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CHS 1 Hike - Big Heart Lake

CHS1 graduation hike to Big Heart Lake with 15 miles and 4000' gain. Perfect weather and success for all.

  • Sat, Sep 21, 2019
  • CHS 1 Hike - Big Heart Lake
  • Big Heart Lake
  • Day Hiking
  • Successful
  • Road rough but passable
  • The final section of unpaved road leading to the trailhead had a few potholes but was generally in excellent condition.  There were times when we thought we might still be on pavement!  Because it is an unpaved road it's condition surely varies over time, but on this day it was surprisingly smooth for a Forest Service road.

    The hike trail naturally falls into four sections, plus a side trip to Lake Malachite.

    Foss Lakes Trail section 1, Trailhead to Trout Lake.  Route is smooth and easy.  Excellent condition.  No issues whatsoever.

    Foss Lakes Trail section 2, Trout Lake to Malachite Trail:   Steep and rocky.  For the most part the switchbacks are well placed, but the tread is very rocky and uneven so that one must constantly pay attention to foot placement, which makes this leg more tiring that its numbers would suggest.  Some sections require large vertical step ups.  One is serenaded along this leg by the sound of spectacular Malachite Falls, which presides over the valley.

    Side trail to Lake Malachite:  This is a very step, rocky trail sometimes requiring use of hands, almost a scramble.  The steep rocks were wet and the trail around the lake itself was quite muddy in spots, owing to recent rains.  Descending the wet rocks safely required extra care.  The lake itself is very beautiful so worth the effort, but be aware that this 0.1 mile trail will consume more than its share of your time energy for the day. 

    Foss Lakes Trail section 3, Malachite Trail to  Little Heart Lake:  Some minor ups and downs, but pretty easy and in good shape.  The long walk along the shore of Copper Lake is very beautiful.  There is a large open space about 2/3 of the way down the lake that is a perfect spot for a break.

    Foss Lakes Trail section 4, Little Heart Lake to Big Heart Lake:  This section also has a rough, rocky tread in most places but was in good shape.  Beware that the first lake you see is Delta Lake not Big Heart -- do not be tricked into premature we-are-there-euphoria!  Big Heart Lake does not come into view until very late in the route, just after one passes the final saddle at the route's high point of 4900'. When it first comes into view Big Heart Lake looks disappointingly far away, but the first views are of the far end of the lake and are deceptive. The final hike down to the lake loses only about 300' and isn't as distant as it looks.

CHS1 graduation hike populated by a mix of CHS1 and CHS2 hikers.  We were very fortunate to have an idyllic weather window, a single bluebird day sandwiched between multi-day stretches of rain before and after.   Conditions were near perfect for hiking, though occasional sections of wet rock and mud were reminders of the stormy weather that had preceded us.

Though it was a very long day, it was very pleasant with no issues.  There was a consensus among those who had been on trips of similar size before (15 miles, 4000') that this route was harder than its numbers would suggest, perhaps due to the rocky tread that required constant attention to foot placement and balance.

All of the lakes were very beautiful, even for an area known for beautiful lakes.  We took the side trip to Malachite Lake, which was harder to get to than expected (almost a scramble) but worth it.

We were able to linger at Big Heart Lake for only about 30 minutes before starting the return hike so that we could get back to the cars before sunset.  We got there with about 45 minute to spare, arriving at 6:15pm vs. sunset at 7:00pm.

Dinner was at the Cascadia Inn in Skykomish, only about 20 minutes from the trailhead.  Though a small establishment, they handled our group of 11 with no problem.  Due to the late hour, we had a rare traffic-free drive home along Highway 2.

 

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