There’s not shortage of stunning winter hikes near Seattle. But, there are some winter hikes that simply trump the others. Heather Lake is one of those hikes. The payoff is a stunning, snowy landscape at the base of Mount Pilchuck.
The Heather Lake trailhead (Map) is located 56.6 miles from Seattle off the Mountain Loop Highway (you’ll see a sign pointing you down the Mount Pilchuck Access Road). Most of the trip is freeway or highway driving, but the last section to the trailhead is a forest service road. Check the latest Washington Trails Association trip reports for recent road conditions.
The hike to Heather Lake is listed as either easy or moderate. It’s a 4.6-mile jaunt with an elevation gain of 1,034 feet. You can make the Heather Lake hike anytime of year, but I think it’s especially beautiful in the winter. The trail can be conquered as a hike or a snowshoe. When I was recently there with my dad, most of the trail was snow free except the final mile (or so) to Heather Lake. We both wore winter hiking boots with microspikes to help with the compact, icy snow.
The start of the Heather Lake hike takes you through second-growth forest (you might notice springboard notches in the leftover stumps). You eventually meet an old skid road before climbing the rest of the way through true old-growth forest. At the top, you’ll find a stunning view of Heather Lake (pretty much frozen over when we were there) and its surrounding peaks. I posted a picture of the lake on Facebook, and a friend who’d made the hike before commented: “The view is so breathtaking once you arrive; like heaven opened a little door.” I thought that summed it up pretty well.
Depending on the time of year, you can add an extra .6-miles to your hike by walking around the lake. Just like the main hiking trail, snowshoes can be helpful in the winter (be careful of avalanche dangers). The snow was too much to even make a full loop around the lake when we were there.
If you’re looking for a winter hike near Seattle, look no further than Heather Lake. It takes a little bit of effort to get to the top, but the payoff is well worth it. Pack a snack or lunch, post up near the lake, and enjoy the “heavenly” view.
Have you ever done the winter hike to Heather Lake? How was your experience? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Don’t forget to also check out Seattle Bloggers for more great places to visit around the Emerald City!
And if showshoeing is more of your winter jam, be sure to check out our posts about Gold Creek Pond, Keechelus Lake, Mount Baker, Wenatchee Crest, Mount Rainier, and even Crater Lake in Oregon. The options around here are endless.