Snowshoeing to Skyline Lake

Snowshoeing to Skyline Lake

By: Shelby December 27, 2013 10:00 am 1 comment

This Christmas Day, we decided to celebrate by heading to the mountains for a winter adventure! We’d never been snowshoeing before today, but I’d been dying to get out there to see what it’s all about. It’s still pretty early in the season for snow, so our options were fairly limited. However, we set our sights on Skyline Lake in Stevens Pass, which had a base snow depth of about 32″. Perfect for us! After a totally festive breakfast of huevos rancheros, we headed east for our big adventure. The trailhead is just across the highway from Stevens Pass ski resort, conveniently leading up from the overflow parking area. Parking is free too, no pass required. We arrived at about 11:30, donned our snow pants for the first time in a long time, and climbed the hill towards the power lines and into the forest. Skyline Lake

Ok, full disclosure up front: this hike was *hard.* The first mile of the 1.5 mile hike in was a 1100 foot trudge. Walking in snowshoes is like wearing swimming flippers backwards. It’s a little awkward at first, but once you get into a rhythm and realize you can’t ever really turn around gracefully, it’s okay. The climb would probably have been much easier if I hadn’t been wearing 2 layers of fleece under my jacket and long underwear under my snow pants. After going about 50 feet up the hill, we were already stripping our gloves and hats off and opening all available vents. The trail turned abruptly up the hill a few times, keeping each next stretch invisible until we reached it, so the whole time we and another small group hiking along with us were thinking “have we gone a mile yet??” Of course, I didn’t have Runkeeper going either, because I knew our pace would be embarrassingly slow (about 1.5mph in the end…), so I couldn’t actually check on our progress. Oh well, we had to do it the old fashioned way, by just keeping on going!

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Those little dots are people

Those little dots are people

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Definitely the toughest part of the climb was the steep stretch along the hillside that was exposed to the sun. It was a fairly sunny day, so it was easy to heat up. Luckily it was much cooler at 5000′ elevation than 4000′. The views of the slopes directly across from us and of the mountains all around made the climb worth it, though. We stopped to catch our breath and look out at the mountains for a few minutes, and surely the climb must be almost over! Yes, it was. But not quite!

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The trail forked through the forest a few times, but generally followed the same path, until eventually it didn’t. We reached a fork in the tracks and stood there about to play eenie meenie miney moe until a pair of hikers came along towards us. The lake was close, they said! So close! We took the left fork away from the snowmobile path, and this was where the snowshoeing became really fun. It was pretty much like a winter wonderland before, but now we really felt like we were in Narnia. Narrow tracks in the fresh powder led us deeper into the pristine forest of fir trees, and with no climbing, we were able to finally catch our breaths and enjoy ourselves.

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The lake, or the wide open area where we assumed the lake was, came into view within just a few more minutes. The view was breathtaking! Sky Mountain was peeking just about the trees opposite to where we stood Narrow tracks skirted around the wide open expanse of the lake, which was completely iced over and covered in pristine snow. A couple of hikers sat on the far side of the lake. We dropped our gear in a good spot and pulled out our mugs to enjoy some hot tea made from the fresh powder.

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And, of course, we left the lighter for the stove, that we had purchased on our way out to the pass, down in the car. That was a major bummer. So, no tea for us, but some definite frolicking took place. The trail continues around the lake and up Skyline Ridge, but without the tea to energize us, we decided to head back down the hill for some hot food at the ski lodge.

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On the way down the mountain, we ran into Santa Claus! He was out enjoying a post-work snowshoe run. Crazy, but I guess Santa is a crazy guy. Running in snowshoes for pleasure is a concept I have yet to fully grasp. We made it down the hill much more quickly than we climbed it, but still slower than we would have hiking normally. As we came down in the early afternoon, the clouds were rolling in, and we saw more families slowly making their way up the steep slope, to either go up the lake or find good sledding spots. Our excursion spanned about 2.5 hours total. The hike, though fairly short, packed a ton into its tiny package, and took quite a bit out of us. Our table at the restaurant afterwards was a very welcome sight!

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Difficulty: moderate
Things we forgot: lighter, and sunscreen would have been nice
No parking pass required
Directions: Take Highway 2 to Stevens Pass Ski Area. Just after you pass under the pedestrian footbridge, pull into the north parking area to the left.

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