The far eastern reaches of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness take you to a recovering land of intense beauty. In 1994, Massive forest fires scorched thousands of acres in Icicle Creek Canyon and the surrounding drainage and threatened to destroy the nearby Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth. The wilderness area continues to represent its name well, though, with countless high alpine lakes littered about the jagged icy pinnacles of the Stuart Range.
As is the case with many snowshoe adventures, the first leg of the Eightmile Creek route sends you marching up a gated forest road to meet with the official summer trailhead. In low snow years, you may need to hike from your vehicle for a mile or two before using your snowshoes or skis. Some tremendous views of Icicle Ridge and Icicle Creek Canyon to the east appear along the way. Also, Cannon Mountain to the south becomes a prominent figure as you close in on the signed trail junction just before where Eightmile Creek rushes under a bridge to meet Mountaineer Creek.
As you begin a more westward course into the mouth of the Eightmile Creek Valley, note the view to the south, where the serrated ridges of Dragontail and Colchuck Peaks cut into the sky above the Colchuck Glacier. Soon after, the route joins with an abandoned logging road that leads a half mile further along the bottom of the valley's steep western wall. Avalanche assessment skills are a necessity here when the danger is above moderate. Continue by finding the path of least resistance through charred forests and jutting boulder gardens before stumbling upon the welcoming shores of Little Eightmile Lake. Eightmile Lake proper rests another 0.75 miles upstream and offers first-class campsites with captivating views of Eightmile Mountain rising above the opposite shore.
Note: always check weather and avalanche conditions before traveling in the backcountry.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.