Skyline Lake is a short winter outing with a tremendous reward. It is essentially a 1,000-foot climb that leaves straight out of the north parking lot at Stevens Pass and ends at a cozy little lake basin. On a clear day, the expansive views of the entire Alpine Lakes Wilderness to the south seem an almost unfair prize for the brief, 1.5-mile journey to the lake. A plethora of outdoor recreation activities take place at this popular winter hang-out, so don't expect too much solitude during the ski season.
Start out by finding the trailhead near some A-frame cabins and other winter utility buildings. Follow the groomed snowcat track as it winds north away from the parking area. You'll shortly pass under power lines and arrive at a day use area that's popular with families for sledding and building igloos. Continue another quarter of a mile for some fine first views of the Stevens Pass Resort spread out over the hills to the south across the snaking highway. Keep pushing as the trail curves past an army green radio tower, which can serve as a proper resting point.
Beyond the tower the slope becomes more forgiving, and there will be an obvious path leading off into the forest west of the main track. There is often a flagged pole sticking out of the snow here. Take the narrow trail northwest through the fir trees, and on the other side you will be relieved to find yourself inside the frozen Skyline Lake basin. If you have the time and energy at this point, take the opportunity to skim around to the west side of the lake and climb up to the crest of Skyline Ridge, where your views become nothing less than spectacular!
Note: Always check backcountry conditions before heading out, and remember to stay alert for backcountry skiers coming down the slopes near the trail.
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.