Trail Distance: 12.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,300 ft
Terrain Rating: Moderate
Hike In: 10:23AM
Hike Out: 5:15PM
Trailhead: Blanca Lake Trailhead, about 1.5-2 hours from downtown Seattle.
Blanca Lake was my favorite Seattle hike of the summer. The photos look like something out of Banff, but it’s actually only 1.5 hours from Seattle! You don’t have to travel too far to see the beautiful aqua colors of this lake.
Due to a washout, this hike is now 13 miles instead of the usual 9 miles. The first two miles are along a wide, flat road until you reach the “actual” trailhead. The washout is really bad for the last 0.4 miles or so. I don’t see this changing any time soon as WTA looks to clean it up!
Once you reach the actual trailhead, the elevation gain begins slowly for the first half mile or so. From there, the switchbacks begin. The trail is completely shaded for the switchback portion. The roots here can be tricky, so watch your step - especially if it has recently rained.
Your next 3 miles will be all switchbacks. The elevation is steep and you might find your muscles tightening. I was never truly out of breath, but I definitely felt my legs working. This is a great workout!
Once the trees open up, you know you’re done with the heavy elevation portion. The trail climbs slowly now through ridge lines and dramatic views of nearby mountains. Soon you will reach Virgin Lake, a muddy and otherwise uninteresting body of water. From there, it is another mile or so until Blanca Lake.
The trail descends about 700 feet through narrow paths of roots and rocks. The opening to Blanca Lake is quite sudden and dramatic. We were all blown away when all of a sudden we saw the turquoise waters open in front of us. We arrived at Blanca Lake at 1:11PM, 2 hrs and 45 minutes after we started hiking.
We had lunch here for a little over an hour. The bugs weren’t too bad - 1 or 2 bees. Some hikers went in for a dip. And this reminds me - I should bring an inflatable kayak next time. After enjoying the views and soaking in some sun, we headed back for our car.
I can’t recommend this hike enough. Be sure to start early! As we were almost at the trailhead, we saw some people -just- starting the hike, and in white jeans nonetheless. Come on a weekday if you can take the vacation days. The serenity is worth it.
- 4L of water
- 3 bars, a sandwich, and Nuun tabs
- Hiking poles (recommended to save your knees on the steep descent)
- Nike sneakers
- Osprey Pack
- Extra clothes packed away: extra socks, hat, rain jacket
- Emergency Gear: Map & GPS, Headlamp, reduced First-Aid Kit, Swiss Army Knife, hand/feet warmers