Snow & Gem Lakes (Snoqualmie)

Snow Lake is a moderate, 6 mile round trip hike with 1,300 feet of elevation gain. The trail goes up above the South Fork Snoqualmie River through forests and over a pass to a beautiful alpine lake. Beyond Snow Lake lie Gem lakes and Wildcat Lakes. There are numerous waterfalls, pika habitats, and once you get past Snow Lake, the crowd dwindles dramatically. For the ambitious, consider a one-way trip that includes some off-trail scrambling and visits Chair Peak and Melakwa Lakes.

getting there

Take Exit 52 off of I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass, and turn northwest onto Alpental Road and follow it to the Alpental parking area (3,100 ft).

on the trail

snow lake

The trail starts from the Snoqualmie Pass Alpental ski area and climbs 700 feet in the first 1.5 miles.  From there, you have a wonderful view of Snow Lake.  Descend about 200 feet to the lakes side. It's 6 miles round trip with 1,300 feet of elevation gain and a 4,400 ft high point.

gem lake

Follow the trail along its eastern edge of Snow Lake.  After a short way, climb past waterfalls, wildflowers, and rocky hills squeaking with pika, while gaining another 900 feet in 2.0 miles.  It's a total of 10 miles round trip with 2,200 feet of elevation gain and a 4,927 ft high point.

Wildcat lakes

After Gem Lake, follow the trail for 2.8 miles descending 1,000 feet to the forested Lower Wildcat Lake. If turning around here, it's 16 miles round trip with 3,300 feet of elevation gain. Continue on for 0.5 mile climbing 350 feet to Upper Wildcat Lake which is set in a large bowl beneath cliffs and talus. There is an excellent campsite near the lake's outlet. It's 17 miles round trip with 4,000 feet of elevation gain.

Melakwa, Chair peak, Gem & Snow Lakes

This route involves some scrambling and a car shuttle. The route passes five mountain lakes and three waterfalls. Stash at least one car at the Alpental parking lot. Start hiking at the Denny Creek trailhead and follow the trail to Melakwa Lake. Then scramble past Upper Melakwa Lake, cross Melakwa Pass, descend to Chair Lake, traverse to the northwest ridge of Mount Roosevelt, and follow it to Gem Lake. At Gem Lake, join the Gem Lake trail and follow it down and around Snow Lake and on to Alpental.  Scramble peaks along the way that can be added are Bryant Peak, Kaleetan Peak, Mount Roosevelt, Wright Mountain, and Rock Thunder Peak. It's 9.3 miles one-way with 4,400 feet of elevation gain and a high point of 5,600 ft.

snowshoe route

From the Alpental ski area, the Snow Lake Trail stretches out along a southwest-facing hillside above a creek.  The trail climbs steadily.  Just before the Source Lake overlook, the Snow Lake Trail switchbacks up to a saddle from which you can overlook Snow Lake.  Depending on conditions and motivation, enjoy the view from here or continue down the other side to the lake.

Information FOr leaders

Permit information

As of 2017, the Snoqualmie Ranger District considers Mountaineers trips and courses to be "nominal use". Leaders should print and copy this designation letter to show rangers they may see on trail or carry a digital copy on their phone.

  • Difficulty: Moderate, Strenuous 4, Technical 2
  • Length: 10.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 2,200 ft
  • 4,927 ft
Map
  • Green Trails Snoqualmie Pass No. 207
  • Alpine Lakes Wilderness (ALPS)
  • Green Trails Snoqualmie Pass Gateway No. 207S
  • Trails Illustrated Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Activities

Upcoming Activities

CHS Tacoma August Hikes - Snow & Gem Lakes (Snoqualmie)

Day Hiking Field trip: Conditioning Hiking Series
Trip will initially open to Tacoma Branch Conditioning Hiking Students. Trip will open for registration
Difficulty: Moderate
Sun, Aug 1, 2021
No Prerequisites
3 participants on waitlist
Registration closes Jul 30
Tacoma Branch

Backpack - Gem Lake

Backpacking Trip
Moderate single-night trip to pretty Gem Lake at Snoqualmie Pass. *Fully Vaccinated Only*
Difficulty: Moderate
Tue, Aug 3, 2021 - Wed, Aug 4, 2021
No Prerequisites
3 participants on waitlist
Registration closes Jul 30
Seattle Branch

Backpack - Gem Lake

Backpacking Trip
Priority to Tacoma Intro to Backpack students until April 19th, then open to everyone.
Difficulty: Moderate
Sat, Aug 7, 2021 - Sun, Aug 8, 2021
No Prerequisites
14 participants on waitlist
Registration closes Aug 5
Tacoma Branch

CHS Tacoma August Hikes - Snow & Gem Lakes (Snoqualmie)

Day Hiking Field trip: Conditioning Hiking Series
Trip will initially open to Tacoma Branch Conditioning Hiking Students. Trip will open for registration
Difficulty: Moderate
Sun, Aug 15, 2021
No Prerequisites
1 participant on waitlist
Registration closes Aug 13
Tacoma Branch

Intro to Trail Running: Backcountry Field Trip - Snow Lake

Trail Running Field trip: Introduction to Trail Running: Backcountry
A field trip to a backcountry location to reinforce what you have learned and evaluate
Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
Tue, Aug 24, 2021
No Prerequisites
0 participants 0 instructors
Registration closes Aug 22
Foothills Branch

GoHike Hiking Trip - 4-8 miles, <2,000 feet gain - Snow & Gem Lakes (Snoqualmie)

Day Hiking Field trip: GoHike: Beginner Hiking Series
Join us for this moderate to strenuous 7.2 mile round trip hike with 1,800 feet
Thu, Aug 26, 2021
No Prerequisites
2 participants
Registration closes Aug 24
Foothills Branch

Day Hike - Snow & Gem Lakes (Snoqualmie)

Day Hiking Trip
Hiking along side a ridge to a beautiful lake, then beyond to another.
Difficulty: Moderate, Strenuous 4, Technical 2
Sat, Aug 28, 2021
No Prerequisites
10 participants
Registration closes Aug 23
Tacoma Branch
Trip Reports
Titles

This is a list of titles that represent the variations of trips you can take at this route/place. This includes side trips, extensions and peak combinations. Not seeing a title that fits your trip? Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.

  • Snow Lake
  • Snow & Gem Lakes
  • Gem Lake
  • Snow Lake (Snoqualmie)
  • Melakwa, Chair Peak, Gem & Snow Lakes
  • Wildcat Lakes
  • Snow, Gem & Wildcat Lakes
  • Lower Wildcat Lake
  • Upper Wildcat Lake
Resources

There are no resources for this route/place. Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.