Margaret Lake, Twin Lakes, and Lake Lillian

Trail Highlights:Lake views; mountain views; berries; autumn foliage
Round-trip Distance:6.00 miles / 9.65 km (Margaret Lake)
9.20 miles / 14.80 km (Twin Lakes and Margaret Lake or Twin Lakes and Lake Lillian)
10.40 miles / 16.70 km (Margaret Lake, Twin Lakes, and Lake Lillian)
Location:Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest,
Snoqualmie Pass / Upper Yakima Basin, Washington Central Cascades

Ancestral lands of the Kittitas
  • From east- or westbound Interstate 90, take Exit 54
  • From Exit 54, turn left from eastbound/right from westbound onto State Route 906 (road name may not be posted)
  • Just beyond the westbound off-ramp, turn right onto Forest Road 4832, signed for "Gold Creek" and "4832"
  • Proceed 3.80 miles/6.10 km to a fork and take the right fork to remain on Forest Road 4832
  • Proceed 0.08 miles/0.13 km to another fork and take the left fork onto Forest Road 4934, which is unmarked
  • Proceed 0.40 miles/0.60 km and turn left into the parking lot, signed "Mt. Margaret Tr. No. 1332 Parking Area"
  • To reach the trailhead, proceed on foot up Forest Road 4934 (walk left out of the parking lot entrance, not down the gated gravel road at the far end of the lot). Approximately 0.10 miles/0.16 km past the lot's entrance, take the left fork and proceed 0.65 miles/1.00 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 (Margaret Lake)
    Washington Trails Association (Twin Lakes and Lake Lillian)
    U.S. Forest Service (Lake Lillian)

    The trail to Margaret Lake, Twin Lakes, and Lake Lillian, each uniquely exquisite, begins inauspiciously enough on logging roads up a recently clear-cut hillside and continues through varied terrain, including old-growth forest, woodland glades affording views of the rugged Rampart and Box ridges, lush bogs filled with summer wildflowers, and fiery autumn foliage.  A short, but punishing boot path off the main trail also leads to the summit of Mount Margaret, where the bird’s eye can spy each of the lakes and several others nestled in the surrounding mountainsides.  The main trail climbs rigorously to the ridge above the clear-cut, then loses elevation on both the side trail to Margaret Lake and the main trail to Twin Lakes, climbing again to Lake Lillian.  Beyond the side trail to Margaret Lake, the main trail is not well maintained and sometimes narrows and sloughs downslope for short distances.  Characteristic of Rampart Ridge and its environs, mosquitoes are legion in mid-summer, likely born from the shallow lakelets, ponds, and bogs that dot the landscape.  Blueberries, too, are abundant throughout the August wayside.  Brave the mosquitoes to admire summer’s verdure, or, wait until cooler days to enjoy Midas hues and autumn mushrooms unmolested.  Although Margaret Lake is a popular feature, these quiet backcountry trails are usually spared the heavy traffic of others with more dramatic destinations.

    The trailhead does not lead directly from the parking lot, but is reached by foot on narrow logging roads beyond the lot. Per the directions above, hike up Forest Road 4934 past the parking lot and keep watch for small, easily missed signs marking the route at the fork and trailhead. Twin Lakes – Lake Lillian Trail, Washington.
    For its first 1.70 miles/2.70 km, the trail climbs steeply through the new growth of a recent clear-cut, which affords increasingly expansive views. Keechelus Lake fills the valley below, bounded on its western shore by an unnamed mountain (left), Tinkham Peak (center left), Silver Peak (center right), and Mount Catherine (right). Although a natural lake, its capacity is regulated by a dam to provide irrigation for agriculture in the Yakima Valley to the east.
    Twin Lakes – Lake Lillian Trail, Washington.
    Just before the trail ducks under cover of mature woodland, Mt. Rainier appears atop the southern horizon beyond successive mountain folds. Twin Lakes – Lake Lillian Trail, Washington.
    At approximately 2.40 miles/3.90 km from the trailhead, a signed side trail leads right approximately 0.60 miles/1.00 km down to Margaret Lake. The side trail offers peekaboo views of Hibox Peak and Three Queens across the eastern flank of Mount Margaret. Margaret Lake Trail, Washington.
    Just before the trail reaches Margaret Lake, it crosses a boggy, golden meadow where lies the spring-fed “Lake” Yvonne amid a sharply steepled forest. Margaret Lake Trail, Washington.
    The first glimpse of Margaret Lake gives away its brilliant emerald tint, most apparent on a still, cloud-lit day.
    Margaret Lake Trail, Washington.
    Mount Margaret rises above Margaret Lake’s northern shore. A rugged boot path off the main trail scrambles to the tip of Mount Margaret’s highest peak, shown here on the left. Margaret Lake Trail, Washington.
    The boot path to the summit of Mount Margaret is barely discernible from the main trail. Approximately 0.50 miles/0.80 km from the side trail to Margaret Lake, look for it about 10.00 yards/9.00 meters after the trail crosses a steep talus slope that stretches down the mountainside. The boot path does not climb the talus, but ascends an arduous 0.20 miles/0.30 km on pitched earth ranging from dusty to muddy until it reaches its rocky pinnacle.
    Twin Lakes – Lake Lillian Trail — Mount Margaret Trail, Washington.
    From its summit, Mount Margaret gazes southeast over Margaret Lake directly below, then Stonethrow Lake, Swan Lake, and far off Lake Kachess. Mount Margaret Trail, Washington.
    Mount Margaret’s summit also glances backward at Rampart Ridge stretching from the near right to its peak in the center midground and Dungeon Peak in the left midground. The larger of the Twin Lakes can be seen in the lower center of this photo. Squint hard enough and Lake Laura and Lake Lillian are barely visible in succeeding mountain clefts.
    Mount Margaret Trail, Washington.
    Several species of blueberries and huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.) are abundant throughout the trailside, especially the low-growing and aromatically flavored Cascade blueberry (V. deliciosum), shown here.
    Twin Lakes – Lake Lillian Trail, Washington.
    High elevation results in a vivid display of fall foliage across Mount Margaret and Rampart Ridge, brighter than that of the same species at lower elevations. After luscious fruits come lively shaded leaves when, in autumn, drifts of blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) set the mountainsides ablaze (left and lower center). Vine maples (Acer circinatum) torch the woodland with parti-colored foliage ranging from gold to vermilion (top, center, and center right). Here and there, Sitka mountain ashes (Sorbus sitchensis) add their own feathery, molten accents (lower right).
    Twin Lakes – Lake Lillian Trail, Washington.
    Also in autumn, keep watch for the many varied mushrooms that garnish the slopes of Mount Margaret along both the Twin Lakes – Lake Lillian Trail and Margaret Lake Trail, Washington.
    Rounding Mount Margaret, the main trail descends to the Twin Lakes, set in a tranquil glen approximately 3.60 miles/5.80 km from the trailhead. As beautiful as they are, the shallow “lakes” are somewhat misnamed, as they are more expansive ponds than true lakes. Twin Lakes – Lake Lillian Trail, Washington.
    The lakeland moisture nurtures a variety of wildflowers, including, first column from left, top to bottom, American saw-worts (Saussurea americana), arrowleaf groundsels (Senecio triangularis), purple, or, Lewis’ monkeyflowers (Erythranthe lewisii), Cascade asters (Eucephalus ledophyllus), Sitka valerians (Valeriana sitchensis), and Scouler’s valerians (Valeriana scouleri); second column, tall bluebells (Mertensia paniculata), broadleaf arnicas (Arnica latifolia), fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium syn. Chamerion angustifolium), and sharptooth angelicas (Angelica arguta); third column, western pearly everlastings (Anaphalis margaritacea), low, or, showy Jacob’s ladders (Polemonium californicum), common cow-parsnips (Heracleum maximum syn. H. lanatum), white marsh marigolds (Caltha leptosepala), and broadleaf lupines (Lupinus latifolius var. subalpinus); fourth column, yellow willowherbs (Epilobium luteum), green corn-lilies (Veratrum viride), white rhododendrons, or, Cascade azaleas (Rhododendron albiflorum), subalpine fleabanes, or, wandering daisies (Erigeron glacialis), and pink mountain-heaths (Phyllodoce empetriformis); and fifth column, Columbia lilies (Lilium columbianum), high mountain cinquefoils (Potentilla flabellifolia), alpine leafybract asters (Symphyotrichum foliaceum), subalpine spiraeas (Spiraea splendens), and partridgefoots (Luetkea pectinata).
    Twin Lakes – Lake Lillian Trail, Washington.
    In striking contrast with the verdant bogs about the Twin Lakes, the trail skirts a great talus slope on its steep ascent to Lake Lillian, where the crumbling remnants of mountaintops fan far below their former heights.
    Twin Lakes – Lake Lillian Trail, Washington.
    Just before reaching Lake Lillian, a glance over the ridge to the left reveals a peekaboo view of Lake Laura far below. Lake Lillian’s waters cascade into Lake Laura, continuing their journey as Rocky Run Creek and gathering runoff from Twin Lakes before emptying into Keechelus Lake. Twin Lakes – Lake Lillian Trail, Washington.
    At last, Lake Lillian and its consort, Rampart Ridge, each holding the other in form and gaze. The trail ends at the water’s edge approximately 4.60 miles/7.40 km from the trailhead; the lake’s steep, rocky walls render further exploration difficult. Twin Lakes – Lake Lillian Trail, Washington.

    © 2014-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.


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