-growth forest along the trail are its venerable western redcedars (Thuja plicata), some reaching upwards of 12.00 feet/3.70 meters in diameter. As the trail climbs, parted forest reveals glimpses of far-off peaks, including Liberty Mountain as seen here. Lake Twentytwo Trail, Washington.
    The trail never strays far from sight or sound of Twentytwo Creek, gurgling here through sun-dappled pools.
    Lake Twentytwo Trail, Washington.
    Be prepared for dampened footwear: oblivious to human intrusion onto their ancient paths, streams patter across the trail at will, especially in spring when runoff peaks. Lake Twentytwo Trail, Washington.
    An open talus slope, too rocky to support large trees, interrupts the forest mid-way up the trail, affording northeasterly views of the Cascades, most prominently Liberty Mountain (here, the treeless peak beneath a tiny cloud).
    Lake Twentytwo Trail, Washington.
    A variety of wildflowers dots the trailside throughout, including, first column, red elderberries (Sambucus racemosa) (top), pioneer, or, stream violets (Viola glabella) (center), and Pacific bleeding hearts (Dicentra formosa) (bottom); second column, Pacific trilliums (Trillium ovatum var. ovatum) (top) and plumed false Solomon’s seals (Maianthemum racemosum) (bottom); third column, yellow skunk cabbages, or, swamp lanterns (Lysichiton americanus) (top) and western wood, or, Lyall’s anemones (Anemone lyallii) (bottom); and fourth column, white marsh marigolds (Caltha leptosepala) (top) and salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis). Lake Twentytwo Trail, Washington.
    Just before the trail reaches the lake, a short boot path leads to the first of Twentytwo Creek’s many waterfalls along its dash to join the Stillaguamish River. This one is known unofficially as “Apron Falls” for its fan-like form as it cascades down the rock face. Lake Twentytwo Trail, Washington.
    Lake Twentytwo pools at the foot of Mount Pilchuck‘s great northern wall, beyond which the mountain’s summit sweeps upward far beyond sight. Lake Twentytwo Trail, Washington.
    A substantial trestle bridge bears the trail across Lake Twentytwo’s outlet to Twentytwo Creek and delivers it to a boardwalk that rounds the lake’s boggy eastern edge. Lake Twentytwo Trail, Washington.
    In spring, the clear, stony voices of rills and waterfalls coursing down Mount Pilchuck‘s rugged face ring across the lake before they disappear into the scree that skirts its feet. Lake Twentytwo Trail, Washington.
    Three Fingers’ snow-clad peak peers above the horizon’s cleft at the lake’s outlet to Twentytwo Creek.
    Lake Twentytwo Trail, Washington.
    From the shadow of Mount Pilchuck‘s eaves, Lake Twentytwo sprawls across its glacier-hewn cirque.
    Lake Twentytwo Trail, Washington.

    © 2016-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.


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