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.