Distance: 8 miles (to both destinations), roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1500 feet to the lake, 1800 feet to the summit
Pass: Northwest Forest Pass
The alarm goes off at 4:45am. It’s dark and my bed is a little too comfortable. As I rub sleep out of my eyes, I grab my pre-packed daypack and get Koda fed and her leash on and in the car. I drive to the carpool location, and meet Amber and Ripley, her husky, to drive out to the trailhead.
After a gas/potty stop in a quiet, but strict gas station, we’re arrive at our trailhead around 7am. We were second car in the lot— peace & quiet except for us and our pups. We get hiking as soon as we can and the dogs are anxious with energy to get on the trail. The trail is gradual, but there is steady gain throughout the hike. As we chat and stop for photos, we get closer to our lake.
At last the lake peeks out of the trees, and there’s something magical about the quiet and lack of anything else going on around us.
We push on, breaking the path up the mountainside to reach Mount McCausland. Along the way, there are blueberry bushes which we help ourselves to. Oh. My. God. These are the best blueberries I have ever tasted in my life. Who knew that you just had to hike for 3 miles into the wilderness to get them?
The last push up the mountain is steep, but we make it and we’re rewarded with the views of Lake Valhalla and Lichtenberg Mountain. Since we’re both photographers, we take turns trading photos of ourselves and our doggos posing with the epic views.
After getting our fill, we head back down towards Lake Valhalla to have a snack on the sandy beach. The water is still and you see the reflection of the mountains in the lake. We met a couple older gentleman also taking a break at the lake who comment on our well-behaved dogs, even as they beg for snacks.
While the sunrise was not spectacular due to the overcast morning, we dodged the rain and for that we were thankful. On our way back, we stop by Sultan Bakery for some post-hike doughnuts which were a snack well-deserved.
I bet this hike would be a worthy destination in the summer as well, but I enjoyed the colorful show the trail provided.
From Seattle, take I-405 to Hwy 522 in Monroe. Drive east through Monroe and onto Hwy 2 east for 58 Miles to Stevens Pass. To access the Smithbrook trailhead, remain on Hwy 2 through Stevens Pass. 3.5 miles east of the pass, 100 yards after the highway divides there is a well-marked left turn for Forest Service Road 6700. Be cautious when crossing the west bound lanes of Hwy 2 onto 6700. The trailhead is 2.5 miles up Road 6700. From Leavenworth, follow Hwy 2 west to the well-marked turn off for Road 6700, 31 miles west of town. The parking area for Stevens Pass is just 3.5 miles past the turnoff for Smithbrook.