Kim and I decided to do a day hike to Melakwa lake today. We are working on transitioning from day hiking into backpacking and this is (was?) one of our potential first destinations. So, we decided to scout it out – it is 4.5 miles into the lake, with a good elevation gain (right around 2300 feet). Of course, most of that gain is in the last two miles…
The trail is the Denny Creek Trail, which has an interesting starting location – between the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-90 as you approach Snoqualmie Pass from Seattle. There is quite a bit of separation between the lanes – you can’t actually see them at the trailhead. One of the first interesting things you pass along the trail is westbound I-90 – you get to walk underneath it. I wonder what it would be like here in the winter when the snowplows drive by on the road?
The first section of trail is pretty easy, you cross into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness with and then proceed across Denny Creek about a mile in. Apparently during the spring melt it can be pretty hazardous, but since we were here in September, it was not an issue.
Continuing along the trail for another mile or so and the grade gets a little steeper, but not much. The trail gets rockier as you approach Keekwulee Falls. This was our first spot for a quick rest. There was not a ton of water going over the falls, but they were still nice.
At this point, the trail gets quite a bit harder. It is steep and it is rocky, sometimes fairly loose rock. It was a bit of grind to get up to Hemlock Pass, which was the highest elevation of the hike. The whole time I’m doing this section I was questioning if I really wanted to come back and do this trip with a pack on my back. I don’t think this would be a good trail for our first backpacking excursion.
After cresting Hemlock pass, the trail goes for about a half mile and descends about 100 feet down to Melakwa Lake. As you go through this section of trail, you know you are close to the lake (because of looking at the GPS), but it really doesn’t seem like there should be a lake anywhere near this area. All of the sudden it is just there.
The hike back was easier than coming up, but you still can’t make good time because of the rocks. I will say that I am glad I had trekking poles with me to help balance my way through them.