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Surprise and Glacier Lakes Trail #1060

Our Hiking Time: 5h 30m
Total Ascent: 2700ft
Highest Point: 4900ft
Total Distance: 9.5 miles
Location: N 47° 39.4980, W 121° 8.5020
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Moderate
Nathan's Photo
Over the years we’ve had a number of folks pointing us toward Surprise Lake for both summer and winter hiking. A few weeks ago we decided it was time to see if the hike could live up to the all the good reviews. Enough snow had fallen around Stevens Pass that we packed up our snowshoes and set out on what we thought might be our first snowshoe of the season.

We recommend this hike for anyone looking for an engaging hike throughout the year. It is a little long for more causal hikers, and the elevation gain is not insignificant, but most of the work is a short series of switchbacks at around the three mile mark. However, if you budget enough time, this hike should be attainable for almost every hiker. The lakes are more than worth the effort, and the hike even makes for a decent little backpacking weekend. While Surprise Lake is popular in the summer, few people make the trek in the winter, making this a good time to do some exploring and get the lakes all to yourself.

There's a lot more to Surprise and Glacier Lakes, and you can learn all about it in our book, Hiking Through History Washington.  You'll find a trail map, route descriptions, history, and more for this and many more hikes throughout the State. Help support hikingwithmybrother.com and the work we do by picking up a copy!

To get there, take Highway 2 out past Skykomish toward Stevens Pass. Just past milepost 58, look for an unmarked road on your right just beyond the Iron Goat Interpretive Site. Turn onto the access road and follow it across the Tye River to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks. Cross the tracks and head to the right paralleling the tracks for a short distance to a spur road heading into the trees. Follow this road a few tenths of a mile to the trailhead. -Nathan

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Surprise Lake


Anonymous said...

Great time to make the trip, Thanks for the report. SAS

West Fork Trail said...

Very engaging description of the trail. Intrigued by that single log across Surprise Creek.

Anonymous said...

The surrounding mountains are awesome - Thunder, Surprise and Sparkplug. If you hang east and go around Thunder you'll come to Tunnel Creek and Hwy. 2 with a view of Windy Point. Love the highway of trails!!!

Anonymous said...

You do need a US Forest Service trailhead permit to park. Also, it's important to know the snow conditions for this winter adventure. It has high avalanche danger on both sides of Surprise Creek when snow is unstable. It's a great little trek - and easy to access Glacier Lake from the south end of Surprise Lake. Sadie's Driver

Nathan said...

Excellent advice regarding the avalanche danger. As for the permit, the day use fee for the Surprise Lake Trailhead was eliminated in 2011, and no permit is required. You can find the information here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r6/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5414606. Hope that helps!

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