Our Hiking Time: 2h 40m
Total Ascent: 1200ft
Highest Point: 3800ft
Total Distance: 4.2 miles
Location: N 48° 3.1140, W 121° 45.3000
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
This week we headed out to the Mountain Loop Highway with plans to check out the Bathtub Lakes Basin via Pinnacle Lake. Unfortunately, while we made it to the lake, lingering snow and foggy weather kept us from trudging up Iodine Gulch to what some have called “The Poor Man’s Enchantments.”
While hikers have been making treks to Pinnacle Lake since at least the 1920s, any mention of the Pinnacle Lake Trail has been overshadowed by the tragedy that happened there five years ago. On July 11, 2006, a mother and daughter, Mary Cooper and Susanna Stoddard, were found murdered on the trailside. Both shot in a random act of violence that remains unsolved. Both avid hikers and lovers of the outdoors, the pair had logged a great deal of trail miles in the Cascades together and with the rest of their family. The event reverberated through hiking community, raising questions around hiker safety and protection. Today, in an effort to raise public awareness and honor their memories, friends and family organize an annual memorial walk around Green Lake every July 11th.
The route follows Bear Lake Trail for a few tenths of a mile before branching off on The Pinnacle Lake Trail #703.1. Before pressing on, we recommend you take some time to trek out to Bear Lake and check it out – its tree-lined shores are worth the extra few tenths of a mile. Once back on the path to Pinnacle Lake, the trail quickly begins a series of somewhat steep switchbacks, made more difficult by healthy amounts of rocks, roots, and mud. The trail stays wet most of the year, so come prepared to squish through boggy mud flats and dodge areas of standing water. Eventually younger mixed conifer forest grudgingly gives way to sub-alpine forest, and the switchbacks also begin to yield to a gentler grade, signaling that the lake is near.
The trail deposits you a bit above the shore, near Black Creek, Pinnacle’s outlet. From here, you can take in the entire length of the lake. Almost entirely surrounded by the steep, rocky shoulders of Mt. Pilchuck, the lake has an air of rugged isolation. Find one of the many social trails down to the rocky lakeshore and enjoy the quiet. Or, for the more adventurous, continue around the left side of the lake to the bootpath leading up the talus fields of Iodine Gulch to the Bathtub Lakes Basin.
This hike is something of a mixed bag. Although it’s short, the trail is more than a little rough, making it challenging for hikers looking for less mileage. At the same time, the route quickly transports the hiker from a logging road to a serene alpine lake in less than three miles. We’d recommend this hike to more experienced hikers who are short on time, or who have their sights set on the Bathtub Lakes Basin.
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, reach Highway 92 to Granite Falls. Take a right and follow for about nine miles to the Mountain Loop Highway (MLH). Follow the MLH for just over 15 miles to FR 4020. Take a right and follow for about two-and-a-half miles to a junction. Veer right onto FR 4021 and continue for three miles following signs to Bear Lake and the trailhead. - Nathan
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