With only living in Seattle roughly eight months now, am excited that it is officially summer. There are many solstice activities over the weekend celebrating the start of summer. I haven’t worked myself up to go to the Freemont Solstice Parade yet (seriously, Google it; WARNING: there may be pictures of nude bicyclists covered with body paint), so we headed east to the Cascades for some hiking.


Tronador (Andy named his Jeep) at the Trailhead

When I think summer, I think warm temperatures and high humidity at least being from the East Coast. One mistake hikers can make when new to hiking the Cascades is even though it is technically summer, snow still lingers on trails. Fortunately, I have experience hiking in snow and knowing that even though you may not see snow at the beginning of your hike, it may be at the top of the hike.

Hiking through Trees

Hiking through the Trees

After researching trip reports for Blanca Lake, Andy and I still decided to attempt it. He is an excellent navigator, so I was not concerned we would have trouble finding the trail between Virgin Lake and Blanca Lake. Blanca Lake is supposed to be one of the most beautiful known lakes in Washington with its aqua blue colors.

Blanca Lake

Photo of Blanca Lake by Matthew of Seattle, WA

We drove to the groomed dirt roads back through the forest and arrived at the trail head. Since Andy was training for a mountaineering trip, he carried a 25 pound pack, which meant I only had to carry my camera. We hiked through the tree covered switchbacks gaining elevation quickly. The trail was decently wet with lots of slippery roots along the trail.

Blanca Lake Trail

Blanca Lake Trail

As we approached the ridge, we started running into patches of snow until the ground was covered with snow with patches of dirt. We followed some hikers’ tracks on sections and continued to gain elevation up the ridge and made steps in the snow until we started our descent down to Virgin Lake. I practiced my plunge stepping technique. The snow was starting to get soft making it easier to plunge step down.

Crossing Snow

Sun Cups

After climbing 823 meters (2700 feet) in elevation, we arrived at Virgin Lake. It was still frozen with a melted ring of aqua blue. As I tried to imagine what the lake looked like melted, we hiked around to continue to find the Blanca Lake trail.

Virgin Lake

Virgin Lake

After hiking and looking at the GPS track, we knew we were basically on the trail. However, the trail was along a steep mountain side covered with trees and snow. We tried to figure out how we could continue on without having to create side steps in the snow for the remaining portion of the hike. With a distant view of Blanca Lake, we could tell it was still frozen over, so we decided to head back to the Jeep and try the hike again in the Fall.


Andy Starting to Plunge Step Down to Virgin Lake

We retraced our steps in the snow until we were back on the trail. Running into other hikers heading up the trail, we continued on after providing trail conditions to those who asked. We finished the roughly 6 mile hike in 5 hours. The hike is normally 3.5 miles to Blanca Lake one way. Andy got his workout in while I enjoyed being outside.

Have you hiked in snow? Where?

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