This nice and easy hike in the Three Sisters Wilderness is a great one for those looking to explore the forest and lakes of the Cascades. But hikers be warned – this is prime mosquito area, and they can be troublesome.
Starting from the Skookum Creek Campground, the Erma Bell Lakes Trail starts at the footbridge and winds through the forest. Other than a few small creek crossings, the trail is level and easy. About a half-mile in, the trail splits with the Irish Mountain Trail heading toward Otter Lake, while the Erma Bell Lake Trail continues straight toward Lower Erma Bell Lake about a mile away. The lakes are a popular fishing spot. The trail continues on toward Middle Erma Bell Lake, with a glimpse of the lower lake along the way. The sound of the 30- to-40-foot waterfall can be heard from the trail. Just before the middle lake, there is a small side trail to the left that goes down toward the base of the falls. The views are somewhat obstructed by tree limbs, but it's worth the scramble down. Middle Lake has a few backcountry campsites and easy water access. From here, the trail continues on to Upper Erma Bell Lake. The trail can also be made a loop by connecting with Williams Lake Trail and connects with Irish Mountain Trail. This loop would total about 8.5 miles. Be sure to keep an eye out for birds, little critters and wildflowers such as rhododendrons and trilliums.
Trail access is dependent on snow levels and usually opens at the end of June and closes in the fall (October).