Lake Ingalls Hike
The hike to Lake Ingalls is a very popular adventure, and it won’t be hard to see why. The gorgeous lake, crowned by rugged mountains, is impossibly blue and a delight to sit beside. The hike is fantastic through the summer, but we especially love it in the autumn when the larches turn golden. On the way, you’ll be able to appreciate Esmerelda Peaks and Headlight Basin.
The hike is difficult. Expect about 14.5 km of distance and 762 m of elevation gain. The gain is consistent and somewhat gradual, making it more of a slog and less of a sprint.
Be prepared for the road out. It’s not in great condition and there is no reception, so having a spare is wise. We also recommend arriving early to beat some of the crowds. Note that dogs are not allowed at the lake, nor on most of the route to the lake. Dogs are permitted on the trail to Esmerelda Basin but at the junction of this trail and the trail to Lake Ingalls, they must turn around.
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Route Description for Lake Ingalls Hike
Ingalls Lake is one of the most sought-after destinations in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and it’s not difficult to see why once you’ve conquered the hard trail up to its deep blue waters. This is a very popular hike, especially in the fall when the larches go golden. Come prepared for a consistent, steady climb. Also, come with a camera.
The parking lot at the trailhead fills quickly in the summer months, so make sure you arrive early. Additionally, take it slow on the road up, which is in mediocre condition.
Start your hike through the tree-covered Teanaway Valley. You’ll come to a junction less than half a mile in. The trail straight ahead goes to Esmerelda Basin, so turn right for Ingalls Way. Dogs are not permitted past this point on the trail.
The elevation gain picks up slightly as you climb up to Ingalls Pass. About 2.3 km in, you'll come to a junction with the trail to Longs Pass. You can venture up to the pass and back, a 2.3 km detour, or just continue straight on.
The views of Esmerelda Peaks and Fortune Pass are wonderful, but keep your eyes on the trail at least in part. There is often lingering snow and ice on this section. Microspikes may come in handy.
Once you hit the pass, the trail forks. You’ll need to pick which way you want to go to the lake. Left gives you a clearer trail that’s less direct. Right is more direct, but it can be rough and harder to follow. Pick your poison and continue on. If you are camping at Headlight Basin, you’ll need to go right.
Arriving at the lake, find a spot to settle in and enjoy the views. It’s often chilly up here, so toss on your extra layers and spend as much time as you like here before retracing your steps back to the trailhead.
Hiking Route Highlights
Glacial Lake Ingalls is located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The lake is framed by Mount Stuart and is known for its sapphire-blue waters. The lake is at an elevation of 6,466 feet and is an incredibly popular hiking destination. Hikers en route to the lake can also appreciate the Esmerelda Peaks and Headlight Basin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you swim in Lake Ingalls?
While you can swim in the lake, expect it to be frosty- it’s glacier-fed.
Do you need a permit to camp at Lake Ingalls?
There is no camping permitted at Lake Ingalls. You’ll need to arrange to camp at Headlight Basin, the closest site to the lake.
Is Lake Ingalls dog-friendly?
No, dogs are not allowed at the lake, whether leashed or otherwise.
Insider Hints for Lake Ingalls Hike
- Remember your Northwest Forest Pass for this hike.
- Pack an extra layer. The lake is often chilly.
- A downloaded GPS track can be very helpful for the final approach to the lake.
Getting to the Lake Ingalls Hike Trailhead
The trailhead for the Lake Ingalls hike is at the end of N Fork Teanaway Road. There is parking here.
Lake Ingalls Hike Elevation Graph
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Lake Ingalls Hike Reviews
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