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    Snow Lake, Gem Lake, and Upper Wildcat Lake

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    Very Hard
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    23.0 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    1,268 m
    User Ratings
    These ratings are completed by users who have completed this trail and not subject to reviews by 10Adventures.
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    Directions to Trailhead

    Snow Lake, Gem Lake, and Upper Wildcat Lake is a heavily trafficked out-and-back trail in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. This hard trail is very scenic and one that you’ll see some repeat hikers on. The trail gives access to the most visited lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Snow Lake, in addition to two other lakes.

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    Route Description for Snow Lake, Gem Lake, and Upper Wildcat Lake

    Snow Lake, Gem Lake, and Upper Wildcat Lake make a great trio to visit on this lovely hike. Snow Lake is the most visited lake in the region, and its crystalline waters framed by a mountain ridge will surely impress you. Gem Lake and Upper Wildcat Lake are a perfect way to get away from the crowds for a while before turning back.

    Please note that this hike is unsafe in the winter due to the presence of avalanche chutes that cross the trail—only attempt this hike in the winter if you have a solid knowledge of avalanche safety and the proper equipment.

    The hike begins at a shared trailhead with Snoqualmie Mountain Trail. You’ll be able to see Chair Peak in the distance as you cross several streams on an even, easy traverse.

    Continue for 1.2 km, where the trail begins to gain more elevation. You’ll gain about 152 m over 1.1 km before rising over a saddle with a view of Snow Lake. Some hikers find themselves underwhelmed at the appearance of the lake from this angle, but keep going! It gets much better further along the trail.

    Drop down the saddle, reaching an inlet to the lake. Cross the stream beside the lakeshore. Walking around the lakeshore, keep left at a junction near the campsites. You’ll be on High Lakes Trail now, crossing another creek on a log bridge and approaching a few zig-zag turns. A nice viewpoint over the lake lets you know you’re almost there.

    From the lakeshore of Gem Lake, walk halfway around the lake to where High Lakes Trail splits off. Take this trail and begin switchbacking. Pass two smaller unnamed ponds before passing by Lower Wildcat Lake, hopping over to Upper Wildcat Lake where the trail ends.

    To return, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

    Insider Hints for Snow Lake, Gem Lake, and Upper Wildcat Lake

    • Try visiting this hike on a weekday or early in the morning to avoid some of the traffic.

    Getting to the Snow Lake, Gem Lake, and Upper Wildcat Lake Trailhead

    The trailhead for the Snow Lake hike is at the end of the road at the Alpental Ski Area parking lot.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground

      Snow Lake

    • When to do


    • Pets allowed

      Yes - On Leash

    • Family friendly


    • Route Signage


    • Crowd Levels


    • Route Type

      Out and back

    Snow Lake, Gem Lake, and Upper Wildcat Lake Elevation Graph

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    Snow Lake, Gem Lake, and Upper Wildcat Lake Reviews

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