Snow Lake Hike
Snow Lake Hike Map

Snow Lake Hike

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
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Snow Lake Hike

Snow Lake Hike

Distance: 6.7mi
Elevation: 1,699ft
Time: 3.5-4.5h

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The Snow Lake hike is a heavily trafficked out-and-back trail in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness that is rated as moderate. This trail gives access to the most visited lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, providing a beautiful objective with no serious effort required. Tucked underneath the 2000ft Chair Peak and boasting crystal-clear water, this lake is captivating to visit.

This hike is very popular, and so you may need to share the trail with more hikers than you’re used to. Try to visit midweek or early in the morning/later in the afternoon if you can for a quieter experience.

Snow Lake Hike Map

Getting there

The trailhead for the Snow Lake hike is at the end of the road at the Alpental Ski Area parking lot. The parking lot fills to capacity many weekends, so try to arrive early.

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Backcountry Campground


When to do


Pets allowed

Yes - On Leash

Family friendly

Older Children only

Route Signage


Crowd Levels


Route Type

Out and back

Snow Lake Hike
Elevation Graph

Snow Lake Hike Description

Some days you want to sweat it out, but some days you just want the views without needing to exhaust yourself, right? Snow Lake is perfect for hikers who want a maximum reward for a moderate effort. This is the most visited lake in the region, and its crystalline waters flanked by a mountain ridge will enchant you. Because of its beauty and relative ease of access, this trail sees plenty of traffic. We recommend visiting outside of peak times if you’re able to.

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

The hike begins from the north end of the parking lot at the ski area. Climb for 200 feet up log stairs, then start hiking gradually through the forest. About a mile in, a talus slope gives you some new scenery to enjoy. You’ll be able to see Chair Peak in the distance here.

Continue for ¾ of a mile, where the trail begins to gain more elevation. You’ll gain about 500 feet over ⅔ of a mile 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. Walk to the lakeshore, where most hikers call it a day. However, we recommend you keep going along the trail and across the inlet, hiking about a half-mile to where the inlet drains into the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley. Cross this outlet, then proceed down the lakeshore. As you approach Chair Peak, you’ll get to fully appreciate the beauty of the mountain, with little waterfalls and ribbons of snow dotting its sides. This is the best view on the hike, so it’s worth the few extra steps around the lakeshore to reach it.

Where the trail meets two other trails, you can turn around. While these trails lead to other lakes, nothing nearby is as spectacular as what you’ve just enjoyed!
Retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

Hiking Route Highlights

Snow Lake

As the most visited lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Snow Lake is no stranger to attention. This pretty lake is known for still, reflective waters, showing off the gorgeous Chair Peak looming over it. Chair Peak often holds on to stripes of snow late into the season, offering a pretty contrast against the grey rock and green trees that flank it.

Snow Lake actually used to be someone’s backyard! A spur trail near the inlet leads to the remains of an old homestead. Lucky folk!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I visit Snow Lake in the winter?

There are several avalanche chutes that cross this trail, presenting a considerable danger to hikers. We do not recommend hiking this trail in snow unless you have a solid understanding of avalanche safety and the appropriate gear.

Can I swim in Snow Lake?

While you’re allowed to swim in Snow Lake, the water is ice melt, so it’s normally far too cold to comfortably swim in.

Do I need a pass to hike at Snow Lake?

Please have your Northwest Forest Pass ready to go for this hike.

Insider Hints

  • Parking for this trail fills up quickly on the weekends. Get here early!

  • The path is narrow in parts, so some hikers with dogs may find it a bit tight. Keep your pets nearby in tight sections for the comfort of other hikers.

  • The trail is quite rocky, so good boots are recommended over tennis shoes.



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