The Snow Lake Trail in Washington's Alpine Lakes Wilderness is one of the best trails near Seattle and within the entire state. Starting from Snoqualmie's Alpental area, the trail winds its way through dense Douglas fir forests before reaching high alpine meadows and a gorgeous view of Snow Lake.
The Snow Lake Trail is most popular during the summer months, from June to September, when the snow has melted. Weekends tend to be busier, so if you prefer a quieter experience, consider hiking on weekdays or very early in the morning.
It is important to be prepared for changing weather conditions, as the area can experience sudden temperature drops and storms even during the summer.
Make sure to bring appropriate gear, including sturdy hiking boots, layers of clothing, sunscreen, insect repellent, and plenty of water and snacks.
Snow Lake is also very close to some other Pacific Northwest towns and cities, like Wenatchee, Leavenworth, and Ellensburg, that are worth checking out.
Snow Lake Trail: At a Glance
Location: Snoqualmie Area of Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Trailhead Coordinates: 47.446111082340636, -121.42362415142736
Length: 7 miles (out and back)
Elevation Gain: 1,600'-1,800'
Pet Friendly? Yes, but pets need to be on a leash.
Kid Friendly? No, there are lots of rocks in the trail and steep sections.
Snow Lake Trail Map
Use the map below to navigate to the Snow Lake Trail:
Snow Lake Trail Permit
A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking at the trailhead. If you plan to camp overnight, you will need to obtain a Wilderness Permit, which can be obtained at the trailhead or in advance from the ranger station.
Best Time to Visit
Without a doubt, the best time to hike the Snow Lake Trail at Snoqualmie Pass is in the summer or fall. The trail is extraordinarily popular, so we highly recommend going, if you can, on a weekday.
The parking lot, which can hold around 100 cars, fills up around 10:00, and you'll end up having to park down the road in an also-very long line of cars.
Hiking the Snow Lake Trail
The Snow Lake Trail starts from the north side of the Alpental parking area. You'll notice a large trailhead sign and a machine from which you can buy a day pass if you don't have the annual version of the Northwest Forest Pass.
The trail goes down the wide road very briefly before taking the righthand trail uphill along well-established wood steps. There is a bathroom in this area, so make sure to take advantage of it before you head into the woods.
You'll pass another trailhead sign with a map before you start heading uphill. The path winds through the woods with some uphill sections and some flat sections. The view on the left gets better, and better the further you go.
The trail does get rockier as it progresses, though, so keep an eye on your feet and any young hikers with you.
Getting to the Lake
The lake is a stunning alpine gem nestled amidst towering peaks and granite cliffs. Its crystal-clear waters reflect the surrounding mountains, creating a picturesque setting. Many hikers find it a perfect spot for a picnic or a refreshing swim, although the water can be quite chilly even in the summer months.
The trail wraps around the north side of the lake, offering a few different spots to get down close to the water. If you really want a workout, you can continue on to Gem Lake, which is significantly further along the trail.
Flora and Fauna
Along the trail, hikers can encounter a variety of plant and animal life. The lower sections of the trail are adorned with lush vegetation, including mosses, ferns, and wildflowers, while higher elevations offer glimpses of hardy alpine plants and subalpine meadows.
Wildlife such as marmots, mountain goats, pikas, and a variety of bird species can also be spotted in the area.
Camping Near Snow Lake Trail
There are a few great campgrounds near the Snow Lake and Snoqualmie area that you're going to want to check out!
Salmon la Sac Campground, located in Kittitas County, Washington, is a great starting point for camping adventures, as well as day trips and longer vacations.
The campground is situated at the base of the stunning Stuart Range, close to the Pacific Crest Trail, so there’s no shortage of incredible sights to explore.
The Denny Creek Campground in North Bend, Washington, is located on the Snoqualmie River near the Wagon Road Trail. It's a prime destination for anyone camping near Seattle. It's open from May 27th to September 29th every year.
Tinkham Campground in North Bend, Washington, is on the South Fork Snoqualmie River in Mt. Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest. It's popular with visitors and locals.
Hikes Near Snoqualmie
The Snoqualmie area is home to a huge number of incredible hikes. If you're in the area for a weekend or more, there are several other trails that you might want to check out. These include:
Mount Si is a popular hiking destination located in the state of Washington, United States. It is situated in the Cascade Range and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area, including the Snoqualmie Valley and the Puget Sound.
The highlight of hiking Mount Si is reaching the summit, which stands at an elevation of 4,167' feet with 246' prominence.
Little Si is a popular hiking trail located near North Bend, Washington, in the United States. It is a smaller sibling to the nearby Mount Si and offers a shorter but still rewarding hiking experience.
The Little Si trail is considered moderately difficult, making it suitable for hikers of various skill levels.
Rattlesnake Lake in King County, Washington, is a gorgeous bright blue lake in the Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area. It is 30 miles from Seattle and very popular.
The lake's incredible setting is well-loved with day trippers from the Seattle area and all around the Pacific Northwest. The lake is part of the larger Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area.
The Rattlesnake Ledge Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Washington, along with Mount Si and Mount Pilchuck. We highly recommend making your trip on a weekday if possible.
Because it's so close to Seattle and Little Si, you won't be the only one enjoying the views over a weekend.