Annette Lake rewards hikers with beautiful views
July 2, 2014
Hike of the Week
We finally made it to Annette Lake on June 22, a destination we’ve wanted to reach for some time.
It was hard fought, though: elevation gain, heat, fatigue, and scree made this a difficult course for us. But a 1,400-foot elevation gain, several rests and a pit stop later, we made it. And the views were well worth the journey.
I recommend this hike to anyone who loves hiking up to an alpine lake; and doesn’t mind a little climbing and tip-toeing through scree (rock fragments that make footing difficult).
The journey begins at Exit 47 off I-90. That exit is the entry to the Asahel Curtis/Denny Creek area. Get there early to find a prime parking spot. The parking lot fills up fast. When we got there after noon, we had to park outside in a pull out on the road instead of in the lot.
As you walk toward the trailhead, you will hear the rushing waters of the river tumbling over the huge boulders. When we were there, the 0.7 mile Asahel Curtis trailhead was closed for construction.
The Annette Lake approach trail, also about 0.7 of a mile, is an old logging road and veers off to the right. It winds up to the John Wayne Trail above. Cross a well-maintained wooden bridge that crosses over the water running noisily underneath. Have your camera handy; it’s a spectacular shot.
After you make your way up to the John Wayne Trail, cross it and step onto the Annette Lake Trail. There’s a sign at the crossing that helps you find your way.
The trail, filled with switchbacks, ascends the Humpback Creek Valley. The switchbacks continue for about 1.5 miles and we huffed and puffed to the highest point, 3,600 feet. Then it levels off.
But your trek to the lake is not over yet. Tread carefully through beds of rock fragments, which have tumbled down the slope over the years. There is at least one avalanche chute above where you’re hiking and for some distance you will see nothing but rock fragments above and underneath you.
If you hike with small children, watch them carefully as they walk over the scree, because it is difficult walking. You may even want to pick them up.
Once you’re beyond the scree, you have the hike made. About one-quarter mile before you see the pristine alpine waters, look up. A wooden sign will point the way to a restroom.
The lake is considered an alpine lake, even though there are trees all around. Open sites with fire pits are available for campers but you would have to have stamina and experience to carry camping gear all the way up the trail.
Annette Lake offers several inviting spots on the shore for resting and for wading. You may also swim, but be cautious. The water temperature is icy cold.
Waterfalls tumble down the mountain side, feeding the lake even more snow melt, making it one of the most pristine lakes in the area. Mountains, with snow still standing in pockets and valleys, stretch to the skies above.
The sight is magnificent, a reward for persevering.
Trail Difficulty: This trail has a difficulty rating of three out of five on the www.wta.org website, mainly due to the elevation gain and rock fragments on the trail.
Kid Friendly: Yes, but keep the rock fragments and elevation gain in mind. Not stroller-friendly.
Dog friendly: Yes, on leash.
Passes: Northwest Forest Pass required
By the numbers: 7.5 miles round-trip. Elevation gain: 1,400 feet; highest point 3,600 feet.
Features: Rivers, lakes, waterfalls, old growth forest remnants, established campsites
Trail review: 5 out of 5 stars. Well maintained, better than expected, beautiful views
Parking: 3 out of 5 stars. Fills up fast.
Bathrooms: 3 out of 5 stars for parking lot bathroom. Lock is broken and they were out of toilet paper. Trail bathroom: 5 out of 5 stars. Private, clean, nice feature to have after long hike
Scenery: So beautiful throughout, 5 out of 5.
Go back again? Yes, for possible overnight trip.
Getting there: I-90 exit 47 (Asahel Curtis/Denny Creek). Turn right from the off-ramp and continue 0.25 mile, then turn left on Forest Road 5590. You’ll find the parking area in 0.3 mile.
Emily Hockett and her husband Van enjoy hiking in the Northwest. She writes about their hikes on her blog. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.