Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
750.00 ft (228.60 m)
Trail type
4.50 mi (7.24 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

This nice and easy hike in the Three Sisters Wilderness is a great one for those looking to explore the forest and lakes of the Cascades. But hikers be warned – this is prime mosquito area, and they can be troublesome.

Starting from the Skookum Creek Campground, the Erma Bell Lakes Trail starts at the footbridge and winds through the forest. Other than a few small creek crossings, the trail is level and easy. About a half-mile in, the trail splits with the Irish Mountain Trail heading toward Otter Lake, while the Erma Bell Lake Trail  continues straight toward Lower Erma Bell Lake about a mile away. The lakes are a popular fishing spot. The trail continues on toward Middle Erma Bell Lake, with a glimpse of the lower lake along the way. The sound of the 30- to-40-foot waterfall can be heard from the trail. Just before the middle lake, there is a small side trail to the left that goes down toward the base of the falls. The views are somewhat obstructed by tree limbs, but it's worth the scramble down. Middle Lake has a few backcountry campsites and easy water access. From here, the trail continues on to Upper Erma Bell Lake. The trail can also be made a loop by connecting with Williams Lake Trail and connects with Irish Mountain Trail. This loop would total about 8.5 miles. Be sure to keep an eye out for birds, little critters and wildflowers such as rhododendrons and trilliums.

Trail access is dependent on snow levels and usually opens at the end of June and closes in the fall (October).

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass


Waterfall. Beautiful lakes. Easy hike. Wildflowers.


Mosquitos during summer.

Trailhead Elevation

4,500.00 ft (1,371.60 m)


Backcountry camping
Bird watching
Big vistas
Old-growth forest

Suitable for




My 11-year-old son and I backpacked camp at Williams lake over memorial day weekend 2018. My minivan easily made it to the trailhead at Skookum Creek.
The hike was beautiful and fairly easy even with even with packs on. We found a nice little campsite on the edge of Williams lake – it was absolutely gorgeous!
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