Lake 22 is one of Washington’s most famous alpine lakes. It ranks up there with Lake Colchuck for drama, beauty, and crowds. It’s much closer to Seattle that Colchuck is, and the approach is easier too. So it truly does get very crowded. Which is probably why we hadn’t been there until now. BB and I definitely prefer a little solitude when we go hike, or at least a sparsely-trafficked trail. Lake 22 is extremely popular.
We went on a Saturday morning, and we left home at 0600 in order to get there early enough to avoid crowds. We made the trailhead at 0645 ish and started up, with several cars already in the lot. But we didn’t see many people on the trail. The Lake 22 trail is a lollipop, with the lake forming the center of the loop. It’s 2.5 miles to the lake, about a mile and a half around, and then back out the way we came.
The trail was in good condition except for a few downed trees we had to climb over or under. There’s about 1400′ of gain from the trailhead to the lake, so you have to be fit for about 550′ per mile, or a 10% grade. The trail is by turns well-manicured, rocky, rooty, and this time of year, snowy. May in the Pacific Northwest is a real “spring at the trailhead, winter at the destination” time of year.
Lake 22 is called that – it doesn’t have any other name – because originally the alpine lakes were just numbered on maps from flyovers or rapid fastpack exploration by the US Geological Service. They were named later, by more comprehensive surveyors. But Lake 22 was so accessible, so close to major population centers, and so immediately and incredibly popular that by the time the government got around to naming the lakes, the designation had stuck – people where already using it. Doubtless the lake had a Native American name, but if anyone knows it, I haven’t figured out how to find it. The nearby mountain is named Mount Pilchuck, which is a Chinook word meaning “Red Water”.
On the way down, we counted almost 200 people and only 8-10 of them were wearing masks. I know it’s unlikely to transmit Covid-19 outdoors, but still people, mask up. It’s for health and safety for everyone. Additionally, there was a good bit of trash and bagged dogshit on the trail. If you can’t clean up after yourselves, don’t hike.
So, Lake Twenty Two is gorgeous and accessible, but if you don’t like crowds or the attendant detritus, this may not be the hike for you. Overall, it’s about 6.5 miles and 1500′ gain if you do the loop around the lake. It was slow going because of the snow, but definitely worth it for me.