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.

  • Temporary closure, effective 5/30/23 through November 2023: Forest Road 58, the Denny Creek Campground, Denny Creek Trailhead, Franklin Falls Trailhead, the Franklin Falls Trail, and the Wagon Road Trail are closed for construction of an expanded parking lot and new loop road. The area is expected to be open in late 2023 for winter recreation as well as during the summer of 2024.

Winter routes

For routes to do in winter, see our Source Lake and Alpental Ski Area Routes & Places.

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

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

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