Views of 7+ Alpine Lakes in Central Cascades

All photos and stories taken and written by @shumui.

Interested in hiking a trail with 7+ beautiful lake views?  Check out West Fork Foss Lakes Trail!  Over the Labor Day weekend, my friends and I hiked the West Fork Foss Lakes Trail in the Central Cascades, Alpine Lakes Wilderness area.  Our original plan was to hike Tuck and Robin Lakes in the same region, but changed the plan last minute due to reported potholes on the route to Cathedral Rock trailhead.  Coming from Texas, I suddenly realized one of the biggest advantages to living in Washington is the views are GORGEOUS anywhere.  Even if the original plan did not work out, there were multiple alternatives to choose from in the area.  We saw eight lakes on our 2 days hike and each one offered water so clear you could see the plants living underneath the surface.  Though the trail was not the original goal, I had a blast goofing around and taking pictures by each lake.  The beautiful sceneries also renewed my desire to work out; next time I go on hikes, hopefully I can experience and capture more stunning imageries like the ones below. ❤

The Route

The trailhead is about 1 hr 50 min from Seattle and can be located by searching for “West Fork Foss Lakes Trailhead” on Google Map.  We took I-405, WA-522, US-2, and then NF-68 to reach the trailhead. Our small sedan made the trip absolutely no issues, but there were uneven areas and potholes on NF-68, so be cautious and drive slow in those encounters. 

Direction to trailhead from Seattle. Map data @ 2021 Google

Once at the trailhead, there is a parking lot with a privy toilet available.  On weekends the lot tends to get full early and later arrivals may have to park on road shoulders. 

The Alpines Lakes

Starting at West Fork Foss Lakes Trailhead, the hike stayed flat for about half a mile, then gradually climbed to reach Trout Lake at 1.5 miles (2,062’ elevation; 422’ gain). I loved the view here in the afternoon; the sun’s angle created a beautiful silhouette of the mountains, and reflected splendidly in the water.  We also saw a water snake slithered its way across the lake and towards the land!  There were several campsites alongside the trails and further into the woods, and a privy toilet available here.

Trout, Copper, Lake Malachite
Trout Lake

After Trout Lake, it was a steady climb of ~1,767’ gain (3,829’ elevation) to reach the Lake Malachite and Copper Lake junction at 4.2 miles.  The way up offered views of wildflowers as well as a majestic cascading waterfall in the distance.  The fall was fed by Copper Lake and the trail would continue towards the top of the falls! 

Wildflower
Cascading Waterfall
The Search for Campsite

On the way up, we met a couple of hikers leaving who told us campsites at the lakes may already be full, but there was a big campsite they just left from in between the Copper Lake toilet and the junction, and people seemed to have overlooked the spot.  Sure enough, we were able to find the campsite on our way into the area.  However, the campsite was not as close to Copper Lake as we had hoped, so we dropped a backpack just in case and continued on.  After about 0.5 miles in, we came across a rocky hill with a walkable path up and decided to scout it out.  The top of the hill had a big open clearing, but there were sporadic roots on the ground that could potentially make the site uncomfortable for some.  We decided to stay and angled the tents in such a way that the roots would not bother us too much. 

Our lovely campsite

So glad we stayed!  The campsite was absolutely a great find.  It offered fantastic views of the stars at night as well as a perfect reflection of the mountain ridges in the morning.  There were also decent wildlife encounters: squirrels would drop pine cones from the tree nearby and chew on them around the campsite, and a grayish bird would fly by on occasion to sample the white flowers in front of our tent.

Starry Night Sky
Perfect Reflection at Copper Lake
Lake Malachite (1 miles RT from the campsite)
Woke up to a squirrel eating pine cones!
Bird nibbling on white flowers
Little Heart, Delta, Big Heart, Angeline

We stayed at Copper Lake and did day hikes up to Little Heart Lake (5 mi; 4,261’ elevation; 279’ gain), Big Heart Lake (5.9 mi; 4,916’ elevation; 655’ gain then descended down to 6.7 mi; 4,701’ elevation), and Angeline Lake (7.5 mi; 5,283’ elevation; 694’ gain).

The trail passed by Little Heart Lake on the left side.  To access the lake without trees blocking the view, you would have to step over drift woods on the bank.  We decided to continue on without stopping.  The route to Big Heart Lake was rugged and in the open, and offered gorgeous views of Glacier Peak and Delta Lake in the distance.  There was no accessible running water in between Little Lake and Big Heart Lake; we only carried 1.5L of water for the three of us, so halfway through we started to get nervous about finding the next water source.  Luckily, we made it to Big Heart Falls at a decent pace and was able to refill our hydration packs before continuing on. 

Little Heart Lake
Delta Lake
Big Heart Lake (View from camp)
Mountain Ridges

The route to Angeline Lake was the most brutal of them all.  Steep downclimb, fallen trees, and muddy grounds, before ascending again towards the side of Atrium Peak.  The trail did not seem as well maintained past Big Heart Lake.  Having said that, the views were definitely worth the occasional scrambling.  Here you will find a perfect log to sit on and take in the entirety of Angeline Lake, and slightly up the trail, a top view of the Big Heart Lake to appreciate the reason it was named.

Angeline Lake
Big Heart Lake

Pressed for time, we didn’t make the trip to Chetwoot Lake and decided to save the journey for next time.  On the way down (2 pm), we noticed the originally empty campground by Big Heart Lake were already populated with hikers and tents.  A lot of them were also carrying fishing poles.  Turned out there are trout in abundance in these lakes and you can fish for Golden Trout, Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout, among other species. Maybe next time we will bring our poles too!

Here is a glimpse of the route we took, as shown on CalTopo:

© CalTopo, OpenStreetMap contributors

This backpacking/ day hiking trip checked so many boxes for me: deep blue alpine lakes, rugged mountain peaks, gorgeous views along the route, wildlife encounter, and fantastic bonding time with friends.  Definitely worth adding to the Bucket List adventure in my opinion.  What are the typical boxes you look for on hikes? Let me know below!

Cheers,

ShuMui

Published by Shu Mui

An outdoor enthusiast whose goal is to see the world, one step at a time. This blog documents my journeys and I hope you can leverage them for your trips. Bon voyage!

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