Backpacking Washington's Alpine Lakes Wilderness
by Jeff Smoot (Falcon Guides)
© Jeff Smoot/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
Even though longer, there is not much elevation gain on this trail (our GPS registered only 2600 ft cumulative gain) and the loop can easily be done as a one day hike; however it offers several camping possibilities for those who choose to backpack.
One of the sites being right atop unnamed pass after the steepest part of the trail is conquered. This side offers one of the best views on the trail but does not have a water source nearby and provides no protection from the elements.
Much more comfortable sites can be found about half way through, at the Gallaher Head Lake, where trees protect from wind, water is within few feet, and views are worthy too.
As for the trail itself it does not offer view of larch trees as the neighboring Ingalls Lake trail but has it's own share of beauty - views, making it an attractive choice for those who want to escape the crowds heading up to Ingalls.
Conditions as of 10/8/2011 - first half of the trail was well maintained and easy to follow. We encountered multiple blowdowns on the second part of the trail, all of which could be easily navigated through.
My wife and son and daughter -in-law and 1 year old and 3 year old went up to Esmeralda Basin last week end. The trail was dry and clear. Small clear creeks passed over it now and again. The trail is on rock so the creeks did no damage. We had sun shine all the way. The fire danger was low and The woods smelled geat. Views were good. At 5,400 feet we found paches of snow in deep shady areas. My son and his wife were in fine shape so they went up out of the basin to about 6,000 feet. Next time we will take the cut off and go to Longs pass. It sits below Mt Stuart in Washington.. Fantastic views there. Happy trails to you....
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