Feel Accomplished After This Challenging Hike in Washington

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Hiking through the dense forest in the Pacific North West with a rain coat.

Hiking in Washington is an incredible experience, but hiking to Heather Lake is beyond stunning. It is extraordinary.

This hike may be a bit challenging for some. However, if you have the ability, the hiking shoes, and the excitement for nature, Heather Lake is well worth the trek to get there.

About Heather Lake

Heather Lake is in the North Cascades of Washington State and is a great place to hike, especially if you love views of majestic mountain peaks, crystal blue mountain lakes, and time spent within all that Mother Nature has to offer.

The Heather Lake Trailhead is just off Highway 2, Stevens Pass Highway, and east of Granite Falls and Everett, just north of Seattle. It’s right along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Heather Lake surrounded by steep cliffs in the North Cascades in Washington.

The access road can be pretty rugged depending on the season, so be aware. It’s best to be in a four-wheel-drive vehicle in case of inclement weather and to prepare for potholes. 

Once you reach the Pilchuck Access Road, you’ll come across the Heather Lake Trailhead parking sign on the left in about 1.4 miles. Parking is on the right, with overflow parking just down the road and to your left.

You will need a Northwest Forest Pass to park here, available at ranger stations. Prepare ahead of time to enjoy this hike without worrying about getting a ticket.

How Long Is the Heather Lake Trail? 

The Heather Lake Trail is short, but it is steep and can be pretty challenging. This 5.4-mile trail gains elevation as you step out of the parking lot. But the length and the height will be worth it. 

You’ll hike through a few switchbacks while climbing through the forest and eventually come out on an old logging road. Heading back into the forested trail, the closer you get to the lake, the marshier and wetter the land will become.

As you hike, be aware of the ever-changing terrain. But that’s part of the adventure with this trail. It should take about 2.5 hours to walk. As long as you prepare, the journey and the reward of Heather Lake will be invaluable.

Traveler’s Tip: This waterfall in Washington has a spooky name but its beauty will give you chills!

Is the Trail Difficult? 

With a moderate rating, the Heather Lake Trail can be challenging. The parking lot starts at around 1,400 feet, with an elevation gain of just over 1,000 feet.

But beware that elevation gain can get tricky right out of the gate. You’ll start right away with some switchbacks to get you climbing.

Two mature women enjoy a rainy hike through the woods.

Just after the logging road, you’ll begin to gain elevation again. There will also be roots and slippery run-off from melting snow, which could happen all year long.

While the trail can be difficult with the elevation gain, roots, and dripping water, the boardwalks around the lake make the hike a bit easier. The paths help you not to get stuck in the marshland that surrounds the lake.

These marshlands prove to be a place of beauty. Many plants and wildlife call this area home, giving you ample opportunities to glimpse an animal hurrying through the water.

What Will I See Along the Trail? 

Heather Lake Trail is an excellent place for a scenic hike. It winds through old-growth forest and subalpine meadows. You’ll see ferns and bright red berries on the forest floor, along with towering pines. 

Because of the almost constant run-off, watch for tiny waterfalls. You’ll also come across various wildflowers, including marsh marigolds and trilliums. Heather Lake Trail is also a great place to see wildlife, including many songbirds, eagles, deer, and maybe the occasional bear sighting.

Once you arrive, please take advantage of the trail surrounding the lake. The reflections of the surrounding forest, combined with the serenity of the mountain water, are perfect places to sit and soak in nature. Plus, this is the ideal opportunity to take in views of Mount Pilchuck in the distance, with its peak reaching 5,344 feet.

Whether hiking to the lake for the wildlife, fishing, scenic views, or just forest bathing, you’ll experience it all on this Washington hiking trail.

Can You Fish Heather Lake, Washington?

Because the Heather Lake Trail is such a sought-after hiking spot, most people visit with the goal of hiking, not fishing. However, you can fish at Heather Lake, and if you know what to expect, you could walk away with some excellent rewards.

The most commonly caught fish in the lake are rainbow trout. There may be other species, but this is what you should be planning for. While hiking is the principal reason most people don’t fish here, another reason is the difficulty due to the extensive shallows that surround the lake, making it best to fish from a flotation device. 

If you feel so inclined, pack up your inflatable paddleboard or kayak, grab your fishing gear, and prepare for a hike that may end with some fish for dinner. While you can camp at Heather Lake, you cannot have campfires, so you may have to get creative with your dinner.

Is Heather Lake the Same As Lake 22?

There is some confusion surrounding the Heather Lake and Lake 22 trails, with many thinking they are the same. While they are close to each other, and both end at gorgeous mountain lakes, they are different.

The Lake 22 Trail, just like the Heather Lake Trail, is near Granite Falls. However, the Lake 22 Trail is a 6.8-mile loop taking around 3.5 hours to complete, while the Heather Lake Trail is a 5.4-mile out and back trail that takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete.

Close up of a hiker's boots on wooden planks near the edge of a lake as the sun rises over the distant trees.

Both offer gorgeous views of mountain peaks, towering pines, and lush undergrowth, culminating in dazzling mountain lakes. Grab your hiking boots and get started. Whatever trail you choose, you won’t be disappointed, but you will face a challenge.

Is Hiking Heather Lake Worth It?

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” Hiking Heather Lake is precisely that. It may not be easy, but it is worth it. From the second your feet hit the ground at the trailhead, your senses will come alive. 

From the smells of fresh air and pine to the sights of mountain peaks and forested greens and reds, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Once you have your first glance of Heather Lake, whatever aches and pains you may have felt will melt away.

What’s your favorite hiking trail in Washington?

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