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Waptus River to Waptus Lake

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington

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Waptus River to Waptus Lake

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  • Wide, gentle trail.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Trees burned by past fores fire.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Salal flowers (Gaultheria shallon).- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Riverside campsite on the way to Waptus.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Trail remains gentle throughout most of hike.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Waptus River.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Campsite on the river.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Passing through huge boulders.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Riverside campsite.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • View of the ridge above the basin.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Following Waptus River.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Douglas spirea flowers, early summer.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • One of many creek crossings.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Waptus River ford.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Final stretch to lake.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Popular horse trail.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
  • Waptus Lake, Summit Chief.Mountain (7,464') at left, and Bears Breast Mountain (7,195') at right.- Waptus River to Waptus Lake
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Gentle trail. Lakeside camping.
Cons: 
Popular hike.
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Region:
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
600.00 ft (182.88 m)
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
18.80 mi (30.26 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
2,500.00 ft (762.00 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

Rolling along 9 miles of river valley, the hike to Waptus Lake is perfect for backpackers or horse packers who want a lengthy trek without too much elevation gain. Unlike many other river valleys in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, no logging or mining road was ever created along Waptus River, allowing the area to feel more like a wilderness. Despite the large number of people who visit every summer, the grand size of the lake makes it easy to find a secluded spot to camp.

The hike begins at Salmon la Sac Trailhead, splitting away from the trails to Cooper Lake and Polallie Ridge before heading toward Waptus River. For 3 miles the trail passes through a dusty and sun-bleached forest of pine and fir trees before reaching the Hour Creek crossing and moving toward Waptus River. The trail begins to change there, surrounded by lush green ferns, wild roses, and devil's club, and it meanders through old-growth cedar, hemlock and fir.

Continue hiking or riding along the river, crossing multiple small streams and eventually reaching a fork with Quick Creek Trail, which leads toward the south tip of Waptus Lake and then to Waptus Pass. For the best lake views and camping, veer right toward the horse ford of Waptus River, avoiding the trail to a foot bridge that is now washed away. The river is fordable later in the season with either a horse or sturdy water shoes, but mind the current when water levels are high.

There are several sizable camping areas along the shore, the first of which offers stunning views of Bears Breast Mountain and Summit Chief over Waptus Lake. From base camp at Waptus, take a day trip up to Spade Lake or explore parts of the famous Pacific Crest Trail running nearby.

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Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(24 within a 30 mile radius)

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(113 within a 30 mile radius)

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