Lake Elan / Vesper Lake

North Cascades

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Lake Elan / Vesper Lake

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  • Parking at the Sunrise Mine Trailhead with views of Morning Star and Sperry Peak.- Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • Sunrise Mine Trailhead.- Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • Crossing the South Fork of the Stillaquamish River is a little tricky.- Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • Up the valley toward Elan Lake.- Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • Up the valley toward Elan Lake.- Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • Up the valley toward Elan Lake.- Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • - Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • A small stream crossing en route to Elan Lake.- Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • Working up toward Headlee Pass.- Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • - Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • Morning Star in the distance.- Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • - Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • Headlee Pass.- Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • - Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • Base camp at Elan Lake.- Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
  • Base camp at Elan Lake.- Lake Elan / Vesper Lake
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Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great views. Variety of terrain. Old-growth forest. Wildflowers.
Cons: 
Occasional crowds on nearby peaks.
Region:
North Cascades, WA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
NW Forest Pass
Total Distance: 
7.00 mi (11.27 km)
Trailhead Elev.: 
2,100 ft (640 m)
Net Elev. Gain: 
2,700 ft (823 m)
Trail Uses:
Hiking
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Dogs allowed: 
Yes

Current Local Weather

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Light snow (under 1 in.) in the morning.
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Light snow (under 1 in.) until evening.
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Light snow (under 1 in.) starting in the evening.
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Mon

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Tue

Light snow (under 1 in.) in the morning and evening.
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

Lake Elan, also known as Vesper Lake for the peak that towers above it, makes for a beautiful day hike destination or an ideal base camp for exploring Vesper Peak and Sperry Peak.

Begin at the Sunrise Mine Trailhead at the end of NF-4065 and follow the Sunrise Mine Trail into a dense fir and cedar forest. The trail makes several stream crossings that require careful footing, including one crossing of the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River that may be treacherous when flows are high. Proceed as the trail leads into a brushy avalanche slope and a long basin full of talus known as Wirtz Basin. Salmonberries and huckleberries are present here in the summer, and you’ll find plenty of wildflowers in the open sections.

The trail climbs up the steep slope between Sperry Peak and Morning Star. Watch for cairns to mark the route, which can become difficult to find. The grade of the trail increases significantly as you approach the 4,600-foot Headlee Pass. This pass can be challenging in winter or early spring conditions, and crampons and an ice ax are recommended here.

Views of Vesper Peak open up from the top of the pass, and the lake occupies the depression between Vesper Peak and Sperry Peak. Follow the trail down to the lake to find plenty of space for a base camp and further exploration.

Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(9 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(49 within a 30 mile radius)

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