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Field Report: Lake 22

Lake 22 is, in a word, breathtaking.

Treat your senses to a blue-green alpine lake in the middle of a cirque.

A cirque is a ring of cliffs and stone that typically surrounds a glacial lake. The name comes from the ancient Romans, who likened these rounded mountainous indentations to amphitheaters.

Cirques are caused by glacial action and some are so large that a city could fill the trough left in the wake of receding ice. Glacial lakes in the center of cirques offer pristine water, fed by waterfalls from cliffs above.

Lake 22 is a prime example of a cirque. It is a curious place because it plays tricks on the senses. To hike around the glacial lake is to hear rocks break off above in small avalanches and to hear water roar and splatter down the cliffsides -- only the sound ricochets around the mostly-silent canyon. Solitude and silence make the aural disruptions seem jarring and poignant.

Sounds aside, the lake is a visual treat and well worth the ascent through patches of old-growth hemlock. In winter the trail is covered in running water and the slopes that lead up Mount Pilchuck are filled with ice and slush, so yak tracks and collapsible hiking poles are recommended.

The path to Lake 22.

But perhaps the best thing about Lake 22 is that the area is preserved as a research area. It will never be logged or mined. Hence the old growth. This makes the lake and the trail to the lake a most desirable destination for local hikers. The trailhead is often packed to capacity, even in the coldest of winter months. 

Rather than going “off trail”, land management organizations recommend that hikers visit well-maintained places like the Lake 22 trail, places that are actively maintained and have proper sanitation and trail amenities like garbage cans and designated parking. 

Frozen beauty.

There’s every reason you should experience the wonder of Lake 22. Here are some tips before you go.

-Bring your camera. The lake is ridiculously scenic.

-Be sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing.

-The trail is narrow in places. If you’re in ascent, surrender the right of way to hikers coming downhill, as this is proper trail etiquette. 

-Bring a snack and water. The nearest town of Robe is a decent drive from the trailhead.

Header image courtesy of Begin at Bothell.

Managing Editor
Richard Porter
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