Total Ascent: 1600ft
Highest Point: 3600ft
Total Distance: 9.0 miles
Location: N 48° 06.908, W 121° 36.069
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Moderate due to distance and some route-finding
It’s snowshoe season and the mountains are brimming with layer upon layer of decent snow. Our most recent snowshoe took us out along the Mountain Loop Highway to the popular Deer Creek Sno-park. While most folks are here to check out the Big Four Ice Caves or do a little sledding on the hill, we had our sights set on Kelcema Lake, tucked into the base of Mt. Baldy at the end of FR 4052.
According to local lore, Kelcema Lake was named by an early homesteader in honor of his three daughters, Kelly, Cecilia and Mary - Kel-Ce-Ma. With the Marten Creek Mine just over the ridge, the area has a rich mining history. More recently however, it was home to Boy Scout Camp Kelcema, from 1922 to 1944. Situated on the eastern shore, the camp was eventually quite extensive, with a lodge, quite a few cabins, and a makeshift dock. Scouts would spend their time climbing nearby peaks, swimming in the lake, and enjoying the pristine setting. It was renamed camp Mathews in 1944, and a few years later it was shut down entirely as the Scouts decided to consolidate summer camps. The buildings suffered from vandalism and disrepair until the Forest Service burned it down in 1966. Since that time, the lake has remained a popular, as the short .4 mile walk to the lakeshore from the road made it a summer destination for adventurers of all ages. More recently however, fallen trees and washouts have blocked the road and significantly lengthened the trek to the lake.
The snowshoe begins from the Deer Creek Sno-Park, following FR 4052 up a gentle grade and into the second generation forest. Your path is fairly straightforward. The road continues to climb while offering occasional glimpses of the forested ridges that surround you. You’ll cross a number of easily forded washouts as you work your way toward the lake. After about 3.5 miles you’ll reach a hairpin turn, signaling that you are nearing the trailhead. Continue onward and upward for another mile to the end of the road and the trailhead. The Kelcema Lake Trail #718 is signed, but if snow levels make it difficult to find, listen for Deer Creek and follow it the .4 mile into the Boulder River Wilderness and to the shores of Kelcema Lake.
Nestled in a bowl beneath Mt. Baldy and Devil’s Peak, it is not hard to imagine the area teeming with Boy Scouts. There is a rough trail around the lake, though sections can be difficult to navigate in the summer months. Find a good spot to settle down and enjoy the quiet before gearing up to head back. On your way out do a little exploring around the end of FR 4052 to find a view of nearby Big Four Mountain and Sperry Peak.
This is a great snowshoe for those looking to put in some distance rather than tromp through the backcountry. The snow makes the hike down four miles of forest road a lot more fun and you’re likely to have the icy lake all to yourself. With relatively little elevation gain, this is also a good area for young or novice snowshoers - even if you don’t make it to Lake Kalcema, it’s still a pleasant tromp in the woods.
To get there, take I-5 North to Exit 194. Follow Highway 2 for about two miles. Stay in the left lane and merge onto Lake Stevens Highway 204. Follow for two miles to Highway 9. Take the left onto Highway 9 toward Lake Stevens. In just under two miles, you’ll reach Highway 92 to Granite Falls. Take a right and follow for about nine miles to the Mountain Loop Highway. Take the MLH for a little over 23.5 miles to the Deer Creek Parking Area/Sno-Park. -Nathan
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