With short mileage and a complete absence of avalanche danger, the Lanham Lake snowshoe route gives you a taste of the pristine Cascade backcountry without having to exert relentless effort. The lake sits nestled in a small valley directly adjacent to Mill Creek Valley, which is also where many "backside" runs from Stevens Pass Resort terminate. The parking lot and trailhead are shared with the Stevens Pass Nordic Center, which played a big role in the area's railroad history: the Nordic Center served the resting point where engineers refilled their locomotives with creek water while laying the first tracks over the pass. The 7.79-mile Cascade Tunnel now runs directly underneath the area.
From the parking lot, head through (or around) the gate and up the edge of the groomed track to your left where a blue sign marks the Lanham Lake trailhead. Enter the forest and make your way up the hill and out of the Nordic base area. In 0.25 miles the route brings you into a clearing where high-tension power lines run from the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River to feed much of the greater Puget Sound. Some endure the intense buzzing for a short while to take in some decent views to the north before picking the route back up on the other side of the clearing.
Near the 1-mile mark, the slope steepens noticeably for a few hundred yards as you continue up along the west bank of Lanham Creek. Enjoy the presence of the old-growth forest as you pass by giant firs and cedars and regain steady terrain before closing in on the lake basin. Arrive on the north shore and behold the immediate view of Jim Hill Mountain that dominates the head of the valley above the lake. To extend the trip, continue exploring beyond the south shore where Lanham Creek passes through some quiet meadows that are perfect for winter camping.
Note: Always exercise caution while traveling near creek beds 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.