Backpack - Lake Ingalls


Backpack - Lake Ingalls

Come join us on this fall backpacking overnight to stunning Lake Ingalls, situated in the Alpine Lake Wilderness. This is a magical place with golden larches, rocks, pikas, goats, vast views of surrounding mountains, and imposing Mount Stuart on the backdrop. We will be hiking up Ingalls Pass and down to Headlight Basin, where we will be setting up camp, and day hiking to gorgeous Lake Ingalls. Proof of vaccination required.

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
  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 9.1 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 3,560 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 6,539 ft
  • Pace: 1.5-2mph

We will meet at the Lake Ingalls Trailhead, also known as Esmeralda Trailhead, at 7:30AM ready to go. This means getting to the trailhead no later than 7:00AM to put your shoes and backpacks on, use the privy, put your pass on your dashboard, etc. This is a popular trail with both hikers and backpackers, especially in fall, and both the parking lot and campsites can fill up quickly. 

Northwest Forest Pass required. Vault toilet available at the trailhead.

You're welcome to make carpool arrangements with other fellow participants if you wish to do so. (Tip: You can look at each participant's profile in the roster to see if they have any carpool preferences)

Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination will be required for this trip. Please send a photo of your vaccination card, you may block everything except your name and last shot info. The Mountaineers current policy allows leaders autonomy regarding vaccinations and COVID-19 exposure risk. Read more about The Mountaineers COVID-19 Code of Conduct and Guidance for Mountaineers programs during COVID-19.

We will be hiking at a steady pace of about 1.5-2mph with few stops, mainly to adjust layers, bio-breaks, re-tighten/loosen shoelaces, i.e. on an as-needed basis. We might make some quick stops at scenic points to snap some pictures, and will for sure do so at Ingalls Pass. We will always be in view of each other while hiking.

When we get to the campsite we will proceed to set up camp, and then day hike to Lake Ingalls and have lunch there. We will decide as a group how much time we want to spend at the lake before heading back to the basin.

Please note that this is a strenuous backpacking trip with consistent gain (think Mt Si). There are several steep sections, which are not only rocky but can also be exposed. As we hike, the trail will steepen and get rockier as we get to the lake.

We will be gathering water from Headlight Creek, which goes through the basin. There is a backcountry privy at the campsite.

Similar to other Forest Service roads, 9737 is unpaved and will likely be filled with potholes, so driving slowly and carefully is needed. A low clearance car could have some difficulty.

Sickness of the leader(s) or inclement weather will cancel the trip, that is, constant precipitation that leads to 1 inch of rain per day, sustained high winds (> 30mph) or wind gusts (> 35mph) that make it dangerous hiking or having a tent close to trees. Keep an eye on the weather forecast for this area.


Ingalls Lake

  • Green Trails Mt Stuart No. 209

    USGS Mount Stuart

    Green Trails Alpine Lakes East (Stuart Range) No. 208SX
  • See full route/place details.
Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

  • Tent with footprint/ground tarp
  • Stove and fuel
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter
  • Ursack + smell-proof bag (like a Loksak or Smelly Proof) or bear canister
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper
  • Extra layers; in this region mornings in October can be quite cold and can warm up considerably during the day

Trip Reports