10 Best Western Washington Hikes to Lakes You Can Actually Swim In – Seattle Met | Gmx Pharm

The joke is told on hiking trails across the Northwest: “There’d better be a Starbucks up there.” But with hundreds of clear mountain lakes, what awaits at the end of Washington hikes might even beat a Frappuccino. These swimming holes are fed by glaciers and fresh rains, usually with a stunning backdrop.

Keep in mind that at high altitudes, these lakes can be a lot colder than they look. Remote locations are hardly the place to risk hypothermia or injury from a cliff jump. The Washington Trails Association has compiled tips for dipping into alpine waters and recommends no cannonball. The organization is also our preferred source for hike details such as trailhead location and current conditions.

Don’t want to hike first? Check out our list of swimming spots closer to the road.

Colchuck Lake

8 miles round trip | Near Leavenworth

As the entrance pool to the Enchantments, Colchuck swarms with hikers as soon as the snow melts—and often before it. With lung-splitting switchbacks and creek crossings to reach the lake shore, a swim certainly looks tempting. But since part of the turquoise water has just dripped off a glacier — that’s the Colchuck Glacier above — it’s a lot colder than it looks. People have been known to pack floaties.

summit lake

6 miles round trip | North of Mount Rainier National Park

With potholes large enough to swallow a golf cart on the dirt road to the trailhead’s trailhead, it’s easy to assume that the walking route north of Mount Rainier will be intense. But the dog-friendly trail leads to scenic Summit Lake with hardly a steep step, though the short spur steepens to a scenic ridge above the lake. A bonus swimming spot, Twin Lake, is about a third of the way up, but a larger peak is worth the longer journey.

Dewey Lakes

6 miles round trip | East of Mount Rainier National Park

A trailhead just outside the national park serves several popular routes, including the Pacific Crest Trail. While the trail north leads to the very popular Sheep Lake and its many campgrounds, heading south it passes through meadows of flowers for a few miles before dropping into a cluster of lakes. Stick to the largest Dewey Lake and its various access points, and note that the window between snowmelt, bug season, and bathing season is narrow this high on the hills surrounding Mount Rainier.

lake serenity

8.2 miles round trip | highway 2

The first detour on the intense trek to Serene is anything but; Bridal Veil Falls plunges more than a thousand feet down the rocky slope below Mount Index. Further uphill and surrounded by the same rugged landscape, Lake Serene offers one of the best backdrops for swimming. Given the popularity of the hike, expect company and stay on the trail around the lake itself to stop erosion on the shore.

Mason Lake

6.5 miles round trip | highway 90

One of the most popular mountain trails near Seattle is named after Ira Spring, who authored a number of hiking books and was a local conservationist for decades. Mason Lake, located behind a series of switchbacks on the Ira Spring Trail, offers overnight camping and a swimming spot surrounded by evergreens.

Denny Creek

2 miles round trip | highway 90

Not many breathtaking wilderness hikes start under a freeway, but one of the first landmarks on this trail is the passage under the tall bridge that holds Interstate 90. Not long after, the route reaches Denny Creek, whose water-eroded, rocky base has become a natural waterslide. No, it’s not a lake, but every summer hikers turn it into a wild water park, perfect for kids looking for shallow splash pools and short slides into a babbling brook.

Lake Crescent

2 miles round trip | Olympic Peninsula

With several motorable beaches for swimming, the unusually clear Lake Crescent is a particularly inviting corner of Olympic National Park. On the north side of the lake, the Spruce Railroad Trail enters parts of the expanse not followed by roads, and a mile from the east end it passes a portion of the shore called Devil’s Punchbowl. A walking bridge separates the pool from the main lake, but be warned: it’s still very chilly.

silver lake

11 miles round trip | Olympic Peninsula

When heat grips western Washington, the Olympics can serve as a less-searing respite just across from Puget Sound. Because the route stays in the Buckhorn Wilderness and not the national park, dogs are also welcome. The longer hike means fewer crowds, and the pool at 5,400 feet isn’t big enough to stay freezing year-round.

Baker Lake

8 miles round trip | highway 20

Like Lake Crescent, this sizable body of water has access by car. For a less crowded swim, the backpacker spot of Maple Grove on the east shore offers a gentle beach and stunning views of the volcano for which the lake is named. Start at the Baker Lake Trailhead at the southern end of the lake and head north past Anderson Point and its more abrupt shoreline before reaching Maple Grove. Thanks to well-equipped campsites, it’s a good place for a midnight swim.

goat lake

10.4 miles round trip | Mountain Loop Highway

While the hike below Sloan Peak is long, it doesn’t gain much elevation over more than five miles to a mountain lake. It’s well below the tree line, but there are views of the rugged Cascade peaks surrounding the lake, which have snow year-round. The Mountain Loop Highway is unpaved in the section near the trailhead, but is passable for most cars that drive it slowly. There used to be mining settlements in the area – many of the trails out here were once mining roads – so it’s been a popular bathing spot for well over a century.

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