If you've spent any time hiking in Washington, you'll know the state is full of incredible glacial lakes. We've ranked the best of these bright blue, freezing-cold lakes!
Washington State is perhaps the most diverse state in the country. From desert landscapes to stunning isolated peaks, the state has something for everyone. Some of the most popular hikes in the state lead to or pass by glacial lakes.
There are over 8,000 lakes in Washington State, and each one has something different to offer. This is particularly true of the glacial lakes. These lakes are fed by melting glacier ice and are always at relatively high elevations.
The hikes to these glacial lakes in Washington aren't always easy, but once you reach your destination, you won't regret the effort it took to get there!
What is a Glacial Lake?
A glacial lake, as the name implies, is any lake that's been created due to glacier activity. These lakes for on, under, or near glaciers and are usually bright blue and very, very cold.
Best Glacial Lakes in Washington
Elevation: 5,574 ft
The hike to Colchuck Lake is one of the most popular trails in Washington. It starts at the Stuart Lake Trailhead and takes intrepid hikers ready to ascend around 2,300 feet to the stunning glacier lake nestled beneath Dragontail Peak.
The trailhead is on Forest Service Road 7601, sometimes as FS road #7601 or as Mountaineer's Creek Road. The best time to hike to Colchuck Lake is in the summer or fall. But keep in mind, the higher you go in elevation the earlier you'll see snowfall. It's not uncommon for days of snow in mid-October in this area.
Elevation: 1,201 ft
Diablo Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Washington. It's a manmade reservoir in the North Cascades mountain range and was created by Diablo Dam. If you're driving along Highway 20, the lake is impossible to miss with several mountain peaks towering behind it.
The best time to visit the lake is during the summer when the highway is easy to navigate, and so are the hiking trails. The Diablo Lake Trail along the lake's shore is a very popular trail that runs for almost 4 miles.
Elevation: 6,466 ft
The isolated Lake Ingalls is not easy to access. It requires around 4 miles of hiking and 2,900 feet. The lake is bright blue and freezes throughout the winter. If you visit through July it's likely that you'll see ice on the lake.
Another draw of this lake is the prevalence of mountain goats at the lake and Ingalls Pass.
Elevation: 1,100 feet
Lake Chelan was created by glacier movement over millions of years. It is the largest natural lake in Washington and sits at an elevation of around 1,100 feet. The lake is incredibly 50.5 miles long (81.3 kilometers) and takes its name from the Salish, meaning "Deep Water." The lake is well-named as it reaches a maximum depth of 1,486 feet.
The lake is very popular for boating, swimming, and fishing. On the shores of the lake, you'll find a unique town that also draws visitors to the region- Stehekin. The town is only accessible via Lake Chelan, on foot, on horseback, or plane.
Elevation: 1,873 ft
Lake Wenatchee is part of Lake Wenatchee State Park and is incredibly popular throughout the summer. It's 25 minutes from Leavenworth, where you're going to find some truly incredible hikes.
The lake hit a maximum depth of 244 feet and stretches for 5 miles. There's also a small, scenic island in the lake near the south shore called Emerald Island.
Elevation: 5,900 ft
Of all the lakes on this list, Colonial Lake is the hardest to access. It's located high in North Cascades National Park near the tallest waterfall in the continental United States-- Colonial Creek Falls.
If you're in eye-shot of Colonial Lake, you're likely hiking into climb one of several peaks around the lake, including Colonial Peak and Snowfield Peak.
Upper Snow Lakes
Elevation: 5,600 ft
Also located in the fabled Enchantments region, Upper Snow Lakes is a beautiful blue glacier lake that thru-hikers often stop at to camp. The lake is easily accessible from the shore but is incredibly cold throughout the year.
Along its banks, you'll find a variety of campsites, all of which are only reservable if you win one in a much-sought-after lottery. On the far side of the lake, you'll see the towering walls of The Temple, one of the most distinctive mountains in the Enchantments.
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