larch group pic.JPG

Trip Report    

Day Hike - Ingalls Lake

Beautiful bluebird day for a trip to Ingalls Lake and into Headlight Basin in the heart of larch country.

  • Road rough but passable

Early starts usually mean fewer people at the trailhead and easier parking but we found that to be untrue as larch madness causes hundreds of hikers and backpackers to flock to Headlight Basin in search of larches. This past Saturday was no exception and with clear skies and pleasant lower temperatures, it was the perfect day to kick off our October graduation hikes for Tacoma’s first Conditioning Hiking Series course.

After hoofing the road close to half a mile, we arrived at the trailhead and began our trip up and over Ingalls Pass. The ascent was gradual as we made our way up the slope through bushes sporting their fiery reds and burnt oranges, reminding us that fall is here and winter is coming. Bushes.jpgMt. Rainier made an appearance beyond Esmeralda Peak and far in the distance Mt. Adams was visible. Two tall stately larches in full yellow greeted us as we approached the pass announcing we were crossing into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

mt rainier and larches.jpg

Throngs of hikers gathered at the pass for their view of Headlight Basin full of golden larches but what was most impressive is the massive Mt. Stuart front and center which takes your breath away. We rested for a bit at the pass then continued to the lower camping area in the valley, stopping occasionally as we toured larch territory draped in all that yellowy goodness.

Mt stuart with larch.jpg


Traveling across the rock and boulders near the lake proved to be challenging with the number of people on the trail because there was little room to pass each other. We spent our lunch at Ingalls Lake taking in the views, the swimmers, fisherman, and peak baggers above us.

Lake Ingalls.jpg

On the return, we took the higher route that follows along the top of Headlight Basin. Larches lined the basin top in their yellow attire which looked like gold flames rising from the ground below.


The trail meandered up and down past stands of larches, a creek, a very appealing meadow, and more campsites with views of Mt. Stuart.

larches and stream.jpg

Back at the pass with our souls filled to the brim with nature’s fall colors, we descended back to the trailhead to the comfort of our vehicles for the long trip home.

About a year and a half ago I saw Mt. Stuart for the first time on a hike to Summit Lake near Mt. Rainier and promised myself that one day I would be there to experience it up close and personal. Now that I’ve fulfilled that goal, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to stay away because I’m hooked on the beauty and scenery of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.