Pine Creek Lake is a tough dayhike to a stunning alpine lake cradled in a rocky cirque. Encounter several waterfalls along the way, including the popular Pine Creek Falls and a tall, unnamed falls just before Pine Creek Lake.
The first mile winds through shaded forest at an easy grade. This portion of the trail is very popular with hikers just going to Pine Creek Falls. From the falls, the trail starts to gain elevation rapidly. Walk through shaded forest, and enter an extended patch of trail with thick undergrowth.
Rock hop your way across Pine Creek roughly halfway in. After another forested stretch the trail will open up for a view of the burn area from the 2012 Pine Creek Fire. The fire, which is believed to have been started by people, burned over 8,500 acres and damaged 5 homes.
Encounter rocky switchbacks after leaving the burnt forest. Loose rock on this stretch can make for tricky footing. Not too soon after, enjoy a welcome stroll through a small patch of unburnt forest along the creek. Another set of switchbacks await, but enjoy the view of a small lake and an unnamed waterfall on your way up.
The trail begins to turn south, getting closer to the brink of the unnamed falls. Turn a rocky corner to be greeted by a jaw-dropping view of Jewel Lake with the cirque as a backdrop. Wind your way around this small lake and take one of the numerous paths to Pine Creek Lake. To the southeast, find a waterfall and several snowfields around Black Mountain. Enjoy the splendor for a bit — you deserve it!