There remain a select few cirques of serenity, alpine lakes that are relatively unvisited. Stirrup Lake numbers among those riparian oases, its flora and fauna shielded by a location east of Snoqualmie Pass and a network of sporadically signed National Forest roads. Stirrup Lake rests in a saddle between Meadow Mountain and Big Muffin. If you wish to reach the shores of Stirrup Lake, pay close attention to the directions, as not all roads in this region have clear signage.
From the trailhead, walk west-southwest. Ground cover includes thimbleberry, salmonberry, devil’s club, deer ferns, and huckleberry—did I mention huckleberry? You will be wading through those bearers of ripe fruit in the late summer months, as they attempt to overgrow the trail. Overgrown spots are passable. Wildflowers on this trail include fireweed, pearly everlasting, paintbrush, lupine, Pacific columbine, and oxeye daisy. Expect to encounter blowdowns, since you are not on a wilderness superhighway.
Speaking of superhighways, 0.7 miles from the trailhead you will cross the Pacific Crest Trail at an oblique angle. Lest ye be tempted by the broad, fair tread of the PCT, maintain your route on the bootpath to the left. Continue to gradually gain altitude. Most of the 400 net feet of elevation gain on this trail happens in the first mile. Watch for the variety of evergreens that make up the recovering forest and note their cones that carpet the trail: Douglas fir, western hemlock, mountain hemlock, cedar, and western white pine.
Just before you reach the lake, at a maximum altitude of 3586 feet, the overgrowth opens up, to announce your impending arrival. Follow the trail down to the banks of the lake, 1.2 miles from the trailhead, where Stirrup Creek dumps out. Dragonflies, damselflies, and water skimmers dart back-and-forth. Mosquitoes may bite. To the northwest, Meadow Mountain and its majestic reflection meet your gaze. You may have a close encounter with a hummingbird, but also know that elk and black bears wander through the area, drawn to the berried late summer treasure of this area.
If you wish to see more, the trail continues west along the south shore of the lake and another half mile to Meadow Pass, where you can link up with FR 5483. It is also possible to camp on the shore of the lake next to Stirrup Creek’s outlet.