Blanca Lake is one of the most vibrant lakes in the Cascades. The amazing blue-green colored water of the lake makes this steep hike well worth it. The minerals from Monte Cristo, Keyes, and Columbia Peak make Blanca take on its amazing colors, and backcountry campsites in the area make this a great option for a weekend in the mountains.
The challenging trail starts climbing in the first few hundred feet. The route gains about 1,000 feet per mile for almost 3 miles, making this a steep hike with many switchbacks. For the last mile there are huckleberries that bloom in the spring and summer and that will continue all the way to the meadows. The trail runs into a steep rock wall that requires a small scramble to reach the top. On a clear day there are views of Glacier Peak just to the right. From here the trail levels out as it proceeds along a ridge until it reaches the meadows.
At the meadows you'll find many open grassy areas that are used for camping and have wildflowers that bloom in the spring and summer. The trail starts to descend as it leads to more meadows near Virgin Lake, an algae rich lake with great reflections on calm days. The trail descends about 500 feet for the next 0.5 miles to Blanca Lake. The trail is near its end once the views of the lake appear. Continue along the trail to the shore with many log jams that are good for sitting or dipping your feet in the cold glacier water. On the return, remember there is still a steep 500-foot gain to crest the ridge before your descent to the trailhead.