Island Lake is one of several lakes that are easily accessible from the Forest Service road that leads to Blue Lake and Coulter State Park just off of Highway 20. This small lake features phenomenal views of 7,844-foot Three Fingered Jack to the north, a significant rock outcrop along the bank that is ideal for enjoying said views, an island that is easily accessible by boat or a short swim, and deep Cascade waters that invite swimmers to refresh themselves on warm days. The road that leads to the lake continues around, and several primitive camping opportunities can be found just off of these spurs to both the east and west. Likewise, informal trails lead around the lake to the less trafficked areas.
Just beneath the view to Three Fingered Jack lie the scars from the powerful B&B complex fire, which burned 90,000 acres in 2003. This fire came very close to destroying the vegetation around Island Lake, which would have left behind a very different scene. Instead, visitors are lucky enough to enjoy a quintessential small Cascade lake surrounded by a mix of Douglas fir and ponderosa pines. In spring, wildflowers bloom along the banks, birdsong echoes in the basin, and butterflies flit from leaf to leaf; add in the island, the looming mountain, and the sun glinting off of the water, and the place really is a little nirvana. These waters tend to become deep rather close to the shore, so there are plenty of opportunities to take a plunge.
While the road access to Island Lake is more extensive than to nearby Link Lake, it is also slightly rougher. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended if you’d like to make the drive in from Forest Road 2076. Alternately, if you are just in for the day and don’t mind the walk, drive a few hundred yards on the access road and park. A walk to the lake up this road is 20 minutes at most and offers the added benefit of reducing impact on the lakeside terrain. Off-highway vehicle use is common in this area, and most drivers are considerate and polite if shown the same attitude.
These small lakes receive a fraction of the traffic that heads to nearby Suttle Lake and Blue Lake, and mid-week excursions are likely to miss the crowds entirely. Of course, all campsites are first-come, first-served, so arrive early for the best chances of securing a site on the weekends or during holidays. Fires are a serious hazard in this area, and it is imperative to follow fire restrictions if they are in place. If none exist, bringing your own locally-sourced firewood goes a long way toward reducing your impact on the surrounding forest.