If you are looking to snowshoe or cross-country ski in a beautiful and secluded lake basin during even the worst avalanche conditions, Kelcema Lake is for you. While certainly not remote, Kelcema Lake is a worthy winter destination and a great workout that provides a sense of accomplishment during those meager months when few trailheads are accessible. Though the majority of the route winds mildly up a forest service road, you can count on peace and quiet through to the spring snow-melt thanks to seasonal restrictions that allow for non-motorized recreation only.
The winter trailhead is located directly off the Mountain Loop Highway where Deer Creek Road begins and the plowed pavement ends. After gearing up, make your way past the occasionally crowded sledding area through the open gate. You immediately become wrapped in thick second-growth forest while warming up for the first mile before catching an open glimpse of Bald Mountain looming further up the valley. Continue above Deer Creek for another mile past a gated road that leads to the 300-acre Bonanza Queen Mine property, which was purchased from the Auker family in 2000 by the U.S. Forest Service to preserve critical salmon habitat.
The next 2 miles provide some steeper elevation gain and increasingly grand views of jagged Devils Peak to the east and Big Four Mountain and Sperry and Vesper peaks down the valley to the south. At 4 miles from your vehicle, a bridge leads over Deer Creek to the open Kelcema Lake summer trailhead. Exit the road here into a meadow while staying to the right of Deer Creek. The hiking corridor will be obvious at times, passing by several burley trees as it leads up to the creek outlet and lake basin. The eastern (and conveniently closest) shore offers many lovely open spaces for taking in the scenery. A massive snow-covered boulder on the north shore can be safely climbed for fun views back toward the mouth of the basin.
Note: Stay alert for holes and unstable snow when traveling near creek beds.
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.