The Lakes of Chelan Ridge

The Lakes of Chelan Ridge
Between the lonely Methow River and depths of Lake Chelan's 50-mile span lies a little brother to the mighty Cascade Range in Washington State, lofty Chelan Ridge and its Lake Chelan/Sawtooth Wilderness. From any of the areas access portals--Gold Creek, Twisp River or Foggy Dew Creek on the Methow Side, or the ridge above South Navarre Campground from the south or Prince Creek, which involves a pleasant ride on the Lady of the Lake, Lake Chelan's public transport--the hiker can make long linear routes or take loop trails. Trail bikes are allowed on many trails below the crest, so go midweek and stay high.

Eagle Lakes

Start at the Eagle Lake Trailhead, 11 miles from Gold Creek Road, which lies between the towns of wisp and Pateros, and ramble past the Crater Lake trail at 0.7 miles and the Martin Creek Trail cutoff at 2.5 miles. Your goal is to pass over Sawtooth Ridge into the heart of the Chelan Crest country as quickly as possible. First, stop at one of Upper Eagle Lake's (7,110') campsites, a half-mile side trip 5.8 miles from the trailhead, with rock walls dazzling at twilight and glowing in reds.

Boiling Lake

Back on the main trail, climb a mile to Horsehead Pass (7,590'), leaving the Methow Valley and dropping into the tantalizing clutches of the high ridge and shallow Boiling Lake, tucked up against Martin Peak in a large meadow. Use established campsites to save the grasslands, and spend the afternoon doing freestyle wandering in any direction (north toward Hoodoo Pass is great).

Surprise Lake

Leave your loop for a long day hike or lightweight one-night backpack, walking westerly on Trail 1255 one mile to its end at Trail 1259 (Chelan Summit Trail). Turn right, climbing the west end of a ridge, before leveling off to views of Cub Lake, Finney Peak and the mountains west of Lake Chelan, and then descending into the Prince Creek drainage. Black bears frequent these ridges in autumn, gorging on blueberries. After crossing Prince Creek, gain 1,100 feet in 1.8 miles to a junction with Trail 1250, turning left towards Surprise Lake. Another left in 1.3 miles, to the lake, is for fishermen, swimmers or overnight campers. Continuing ahead on trail 1250 contours incredible heather and meadows to a saddle above Indian Head Basin, where the magnificent views take a while to absorb. Surprise Lake (6,200') is directly below, eastwardly, and the vertiginous expanse of Sawtooth Ridge country dominates long views south and east. On return trip, take a side jaunt on the ridge east of Prince Creek to Dry Lake and a lofty perch above Bernice Lake.

Cooney Lake

The route to Cooney Lake is mostly leisurely. Start westerly as the previous day, but take the left at the Chelan Summit Trail and elevate gently to the marvelous pastoral saddle where the western slopes of Martin Peak meet the east side of Old Maid Mountain. At 3.2 miles from Boiling Lake, the Switchback Peak Trail (4340) grinds out 1,000 feet of elevation before contouring above Merchants Basin at 8,000 feet, to a ridge high above Cooney Lake (7,241'). Head down to the shores of this elegant cirque and lake, with a new facet of Martin Peak poised above.

Martin Lakes

Martin Lakes are a side trip, a delaying tactic to slow your advance back to the world. They are a short romp up from trail 429, 2.2 miles northeast of a horse camp along Cooney Lake's outlet, and are set beneath yet another spotless mountain backdrop. Back on trail 429, the six-and-a-half miles back to your car is filled with pledges to return to this place with more time.

Article Written By Barry Truman

Barry Truman has published many outdoor activity articles in the past five years with International Real Travel Adventures, the Everett Herald and Seattle Post Intelligencer newspapers, Backpacking Light Magazine and Trails.com. He has a forestry degree from the University of Washington.

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