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Black Lake

North Cascades

Location

North Cascades -- Pasayten
View map below

Length

8.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 780 ft.
Highest Point: 3982 ft.

Rating

2.89 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 
 

While snow still coats the high places of the Methow Valley, the hike to Black Lake offers early-season wildflowers amidst the recovery from a devastating 2003 wildfire. The 8-mile round-trip hike to Black Lake offers the chance to view the abundance of color that springs up after a wildfire. Toasted by a 2003 wildfire that left only a few fir islands in its wake, this corner of the Pasayten Wilderness is recovering nicely, with pioneering penstemon, paintbrush, fireweed and clematis clambering among the avalanche-deposited boulders littering the Lake Creek drainage.

The star of the show, though, is spicy-scented snowbrush, the waxy-leaved shrub that produces puffballs of white flowers in late spring. Both fire-dependent and fireprovoking, its terpene-filled leaves are the perfect fuel for the periodic low-intensity fires that are necessary to keep this forest healthy.

The trail begins in a grove of trees near Lake Creek and rarely leaves its side. Climb steadily up a snowbrush-covered hillside and enter the Pasayten Wilderness. Pine and fir trees are replaced by steep talus slopes. Thick tangles of blueberry and quaking aspen crowd the trail. There is precious little shade along the way, yet miraculously, several copses of evergreens escaped the fire, offering a break from the sun.

At 2.2 miles, cross a small side creek, the only one of many on the trail that necessitates getting your feet wet; at 4 miles cross another trickle of a creek and reach Black Lake. Well-used camping spots cluster on the southeast end of Black Lake, where fire-spared trees provide much-needed shade. Curl up under one for a nap or to thumb through your wildflower field guide (Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia and the Inland Northwest is the best choice for hikes east of the Cascade crest).

WTA Pro Tip: Wildflowers are commonly encountered along the trail. Keep a look out for bunchberry, Columbia lily, fireweed, red paintbrush, shrubby and Chelan penstemon, and western blue clematis.

 

Black Lake

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.7831, -120.1613 Open map in new window

Trailhead

North Cascades -- Pasayten

Lake Creek (#500)

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Green Trails Coleman Peak No. 20

Getting There

From SR-20, just west of Winthrop, drive north on West Chewuch River Rd for 6.7 miles; continue north on FR-51 for 7 miles, then FR-5160 for another 7.3 miles; turn left on FR-100 for 2.2 miles to trailhead parking.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 

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Black Lake

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