Winter at Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake is a one of Washington’s most popular spots in the summer. Groups camp at the trailhead overnight and book it up to the summit by 9 or 10 in the morning to claim the lookout for the following evening. I’m not really one for a conga line hiking experience and I’ve learned that there’s really only one way to avoid it for a popular hot spot: hit it when it’s cold.

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A few tips for a winter hike:

  • Plan for some extra mileage. The trailhead is at the end of Sibley Creek Road. At 3,600 feet, it’s low enough that it’s reachable into mid-November, but the road is also super prone to washouts and blow-downs in fall storms. Once the snowline drops, you may have to hike the entire road, which adds about 5 miles and 2,300 feet to the trip.
  • Be mindful of the avalanche chute. It’s a bit more complex than the basic NWAC forecast. The forecasters there cover the risk under the Cascade Crest (6,500 ft) and only start reporting when the snow at that level is significant enough to slide. Hidden Lake Peaks are both over that limit and the avalanche chute sits right at it. We ran into debris before we even made it to snowline, and the NWAC forecasts didn’t even start for another 2 weeks. Once the snowline drops, there’s an alternative winter route that climbs directly up the ridge line.
  • There’s some steep snow up there. The traverse around the lake is always pretty steep, but the snow adds another layer of risk. Take your traction (the skinnier the better – I was glad I wasn’t on snowshoes!), ice axe, and leash up your dog before breezing up to the lookout.
  • The lookout isn’t warm. You might be inside, but there’s no insulation. Pack your favorite puffy and shell to fight against the draft.

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