Lake Valhalla is one of the prime winter day trips in the Stevens Pass area. Located just north of the Stevens Pass Resort and a stone's throw form the Pacific Crest Trail, the lake is accessible to snowshoers of most skill levels, and it sees a good amount of traffic throughout the year. The open meadows and surrounding mountains near Lake Valhalla's basin make for particularly excellent backcountry skiing and snowshoeing trips.
The winter route begins off of Highway 2 approximately 4.8 miles east of Stevens Pass. Park on a long pull-out 0.1 miles east of Smith Brook Road and find one of the gaps in the (sometimes exceedingly tall) snowplow bank. From here you can safely travel along the top of the bank to the avalanche check station and the bridge over Nason Creek that serves as the winter trailhead.
Proceed along the road for a level 0.25 miles before starting the mellow grade up the forested Smith Brook Valley. At about 2 miles you will make a long switchback above the creek where some exciting first views of Mount McCausland and Union and Jove Peaks open up further to the west and north. Continue up the road for another 0.5 miles to the second switchback at 4,000 feet, where there is usually evidence of off-trail activity. When not covered with snow, a white "no parking" sign is visible on a nearby tree. Here is where you depart form Smith Brook Road and set about a gentle traverse to the southwest up the valley wall. You'll gain the Pacific Crest Trail around 3.5 miles from your vehicle and steadily ascend to the 5,100-foot saddle just north of the lake. Here you encounter some expansive views to both the north and south, along with the dominant eastern view of Lichtenberg Mountain. You can choose to descend further into the Valhalla basin for some more intimate views of the lake before preparing for the ride out.
Note: Always be sure to check avalanche and weather reports 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.