Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
2,500.00 ft (762.00 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
35.00 mi (56.33 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.

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is a wildly beautiful section of the Central Cascade Range in Washington and home to some of the most incredible treks in the state. Most people start their journey from the south side of the mountain, taking I-90 to the Deception Pass Trailhead, which makes the distance around 18 miles. The route detailed in this adventure description starts from Highway 2 and accesses the Deception Creek Trailhead from the north side about 7.5 miles west of Steven’s Pass. The trail head is a little less than a mile up the dirt road labeled 6088. There are more access points farther up the road that will make the trek a little shorter, but the road is rough without a high clearance vehicle. Starting from this entrance will make the hike around 16.2 miles to Marmot Lake, plus another 1.3 to reach Jade Lake. Needless to say, this is a multi-day hike, and if you want to get to your camping spot at a reasonable hour, start early in the morning.

The hike begins with a short section of trail through dense woods that leads to the bank of Deception Creek. Cross the creek via a log bridge with a guardrail on only one side. After this the trail turns into drawn-out switchbacks snaking up the mountainside then back down. The trail continues on like this for about 5.5 miles, making slight jaunts up the mountain then returning back down by the creekside the entire time. You will spend a majority of this hike walking along Deception Creek, which adds a certain beauty and ambiance to the endeavor. There is a plethora of falls and rapids to behold during this portion of the hike. The proximity to the creek can also attract bears and other wildlife.

At 5.5 miles you will reach your first fork in the road. Here, signs nailed onto a tree will give you two choices: you can go straight onto the Tonga Ridge Trail, or you can make a slight left toward Deception Pass. In this case you will be taking a slight left toward the pass. In less than a mile the trail will spit you out at a couple of campgrounds near the creek. This is where the route can get confusing. You’re going to want to cross the branch of the creek that’s heading off to the right; you should notice the beginnings of a trail on the other side and a couple strategically placed rocks for ease of access. This trail will eventually split into two at an intersection labeled Ford or Footlog. The Ford Trail will be a brief walk down to the creekside, where you are expected to cross the frigid waters and find the trail on the other side. This is easier later into summer when the flow of water has reduced. Alternatively, you can choose the trail that continues to the right of the sign labeled Footlog. This will place you farther up the creek with the intention of using a fallen tree to cross over to the other side. The log is thick enough to shimmy across the water and shouldn’t be too much of an obstacle. On the other side of the creek’s bank you should notice a couple of ribbons tied onto the foliage to signify the new trail.

The trail continues on as it had previously, the inclines slowly become more moderate, and you'll frequently cross minor streams. If you are taking this trail in the late spring or early summer, it would be advantageous to have waterproof shoes to make crossing these creeks easier. About 2.8 miles from the Tonga Ridge intersection you’ll encounter another split. The sign here will read Deception Lakes with an arrow pointing off to the left. You will be continuing straight toward Deception Pass. From here it’s another 3.4 miles until you reach your next split in the trail. The terrain will slowly transform from the dense forest into a marshy landscape that is lush with wildflowers in the summer. You will then find yourself at another crossroads; here there will be a trail heading off to your right toward a couple of campsites. Bypass this trail and climb up the small hill just ahead of it. Another trail will be labeled Deception Lakes on your left and will be going in a similar direction from which you came; ignore this one as well. You will take the trail that continues straight, and in a little less than a quarter mile you’ll reach the turn-off for Marmot Lake, which will be on your left.  

The landscape transforms once again into an alpine tundra, and this is how it will remain until you reach your destination. Marmot Lake Trail starts with a moderate incline then eventually declines into a wide tundra. Above this tundra are rocky peaks, the same structures that reach above Jade Lake but from a different angle. After this, the road passes through a couple of meadows and then curves up the mountainside. Altogether the trail from the Marmot Lake turn-off to the lake itself is around 4.5 miles, almost half of which is spent navigating switchbacks that seem to endlessly traverse up the side of the mountain. Given the popularity of this particular destination, finding a site at Marmot can be challenging, although never impossible. Some campers pitch their tent on huge rocks or right along the lake’s shore. Keep in mind that Leave No Trace etiquette is critical for wild and heavily trafficked areas such as this. Camping on a durable surface is essential, but it is also essential to camp 200 feet from lakes and streams to protect riparian areas. Also, remember that alpine nights can be bone-chilling, even during the summer. Be sure you are adequately prepared for both freezing nights and much warmer days. The water at Marmot is a deep and translucent blue. It resembles water in tropical regions only in appearance, not in temperature.

On the final climb you’ll follow the trail that hugs the left side of Marmot Lake. This can be tricky at times, and you’ll encounter fallen trees and sections of rockfall. On the far left side of the lake you will follow the trail up a chute of rocks. Navigating this area can be difficult, but if you take notice of the cairns you should be heading in the right direction. A sizable population of American pika inhabits this area, so your climb should be accompanied by the chirps and shouts of this mountain-dwelling rodent. After this scramble, the trail will be easier to locate and less steep. It passes through a beautiful alpine meadow and around No Name Lake, all in the shadow of the dramatic, rigid peaks that surround Jade Lake. You’ll reach a decline, and soon the electric turquoise morning water of Jade Lake will be in full view along with the glacier, which feeds this majestic body of water. Tents will dot the grassland preceding the lake. If you reach Jade Lake in the early morning, stick around until the sun has the chance to rise above the peaks and fully encompass the water. This will give the lake the greenish tint that it is known for.

Although this trip can be completed in just two days, it is highly suggested that you give yourself three to fully take in everything this hike has to offer. If you’re making your way from Highway 2, Der Sportsman in Leavenworth has decent trail maps of the area. If 35 miles is too much, there’s another access point on I-90 that will cut your total distance to around 20 miles. Finally, bring lots of snacks and water or a water purification system; there's an abundance of climbing to be enjoyed, and the last thing you want is to have a 17-mile trip back with no food or water. Most importantly, have fun out there.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

National or state forest pass

Open Year-round

Yes

Days

2

Pros

Waterfalls. Wildlife. Alpine Lakes. Mountain views.

Cons

Bugs in the mid summer.

Trailhead Elevation

2,000.00 ft (609.60 m)

Highest point

4,500.00 ft (1,371.60 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Glacier
Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Waterfalls
Big vistas
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

Yes

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Comments

Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.