Trip Report    

Golden Lakes Loop

A stunning loop with panoramic views along the Chelan summit, across lake Chelan, and out across the Columbia basin; through lush green meadows rich with flowers even in mid August; and some of the best concentrations of larch in the region around lovely lakes with nice camps. Hard to lose here!

  • Sun, Aug 11, 2019 — Tue, Aug 13, 2019
  • Golden Lakes Loop
  • Backpacking
  • Successful
  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Very well graded trail, though a few rocky sections and some steep descents on rolling rocks.  No unbridged water crossings, though plenty of spots to get water along the route.

fter postponing for a couple of days due to a red flag warning, our group of 5 Mountaineers set out on Sunday morning on an exploratory backpack around the Sawtooth Lakes.  Google maps took us unerringly to the trailhead and the road was in great shape.  Huge parking area with nice restroom.  Five other cars there.   The trail is to the left of the parking area, signed Martin Creek.  The trail climbs a gradual grade through mixed conifer, mostly forested with a few open sections that can get somewhat rocky but generally excellent trail bed throughout, and good signage all through here.  At about 5 miles there's a lovely viewpoint out over Lower Eagle Lake to the Columbia basin, and a heartbreaking little memorial to two beloved dogs along with a couple of rock benches.  As you approach Upper Eagle Lake there begins to appear amazing lush green meadows filled with wildflowers, as well as thick stands of larch - some of which are huge!  Upper Eagle has a good sized horse camp and 4-5 more tent sites a bit further along, and a few more solitary sites up and down the lakeshore.  There's a pit toilet with a box just up the hill out of sight.  We had a lovely night there though there was some wind and it was chilly.

On day 2 we hiked back down to the junction with the Boiling Lake trail and hiked up and over a pretty pass (just a bit of scree, trail condition remained excellent), great views.  Down the other side the views broadened out over the Chelan summit and Sawtooth ridge.  The trail switchbacked on a comfortable grade down to Boiling Lake.  We planned to do a side hike to Hoodoo Pass and had wondered if we could find the 'boot path' we'd heard about;  but as we approached Boiling lake there was a nice sign at the side trail.  The trail to Hoodoo passed through more lush flowerfield meadows, joined another trail coming from the Summit trail, and climbed through thick larch to the pass with more views.  There was obviously lots of ridge rambling possible from there but we didn't have time so we headed back down to Boiling Lake.  We had lunch there at the lake (picnic table, a bit worse for wear) and noticed several camps.  Halfway around the lake there was a fork that was confusing - the right fork was signed to Cub Lake, no sign on the left fork, but a little compass work with the map clarified that the left fork was just a short spur to more camps and the right spur was our connector to the Summit Trail that would get us to Angel's Staircase.  Sure enough after about a mile there was another sign to Cub Lake, straight ahead, and the summit trail crossed from right to left.  We went left.  This next few miles was the most lovely of the entire trip - a fairly steep climb through forest led us to panoramic views across wide rolling meadows with lots of flowers.  The trail to Angel's Staircase was marked with a new sign.  The dreaded staircase turned out to be a pretty, well graded set of switchbacks through meadows and rock gardens, with just a short bit of rocky stuff toward the very top.  From the top we could see south across Merchant's Basin to the cirque with Sunrise Lake.  The trail traversed on fairly good secure trail to an unmarked junction where you could go left up to a saddle and down to Cooney Lake;  we took a right downhill at the junction to Merchant's basin and Sunrise Lake.  The top of this descent is steep with rolling rocks so take care!  Soon you get into meadow stretching all around!  Both Gaia and Green Trails showed the trail to Sunrise cutting off to the right well before the actual marked trail, which was in the first stand of trees near the stream - camps and a sign for Merchant's Basin and Sunrise Lake were there in the trees.  A right turn there took us across the stream and up a last set of switchbacks to the lake, moving back up into thick larch and past a set of lovely layered multi-colored rock cliffs.  The lake had a nice camping area and probably 8-10 tent spots of varying quality, plus a fire ring where someone had helpfully cut and stacked quite a bit of wood (No fires in the summer please people!!)  There was a nice stream running near the camp and great views across the lake and back across Merchant's Basin.  Gaia showed a trail up the headwall across the lake but we didn't have time to go exploring on this trip.

After a nice warm night at Sunrise we packed up and headed back down to the junction, left and up across Merchant's Basin, and up to the saddle above Cooney.  The descent was steep with rolling rocks but otherwise well formed trail.  We entered trees near Cooney;  didn't check out the camps there but we've heard that there are quite a few as this is a very popular area.  Past Cooney the trail crossed the stream and there was an unmarked fork, with one trail going right and down, and another going sharply left at a close angle to the trail we had just come down.  Turns out that the right hand trail goes to Foggy Dew campground - don't take that one if you want to finish the loop!  We took an unintended 20 minute detour down and back up, then took the correct trail which climbed just a short ways before rounding back east the way we wanted to go.  After a short while we passed a signed junction to Martin lakes, then a 4-mile section back to the signed junction with the Eagle Lakes trail, and on back to the trailhead.  Good fast trail on the way down.

Overall this trail was absolutely lovely, no blowdowns, great trail, and a surprising amount of lush meadow with flowers even in a mid-August weekend.  It was clear that there had been a LOT of bike traffic ahead of us (tracks on the trails) but luckily we only saw two bikes, coming out on Sunday afternoon.  Plenty of signs of horses but we saw none and even the horse camps appeared fairly gently used except the one near Cooney where horses had made a mess of the stream banks.  We'd been prepared for bugs but they were hardly evident at all on this trip.  There is such a profusion of larch around this route that we all agreed it would be a prettier October hike than most any of the other popular larch hikes that I know!

Find my google photos album for the trip at https://photos.app.goo.gl/QHUfECbDkzG1NLdt9

and my Gaia route folder for the trip at https://www.gaiagps.com/public/jQf28Kb1wnZkvOgh7gwazuS2