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Hiking to Heather Lake and Beyond

Heather Lake is one of several lakes on the slopes of Mount Pilchuck. It’s in a cirque, surrounded by mountainous walls.

It’s somewhere between an easy and moderate hike, making it accessible for most everyone. One could argue that it’s the ideal day hike in the North Cascades for this reason.

A few things before you go.

Be safe. Search and rescue are called to the backcountry because an overzealous hiker went rogue in the wilderness. Don’t be that person. Travel with caution and within the limits of your physical and mental capabilities. 

Bring the 10 essentials. All good hikers use them and, yes, they can save your bacon. These are simple, packable items that will help you prevent sunburns, injury, hypothermia, and most other unfortunate possible side effects of wilderness hiking.  

Please tread lightly. The North Cascades and the Stillaguamish watershed are sensitive ecosystems full of living plants and creatures. Please stick to trails and trailheads to lessen environmental impact in the backcountry.

Download the Mountain Loop app.  Cell service tapers off abruptly after you leave Granite Falls. Take a quality map or download the Mountain Loop app which will act as a wayfinder and navigation in place of the internet.  

Bring quarters. For a payphone. Seriously. The Verlot Ranger Station, located just inside the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has a payphone – the easiest way to communicate without cell service. Lives have been saved by outgoing calls from the Verlot Ranger Station. 

You’ll need a  Discover Pass for parking at the trailhead. These are readily available in Granite Falls -- you can pick one up at Ace Hardware or at the small market right of the Mountain Loop Highway. The Discover Pass helps to cover the maintenance of trails and roads; moreover, it’s required to park at the trailhead.

Download the Mountain Loop app.

Heather Lake

Heather Lake is a small alpine lake nestled on the north side of Mount Pilchuck. Follow a bumpy, potholed forest road to the base of the trail. From the trailhead, it’s a relatively easy 4.6-mile round trip hike up to Heather Lake and back. 

Ascend through subalpine forests, up switchbacks to arrive at the lake. You can walk all the way around Heather Lake, getting amazing views of this backcountry body of water. In the height of summer, it’s worth jumping in and taking a swim to cool off before you head back down the trail. 

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Hungry? You will be. Your best dining options back in Granite Falls include Playa Bonita (206 E Stanley St) or Omega Pizza & Pasta (102 S Granite Ave). 

Enjoy the great outdoors on the Mountain Loop Highway this summer. Hiking the backcountry is a truly beautiful experience that will nourish your soul and give you vigor. Take this aesthetic experience home with you and be an advocate.  Remember that the best way to give back to the woods is to spread a healthy appreciation for natural preservation.

Please enjoy our nature responsibly!

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More summer fun awaits! Check out our top recommendations.

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But have you seen the sea? Try this three-day road trip along the coast.

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Managing Editor
Richard Porter
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