The southern portion of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest may not get the same recognition as other areas, but Soda Peaks Lake is a trip worth exploring. Nestled in a natural bowl above Trapper Creek, the lake offers great solitude and tranquility among old-growth forest. Access from Soda Peaks Trailhead to the west provides a steep but short approach.
The lake has five established backcountry campsites that are accessed on a first-come, first-served basis. Due to the limited number of sites, it is recommended that overnight campers arrive early or on less crowded dates. The backcountry sites area all situated along edge of the lake, and they can be accessed by the unmaintained trail that circumnavigates the water's edge.
Starting from the trailhead, a brief flat walk through high grasses gives way to steeper trail. The trail can be very wet and muddy during rainy months, and the occasional root or tree limb is helpful to maintain balance. The trail continues unrelentingly for a mile over the western ridge above the lake. You'll get fleeting glances at Mount Adams and Goat Rocks to the east before you descend to the lake below.
The lake is very tranquil and reflective because it's well protected from winds by the surrounding ridges on three sides. The lake dribbles down a small creek to the northeast, but there are too many trees to see views of the valley beyond. There are some opportunities to scramble up adjacent talus fields, but the views are still limited.
The key to a trip to Soda Peaks Lake is to enjoy the still waters and peace and quiet. Visitors might swim in the warm shallow water during summer months. Please be mindful of your camp volume in this area, as sound reverberates across the water and between the ridges.
Note: A second approach from Trapper Creek Trailhead (to the east of the lake) is also accessible for more adventurous hikers. The trail from Trapper Creek is approximately 7 miles of substantial gain (approximately 2,500 feet).