Alpine Lakes Wilderness - #71 Trap Lake

Get a sneak peak of the new title "Alpine Lakes Wilderness: The Complete Hiking Guide". Written by brothers and co-authors Nathan and Jeremy Barnes, this lush guidebook does our cherished region justice with glossy nature photos, making it great for finding trails and flattering your coffee table.
Mountaineers Books Mountaineers Books
May 02, 2019
Alpine Lakes Wilderness - #71 Trap Lake
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on the way up to Trap Pass. Photo by Nathan & Jeremy Barnes

Take a trip to the heavenly Alpine Lakes Wilderness with a jaunt out to Trap Lake, just one of the 100 beautiful trails included in the new Alpine Lakes Wilderness: The Complete Hiking Guide.

Trap Lake - hike 71 in Alpine Lakes Wilderness: The Complete Hiking Guide

  • Distance 9.2 miles
  • Elevation gain 2200 ft
  • High point 5400 feet
  • Difficulty Hard
  • Hiking time 5-7 hours
  • Best season Summer to early fall
  • Trail traffic Light foot traffic
  • Permit Northwest Forest Pass
  • Maps USGS Stevens Pass; Green Trails Stevens Pass No. 176
  • Trailhead GPS 47.71284°N, 121.1073°

Getting there

Because of barriers in the road, this hike is accessible only from the eastbound lanes of Highway 2. Take Highway 2 out past milepost 60. Just beyond the milepost, as the highway begins to turn sharply to the left, cross over Tunnel Creek and find an unmarked road on your right, shown as Forest Road 6095 on maps. Turn onto FR 6095 and follow it 1.2 miles to an intersection. Veer left for a few hundred feet to find the marked trailhead.

Hike 71, "Alpine Lakes Wilderness: The Complete Hiking Guide"

Depart from the trailhead, following the Tunnel Creek Trail #1061 as it wastes no time entering the forest and beginning a climbing traverse up the mountainside. The forest is heavy, thick with hemlock and drooping cedar. Push upward, ever upward, alternating between tight switchbacks and longer climbs. Navigate sections of narrow and rocky trail that cross over small streams and creeks, talus fields and avalanche chutes. Breaks in the canopy offer pocket views of the creek valley below. Enter the Alpine Lakes Wilderness just before arriving at Hope Lake at 1.4 miles at a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail #2000 (PCT). To the left, the PCT heads past Hope Lake and to Mig Lake (Hike 72), while Trap Lake lies to the right.

Turn right down the trail toward Trap Lake, beginning a long traverse above Trapper Creek. Alternate between stands of thick forest, lush rock gardens, and tranquil tarns. Views of the meadow-lined Trap-per Creek Valley emerge, with Grass Lake drawing your eye and the tiptops of Nimbus Mountain and Slippery Slab Tower emerging up ahead.

Rugged alpine landscape passes underfoot as you progress toward the 4.4-mile mark. Here, reach an unsigned fork in the trail. To the right the PCT continues up to Trap Pass, following trail chipped in the exposed granite cliffs above Trap Lake. Veer left for the lake, quickly drop-ping 200 feet to Trap’s shores at 4.6 miles. Boot paths wander around the lake, nestled in a deep bowl under the naked granite slopes of Slippery Slab Tower. Find campsites near the meadowy lake outlet, opposite talus-strewn shores. Find a sunny rock and soak up the tranquility.

Trap Lake 2.JPG


From the lake junction, the PCT climbs another 0.7 mile up open cliffs above Trap Lake to reach forested Trap Pass, though it does not offer views much better than those from the trail. Those still thirsty for adventure can drop steeply down to Surprise Lake (Hike 70).


Like so many other features in this area, Trap Lake was named by Forest Supervisor Albert H. Sylvester. The lake heads Trapper Creek, which flows out of the lake down through Grass Lake on its way to Icicle Creek. The creek bore the Trapper moniker long before the lake, and Sylvester chose the lake name to align with the creek. Backpackers, outdoor adventurers, and fishermen have long traipsed up this valley, with Grass Lake getting its name from fishermen who noted the grassy, reed-lined shores.

Trap Lake 3.JPG

Pick up your copy of Alpine Lakes Wilderness: The Complete Hiking Guide, and start exploring this special place. You can also meet Nathan and Jeremy in person at one of their upcoming events.

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