A friend recently shared photos of her hike on this trail so I added it to my list as I headed north in my ongoing attempt to escape wildfire. By the time I arrived smoke had shifted so I continued north and spent a couple weeks in the Leavenworth/Lake Wenatchee area (blog link). Soon enough the winds shifted again and it was time to head south where AQI was looking much better. I first spent some time at Cle Elum Lake where I walked from the waterline to the mapped shoreline, an amazing 2.5 miles.
I enjoyed following the river channel while being entertained by the clouds. The shoreline mountains were colorful and had me looking at my maps to discover more nearby trails.
As I reached the far end of the lake’s boundary I wondered how long ago it was last full. The nearby campground would provide a convenient opportunity to watch wildlife at dawn and dusk.
The green line represents the 2.5 miles I walked on what was once the lake.
It was a brisk 34F when I arrived at the trailhead to begin my hike to Rachel Lake. It’s a 4-mile hike to the lake. On the ridge is Rampart Lakes which was my intended destination or beyond to Lila Lake.
I was a little early for best fall colors but there were teases like here on the shoulders of Hibox Mountain.
And some nice color along the trail with views into the canyon and I believe Box Ridge in the distance.
As much as I was motivated to get to the Rampart Lakes and beyond, this trail zapped my joy. The first 3 miles were nicely graded but the last mile to Rachel Lake was steep roots and rocks with hardly any dirt or flat areas in between. This section needs to be rebuilt as this is a very high use trail. If they are going to keep the same path it needs steps or stairs but it seems much better to build on a contour with switchbacks. I should have turned around when I reached this hell because it wasn’t even close to being knee rehab friendly.
Good thing there were a few water features for distractions.
I even found some late season penstemon.
The profile gives you can idea of the steep rooty rocky section. This was well outside my league and turned my smile upside down. I should have done my own research instead of just being giddy from my friend’s photos. There are a couple of other entry trails that might provide better options to access the higher trails.
Back at Cle Elum Lake I found more fall colors to help me return to my happy spot.
After that very challenging day at Rachel Lake I needed a recovery option and found this rail trail to be perfect.
It seems rainy season caught up with me. No complaints since we need rain to clean the air and drown the wildfires. I waited out this storm at a dispersed campsite near Cle Elum Lake.
ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 14-18, 2021
- USFS – Alpine Lakes Wilderness
- USFS – Rachel Lake Trail
- Coal Mines Trail
- Map – National Geographic, Alpine Lakes Wilderness
- Book – Alpine Lakes Wilderness: The Complete Hiking Guide