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Lake Valhalla

Central Cascades

Location

Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - East
View map below

Length

7.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 1500 ft.
Highest Point: 5050 ft.

Rating

4.35 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 
 

Lake Valhalla is a gem, tucked under Lichtenberg Mountain and Mount McCausland on the PCT North of Stevens Pass. The lake is a great day hike in summer or fall and accessible by snowshoe in the winter. Wildflowers abound in early summer, berries in late summer and fall colors make vivid surroundings in autumn. Valhalla is a popular destination in winter as well, though the access point and the route are very different; see our Hiking Guide entry for Lake Valhalla Snowshoe for further details on this route.

In summer, there are two ways to access Lake Valhalla, either via the Smithbrook Trail #1590, or from Stevens Pass using a section of the PCT. Both routes offer similar elevation gain; the Smithbrook route starts at 3800 feet, just 200 feet lower than the Stevens Pass route. However, the Stevens Pass route is longer, while the Smithbrook route is more kid-friendly.

Approaching Lake Valhalla from the Smithbrook trail, the grade is modest, and while there is plenty to look at, the round-trip distance is moderate. The trailhead has an ample parking area off Forest Service Road 67. A recent reworking of the trail starts off with gentle switchbacks. After you cross the wilderness boundary, keep your eyes peeled for the 8-foot diameter Douglas fir that fell across the trail a few years ago. This tree was too big to cut with a crosscut saw so it was cleared using blasting.

The trail continues up to Union Gap where it meets the PCT. In August and September, you will frequently meet PCT thru-hikers as they head north to Stehekin and the end of their journey at the Canadian Border. They are generally friendly and happy to share their stories for a few minutes, particularly if you have some fresh fruit or cookies to share.

After conversing with thru-hikers, turn south at Union Gap and climb gently to the gap between Mounts Lichtenberg and McCausland where you get your first glimpse of Lake Valhalla, shining in the cirque below. Just before reaching the gap, a boot trail follows the ridge up to an old lookout site at Mount McCausland. Less then a half a mile and 600 feet of climbing are rewarded with a great view of Glacier Peak to the north. There are lots of huckleberries in the meadows along this trail.

Pass over the gap and descend to Lake Valhalla. There are a number of overnight campsites and a couple of backcountry toilets at the lake, though please note that no campfires are permitted. There is a very pleasant sandy beach, perfect for lunch. Small 4-or 5-inch cutthroat jump along the shore trying to catch the bugs skimming the lake surface.

If you're looking for a longer hike, start from the Stevens Pass parking lot on the north side of the highway, behind the power station that feeds the Ski Area. The first mile of the trail is along an old rail bed, used before tunnels were dug to route the railway under Stevens Pass. If you look carefully, you can see where the railroad switchbacked up from Yodelin. Watch the downhill side and you will see the clearly graded roadbed ascending, although it has lots of trees growing on it now. The trail continues along the rail bed for another 500 yards or so, where the train was backed in to clear the switchback, before proceeding up and over the pass.

As the rail bed section of the trail ends, head away from the noise of Highway 2 and into a series of meadows. This is a beautiful section of trail, providing a good example of what hikers will find if they continue north on the PCT. A modest grade with well-maintained tread, wildflowers, huckleberries, and good views awaits you here. Mount Lichtenberg looms large above as you climb up to the basin where Lake Valhalla is tucked. This route is 10 miles roundtrip and offers 1000 feet of elevation gain.

WTA Pro Tip: Thru-hike the trails to Lake Valhalla using a key swap! Using two groups of hikers, have one group start at Smithbrook and the other at Stevens Pass. Meet in the middle for a picnic at the lake, then swap car keys, and continue on to the trailhead that the other group departed from. This makes for a 9.9-mile long dayhike for both groups through a wide variety of terrain and views.

 

Lake Valhalla

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.7479, -121.0883 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - East

Lake Valhalla (#1590)

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Skykomish Ranger District

See weather forecast

Getting There

From Seattle, take I-405 to Hwy 522 in Monroe. Drive east through Monroe and onto Hwy 2 east for 58 Miles to Stevens Pass.

To access the Smithbrook trailhead, remain on Hwy 2 through Stevens Pass. 3.5 miles east of the pass, 100 yards after the highway divides there is a well-marked left turn for Forest Service Road 6700. Be cautious when crossing the west bound lanes of Hwy 2 onto 6700. The trailhead is 2.5 miles up Road 6700.

From Leavenworth, follow Hwy 2 west to the well-marked turn off for Road 6700, 31 miles west of town. The parking area for Stevens Pass is just 3.5 miles past the turnoff for Smithbrook.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 

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Lake Valhalla

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