Jade Lake has long been on my list of backpacking destinations. The photos of the lake seem absolutely unreal. It blows my mind that lakes like that exist so close to where I live now. It is understandably a very popular destination and getting a campsite there on a weekend can prove difficult. I was keen to use a good weather window and my free time during the week to get there. I wasn’t able to get anyone to join me for the trip so I decided to head out on my first solo overnight
Alpine Lakes Wilderness
drive time from Seattle
NW Forest Pass
I left Seattle early, at 6 am, on Wednesday wanting to get out of the city before the morning traffic started. On the way to the trailhead, I couldn’t shake the feeling of having forgotten something. I thought it was my sleeping pad for a minute so I pulled off the i90 to make sure I had it. When I got to the Tucquala Meadows trailhead I thought it was my hat, but I found that in the top pocket of my pack. I tried to ignore the feeling and started hiking on the trail. In 2 miles of hiking along a flat trail, I arrived at Hyas Lake. I wanted to take a photo from one of the lakeside campsites and discovered that my camera wouldn’t turn on because I left my battery at home. I was pretty unhappy about this knowing that Jade Lake is one of the most photographic destinations in the state and how long it had taken me to get out and do this trip. I even considered turning around and doing the trip another time. I shook off that feeling and decided to keep going. Use my phone for photos and try and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Partly fueled by my anger at myself for leaving my battery at home. I hiked the next 7 miles in about 2.5 hours. It was still overcast so made for excellent hiking weather. The trail wasn’t the boring forest trail I was expecting. After Hyas Lake it starts switchbacking up towards Deception Pass (5 miles of hiking). From Deception Pass, the trail intersects with the PCT and then forks off towards Marmot Lake. The trail passes a few small lakes and meadows before climbing again to reach Marmot Lake. I stopped at Marmot Lake on a log next to the water to have my lunch.
From Marmot Lake, the trail becomes more of a climbers trail and shoots up a talus field at the south end of the lake. Following the cairns, then losing them I followed the talus field to the top to join the bootpath that passed No Name Lake on the way to Jade. Lynch Mountain loomed over the meadows as I passed No Name Lake and I was excited when I started to recognize the peaks from all the photos I’d seen of Jade Lake. I got my first views of the turquoise water around 1:30. There were a few other tents already set up at the lake so I scouted around a little before choosing one near the entrance trail. Once I stopped hiking I was attacked by what felt like a million mosquitos. Before I put the fly of the tent on I sheltered from the hoards and admired the view.
After a snooze in the tent, I decided to filter some water. There were plenty of small streams running into the lake and they all contained several frogs! During my snooze, the clouds that had hidden views for most of the day had finally cleared. To kill time before dinner I explored some of the side trails around camp. I was able to scramble to Jade Lake’s outlet stream in one direction then scout the way south of the lake which led towards Dip Top Gap. Thankfully the mosquitos abated a bit later which allowed me to eat dinner in relative peace. I enjoyed the colours sunset produced on Lynch Peak and Jade Lake before heading for bed.
The night was colder than I was anticipating and I slept a little cold in my summer sleeping bag. I woke at 7 to beautiful blue skies and had breakfast while I was still in my sleeping bag. I packed a day pack, grabbed my trekking poles and headed towards Dip Top Gap. My goal for the morning was to summit Dip Top Peak, an easy scramble up one of the peaks that surround Pea Soup Lake, the lake in the basin above Jade. The route up Dip Top Gap climbs a snowfield to the Saddle above Jade Lake between Lynch and Dip Top Peaks. On the way up I mostly tried to avoid the snow, it was pretty hard after the cool night and hard to get good traction on it. Next time I think traction would help on the snow but I was able to climb the snowfield without too much difficulty. In an hour from camp I made it to the gap.
The views from Dip Top Gap where stunning, Pea Soup Lake sits under Mount Daniel and the Lynch Glacier, the water was a deep blue colour and there was still evidence of winter with ice floating in it. From Dip Top Gap the scramble to Dip Top Peak was pretty straight forward. It climbs some slabs on the south side of the east ridge of the Mountain until the east ridge can be gained. The only real exposure for the climb came just below the summit as the ridge narrows out. I enjoyed the views for the summit and the warm sun. There were great views of Mount Hinman (another one to add to the list) and out to many of the other Snoqualmie region peaks.
I made quick work of the descent, the snow was now in the sun so the snowfield was a little easier to travel on. I glissaded some sections using my trekking poles to control speed and kept to the snow as much as possible because it was much faster than crossing the rock fields. By the time I got back to camp, the day had well and truly warmed up and the mosquitos were back in force. I got bitten several times packing up my camp even through layers of clothing. Before leaving Jade Lake I decided to have a swim. I got down to the lake near my campsite and took a skinny dip. I lasted about 2 seconds in the water because it was absolutely freezing but also wonderfully refreshing.
The hike back down to Marmot took about an hour and was longer than I remember from the day before. I was getting tired of rocky, rooty trails that I was happy to be back at the lake. I had worked up a sweat coming down and stopped for another swim at Marmot Lake. I definitely lasted slightly longer than my swim in Jade Lake but not by much. The hike all the way back to the car was pretty uneventful, I stopped for a quick break at the junction with the PCT. I was tired by the time I got back at 5 as it had been about a 16-mile day. I will definitely have to go back to Jade Lake, with my camera battery but overall I’m really glad I didn’t turn around.