J and I have started a tradition of going on a backpacking trip over the 4th of July weekend. Two years ago we went to Goat Lake, which is still one of my favorite hikes! But I think our hike this past year to Spectacle Lake definitely topped that one 🙂 Read on for the story and a million photos!
We left early Saturday morning, July 2, and it took us about 2.5 hours to drive out to the Spectacle Lake trailhead. Then we had a ten mile hike out to the lake to camp for the night. The weather at home in Seattle was cloudy, gray, and cool, so we weren’t expecting any amazing views. But – the further east we drove, the more the clouds started clearing up, and by the time we set out the skies were bright and sunny. It was the beginning of a perfect day!
Pete Lake is about four miles from the trailhead, and this section is also a stock trail. Several groups of horses passed us in this section. One tip if you do this hike – bring plenty of bug spray! The mosquitoes were awful on the trail up to Pete Lake. Thankfully we didn’t have much trouble with them after we got past that section though.
I could not get over how bright everything seemed – the blue skies and green trees were so beautiful.
Here’s a look at Pete Lake, 4 miles into our journey. There were tons of campsites all around, but most of them were full by this point in the day. It did look like a fun place to camp and would definitely be an easier backpacking trip, but make sure you leave early in order to claim a good spot!
After we passed Pete Lake, we started encountering trees that were down across the trail. Because it was so early in the summer, the snow levels were only just beginning to disappear enough for this trail to be hike-able, so there hadn’t been any crews out cleaning up the trails yet. As a joke we decided to start counting how many trees we had to climb over as we went.
About a mile past Pete Lake, we came to a river crossing, Lemah Creek. Here’s a photo of where we had to cross. The worst part was definitely right in the beginning, where you can see the water is moving pretty quickly. Also it was freezing! The water came up a little above our knees in the deepest part. I was definitely thankful that we had hiking poles to help us keep our balance while making our way through the swift current.
Thankfully there was a patch of rocks about halfway across where we were able to stop and take a break. Here’s a shot looking back from the halfway point. We came around on the top left of this photo, where the water still looks calm. Looks are deceiving though- there actually was a pretty strong current in that area just before the rocks, and I almost lost my balance a couple times. Thankfully I was able to catch myself!
Here’s a shot of J finishing the last part of the crossing. Luckily after that first part the water was mostly around mid-calf level. It’s still pretty tricky crossing rivers though, so make sure you are giving it your full attention, and I definitely recommend hiking poles to help keep your balance.
One last shot looking back across the river. I loved this next section through the forest. It was so peaceful and magical.
A mile or so later we started passing through the burnt-out area from the Lemah Creek Fire of 2009. It was kind of spooky to walk through all the burned trees.
And the colors were still so amazing. The bright green ferns are so gorgeous.
One of my favorite shots of the trip 🙂
Next we began the ascent up to the ridge. Most of the elevation gain on this hike is here in the last mile. We followed the switchbacks back and forth, making our way up.
Loved these bright blue flowers – they were almost glowing!
One of the giant trees we climbed over – there were 180 of them! This hike isn’t too bad overall, but the additional climbing (with our giant packs!) definitely made it more exhausting than it would have been otherwise. Some of them were pretty tricky to figure out how to get around.
Can’t get enough of this view!
More tree climbing.
This one shows how many trees were down around us and on the trail. I read some trip reports on wta.org a few weeks after our hike, and it sounded like there were a lot of volunteer crews that came out and cleared the trail up, so if you do this hike later in the summer, you shouldn’t have the issue with downed trees like we did.
Another crossing (this looks more precarious than it really was).
And then we came around a corner and saw the most beautiful waterfall. These photos hardly do it justice.
Here’s a video to give you a better idea of how huge and beautiful it was!
A shot from a bit further down the trail, looking back.
Finally we reached the top of the ridge and were getting close to our first glimpse of Spectacle Lake.
And here it is! Our first look down at Spectacle Lake from up on the ridge.
The next part of the hike was a pretty steep downhill section on the rocks to get down to the lake. There were campsites along the water and also on the little peninsula that juts out into the lake, which you can kind of see below.
We chose to hike out to the little peninsula area to find a campsite. Here you can see what that looked like from above as we were climbing down.
It’s not a huge area, so we walked around a little bit to see the views around the lake (this shot is from J scouting out the best place for photos!). That’s Chikamin Ridge across the lake.
If you were facing the lake and then turned left, this is the view you’d see. A much clearer look at the Three Sisters, which are the mountain peaks we’d been hiking toward all day. It was so cool to see them from this angle just below after seeing them so far in the distance at the beginning of our hike.
The sun was going down as we arrived, and there were already a ton of other people that had already set up their campsites. We managed to find a spot right by the lake that was sheltered from the wind. You can kind of see in this photo, on the bottom left there is a flat area with a little rock wall behind it. That’s where we set up our tent, and the rock did a great job of blocking the wind off of the lake.
That little path to the right led out to a rock platform, and J told me to go wait out there while he got out the GoPro. We usually just take our cell phones for cameras when we hike so that we don’t add too much extra weight, but J had suggested this time that we take the GoPro so that we could get some nicer shots of ourselves at the lake. So he set it up with the tripod… and then this happened! 🙂
It was such a perfect proposal, and so very “us” – we are always looking for new hikes and adventures to go on together, so to be in such a gorgeous place (after hiking 10 miles and climbing over 180 trees with a 25lb pack! ha!) was just the most amazing way to get engaged and begin the next chapter of our lives together!
And now here are a ton of pictures of the ring 🙂 J had it custom designed at a place here in Seattle, and it also is so completely perfect.
The sky looked so pretty as the sun went down.
Our first meal being engaged – good old Mountain House freeze dried pasta 🙂
Our tent, right by the lake.
We celebrated with wine and Oreo’s! (Yes, J actually snuck a wine bottle in his backpack and carried all that extra weight!)
The weather the next morning was cloudy and drizzly. I took a few more shots out by the lake where J proposed. Here’s the path leading out to the rock where we were standing.
The view straight across the lake from where we were. I love all the waterfalls!
Another look at the Three Sisters.
And one last shot of the tent before we packed up.
Unfortunately shortly after this my phone died, and we accidentally packed J’s phone in the tent when we rolled it up, so we don’t have any photos of the hike home! But, that’s probably ok because it would just be a million more of the same photos from the way up – and it was a lot cloudier that the day before when we’d hiked out. So, we just chatted and counted trees as we climbed over them (lol) and made our way back. We were so exhausted by the time we got to Pete Lake and were so ready to get back to the car and get back into cell service so we could call our families! Those last four miles were really rough – the mosquitoes were relentless, and our feet and legs were worn out from all the hiking and climbing over trees.
But, we finally made it and drove about 45 minutes back to Roslyn where we finally had signal. We parked and called our families to tell them the exciting news, and then went to Brick Saloon and devoured giant cheeseburgers 🙂 (Check it out if you are hiking in this area – we have stopped here multiple times and it always hits the spot!)
It’s been about 10 months since our engagement hike to Spectacle Lake, and we are 3 months away from getting married! We are planning a wedding out here in Seattle and are so excited for our friends and family to come see where we live and celebrate with us!
Distance: about 20 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 1500 feet (almost all of this is in the climb up to the ridge, and then you climb down to get to the lake)
Difficulty: Moderately Difficult – but more difficult if you have to climb over 180 trees! 🙂 If you go later in July or August/September you shouldn’t have an issue with trees
Head east on I-90 to Cle Elum. Exit on WA-903 toward Roslyn and follow the road past Cle Elum Lake. Turn left onto NF-46, then right onto NF-4616 past Cooper Lake. The road will dead end into a parking area for the Pete Lake/Spectacle Lake trailhead.