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Sawtooth View via Aspen Lake

North Cascades


North Cascades -- Methow/Sawtooth
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6.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 1170 ft.
Highest Point: 3578 ft.


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This short hike provides a nice afternoon trip in three seasons and can be most of a day in winter. The lake makes a good first objective, but for the great views a climb to the ridge is needed. Your trip starts on a jeep trail extension of Frost Road, heading southeast, climbing steeply toward the gap in the ridge.

At 0.3 mile, the trail is closed to motorized vehicles at a gate. While this is all state-owned land, the Department of Natural Resources controls the initial part and the Department of Fish and Wildlife controls the rest. The gate is the boundary, as are most of the fence lines.

In winter, skiers tend to turn right after the gate and head directly up the ridge to the west of Aspen Lake. Snowshoers tend to return directly down to the gate, rather than follow the jeep trail back.

If the snow is gone, follow the jeep trail through the meadow grasses, which in late summer can be shoulder-high. In early summer, flowers are visible on the hills above the trail. It is interesting to see how fast the grasses and flowers have come back Twisp River Fire of 2015.

At 1.1 miles and elevation 2920 feet, is a junction with the jeep trail to Aspen Lake. Turn right (west) and start the climbing traverse to the lake. As it climbs, the trail nears the forest, blackened by the 2015 fire. This area is not recovering as fast as the meadowland.

At 1.6 miles, is an unmarked junction with a boot trail on the left, which heads east through the blackened forest and then down through spring flowers to Frost Road. Stay on the jeep trail for 0.1 mile to get to the lake, at 1.7 miles (elevation 2900 feet).

At the lake, take a break on the small dam and enjoy the view. The cattail shoreline and some of the aspens survived the fire, most of the pine and aspens did not. The lake’s shore is fenced off to prevent damage by grazing animals. It can be accessed through a pedestrian gate at the east end of the dam.

The trail to the crest of the ridge, and views, takes a few short, steep steps up the hill to the south, staying outside the lakeshore fence line. The trail stays above the fence line along the east shore of the lake, through a hillside of arrowleaf balsamroot in spring. At the south end of the lake, the trail cuts through a grove of young aspen and into a small field of fireweed (summer flowers).

Now the work begins. The trail climbs steeply through the blackened forest and onto a sloping bench at 2.2 miles with spring and summer flowers. It continues climbing with a gradual switchback, shortly before a fence line, that leads into the stark forest to climb to the ridge crest.

At 2.5 miles and elevation of 3290 feet, the trail reaches the open ridge crest with expansive views to the southwest of the Sawtooth Range: Hoodoo Peak, Star Peak, Oval Peak and more. This makes a good place for a break, but there are slightly better views farther along.

Continue along the trail as it switchbacks to get to its highpoint at 2.8 miles and elevation 3520 feet.


Sawtooth View via Aspen Lake

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.4177, -120.2192 Open map in new window


North Cascades -- Methow/Sawtooth

Washington State Department of Natural Resources

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Guidebooks & Maps

Amazing Maps: West Methow Trails

Getting There

From the four-way stop in Winthrop, take State Route 20 (Riverside Avenue) southeast for 0.6 mile. Just after the bridge over the Methow River, turn right onto Twin Lakes Road (toward Sun Mountain Lodge). Go 3.1 miles and turn right onto Patterson Lake Road. Go 1.8 miles and turn left onto Elbow Coulee Road. Go 2.1 miles to a turnout on the left for trail parking (opposite a pond/mudhole on the right).

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Sawtooth View via Aspen Lake

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