Backpack - Esmeralda Basin/Gallagher Head Lake Loop

Esmeralda Basin/Gallagher Head Lake Loop

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers activity.
  • Strenuous
  • Mileage: 15.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 3,000 ft
8:30 AM at Parking area at the end of the North Fork Teanaway River Road
Our route loops counterclockwise around the Esmeralda Peaks, up through wildflower meadows and rock gardens (we’ll keep an eye out for the resident carnivorous butterwort!), beside tumbling creeks, to ridge crests offering dramatic views of Mt Rainier, Mt Daniel, Glacier Peak, and the Cascade Crest. We’ll take a short sidetrip along the County Line Trail to a high overlook above tiny Lake Ann, then will continue across serpentine barrens over Fortune Creek Pass, down to Gallagher Head Lake, and then through De Roux Basin back to the trailhead. For the most part, the route climbs and descends steadily, but there are a few short, steep sections and some creek crossings (none hazardous).

Pace will be moderate, with occasional breaks to rest, snack, and/or admire views and wildflowers.

Participants should have completed at least one previous backpack trip, and must be fit to backpack 7 – 8 miles per day on sometimes steep, rough trails, with elevation gains and losses of 3,000 ft/day, up to elevations above 6,000 ft. We will take care to Leave No Trace (

Trip distance: 15+ miles, including side trip to Lake Ann overlook

High point: 6400 ft at Lake Ann overlook

Elevation gain: 3000+ ft

Weather note: This area is typically warm and sunny in August, and in some conditions can be quite hot. In the event of a substantial heat wave, the leader may change the trip destination.

The unpaved road to the trailhead is dusty with a few potholes, but is suitable for passenger cars (a recent mudslide has been cleared).

Drive time from Seattle to the trailhead: 2.5 hours. To avoid a very early start from the west side, consider joining the leader for Friday night car camping near the trailhead.

Driving directions: Drive I-90 East from Seattle to Exit 85. Turn right onto SR-970 (towards Wenatchee/Leavenworth). Continue 6.6 miles, then turn left (north) onto the Teanaway Road (if you get to the junction with SR-97, you've gone too far). Follow North Fork Teanaway signs 13.5 miles to a major junction at 29 Pines Campground, where the pavement ends. Take the right fork onto FS Road 9737, then continue about 10 more miles to the road-end trailhead (elevation 3800 feet).

Esmeralda Basin/Gallagher Head Lake Loop

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  • See full route/place details.
Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials
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