Hiking Lenght: 6.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1400 feet
Hiking Time: 3 hours
I’ve been on several hikes near the Seattle area but have always enjoyed the ones I’ve taken on the well-known Mountain Loop Highway of the North Cascades.
When a friend of mine mentioned trying out the Lake 22 trail, I was immediately on board. This trail is moderately challenging but gives you great views of Mount Pilchuck.
There are incredible mountains, beautiful lakes, and emerald green forests that have you thinking you’ve entered into a storybook
The forest you walk through during the hike is old growth, and it has been part of the protected Lake Twenty-Two Research Natural Area since the 1940s.
It’s an excellent option for someone who wants to explore this beautiful area but is not quite ready for the longer and steeper journeys that many other trails provide.
If you are in the area of the North Cascades any time soon, I highly recommend it.
Here are all the details that you’ll want to know about hiking Lake 22, Washington.
Lake 22 Trailhead (Starting Point)
Lake 22 trailhead is about an hour north of Seattle, just east of Granite Falls. You’ll find it off of Mountain Loop Highway inside the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and when you get there, the area is well-marked by a sign on the roadside.
There is just one parking area here for the trail, which is limited.
How to Get to Lake 22
If you are coming from Seattle, take Highway 204 E and then 92 E to Granite Falls. From Granite Falls, head East on Mountain Loop Highway for approximately 13 miles (entering the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest).
You will see the trailhead and the Lake 22 parking lot to the right, about two miles past the Verlot Public Service Center.
More hiking trails in Washington:
Lake 22 Trail Description
The Lake 22 hike length is about 5.4 miles out and back to reach the lake and 6.8 miles total if you complete the lake loop as well.
During the hike, you will gain an elevation of 1,400 feet. Most hikers rank the trail as moderately challenging because it is not a gradual ascent but a rather steep one to reach the lake.
Hikers are allowed to bring their dogs, but they must remain on a leash.
You’ll start the path on a dirt staircase and well-maintained track and soon enter a beautiful green rainforest filled with ferns, moss, western hemlock, and red cedar.
The area is very wet, and you will likely always encounter water on the trail. However, a reasonable effort has gone into creating a trail to withstand the elements as best as possible.
As you make your way through the forest, you start gaining elevation. You will pass through some active creekbeds and a bridge crossing 22 Creek.
It’s relaxing to hear the sound of the rushing water as you make your way up, and you will also see glimpses of several waterfalls along the way there.
When you’ve been hiking for about a mile and a half, you’ll come to a rocky slope and have to start climbing it.
This climb continues for about 0.5 miles, and then you will re-enter the forest. This final 2.7 miles to the top of the lake is the wettest part of the journey.
The vegetation at this point is incredibly lush and beautiful. At the lake, you will see the north face of Mount Pilchuck.
You can stop here to rest and take in the view, or if you prefer to add a little more mileage, you can continue on the trail that goes around the lake (adding a bit more than a mile to your trip).
You will encounter a boulder field on this path that may tempt some hikers, but it is dangerous, so you should make sure to stick only to the path for your safety.
After you’ve admired the views, and enjoyed a snack or lunch, make your way back down to the parking area by returning the way that you came.
Use this time to once again take in the amazing forest and any views you may have missed on the way up.
Most people can complete the hike up and back in about 3 hours, so plan accordingly based on your hiking skill and the time you want to spend at the top.
Best Time to Hike Lake 22
Although the trail is open year-round, the best time to hike Lake 22 is in the late spring or summertime, as those are the times when it will most likely be driest. If you visit in the fall, you will experience the beautiful colors of the changing foliage.
Lake 22 is one of the best hiking trails near Seattle and we strongly suggest not stopping once you reach the lake and continue with the lake’s loop.
Our Tips and Recommendations
The parking lot here holds only about 50 cars, and there is no overflow parking. Considering this fact, you should plan to arrive there either very early or later in the day to ensure that you can get a spot.
If you are doing the whole trail will not be a short hike, so you need to consider what food to bring for hiking.
Since you are walking through a rainforest for most of the hike, it is very wet. You will want to wear water shoes for hiking, or you will definitely be walking with wet feet.
The Lake 22 weather in the winter months can make this hike even more challenging, and the steeper parts of the trail can be very slippery. Plan to bring microspikes for hiking to avoid slipping.
During any of the months, the Lake 22 weather can change quickly. Always be prepared for the likelihood of rain. Also, plan to bring bug spray, as there are many lake flies and other bugs around the area.
You shouldn’t need to plan for a whole day to make the Lake 22 hike in Washington. Most people can complete the up-and-back distance of about 6 miles in approximately 3 hours.
Most hikers consider the Lake 22 hike moderately challenging due to some areas of the trail that are steep and rocky. Experienced hikers may find it to be not that difficult at all.
You will need to purchase one of the following passes to park at the Lake 22 trailhead: a National Forest Recreation Day Pass and ePass, a Northwest Forest Pass, OR an America the Beautiful Interagency Pass. You can purchase them online or at several different retailers.
Yes, you can swim in Lake 22 when you reach it. It can be a refreshing place to cool off after hiking up there on a hot day. If you know you want to swim, plan on wearing or bringing your swimsuit and a towel. The water will definitely be cool all year long.
You can hike to Lake 22 in the winter, but you must remember that winter hikes are almost guaranteed to have snow or melting snow and will soak your feet, even when wearing boots. It can also be avalanche prone in the winter months, so you should always check trail conditions before heading out.
There is a good chance that you will not have cellular service in the area and during the hike. You can expect for some carriers that your service might cut off before you reach the trailhead. So if you are relying on your phone’s GPS for directions, you will want to have them printed out.
The elevation of Lake 22 is 2400 ft at its highest point. During the hike up, you will gain an elevation of 1350 ft.