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Trip Report

Surprise Lake Snowshoe

Central Cascades

Trip Report By

Hiked Dec 10, 2017

Type of Hike

Snowshoe/XC Ski

Trail Conditions

Trail difficult/impossible to navigate:


Road suitable for all vehicles


No bugs


Trail snow-covered at times - gear and expertise recommended

My fiance and I set out to do this hike on Saturday the 9th because the weather was looking to be excellent, and on the drive to the trail head, we didn't see any snow along Stevens Pass. Because of this, and how clear the parking lot was when we arrived, we decided to ditch the snowshoes and leave them in the truck, thinking micro spikes would be enough. We were wrong. We hiked for two hours and ended up turning around because we were post holing so bad in our micro spikes and our dogs that have thin hair were frozen. The blue heeler was fine because she has enough hair to stay warm. We decided to head back home and come back tomorrow with snowshoes to try to get to the lake. 

Fast forward to the next day! We woke up early and made it to the trail head by 8:30am. We parked a little ways from the actual trail head because we didn't want to get stuck behind a train after reading one of the previous trip reports where a car had to wait for 3 hours for the train to pass before they could leave. We brought snowshoes this time and had a much easier time getting to the point where we had to stop the previous day. However, we reached a point where there was no longer a trail, because it looked like the people before us had gotten fed up with trying to break trail, because it's exhausting. My fiance broke the trail ahead of me and I tried to make it wider as we went. We took two wrong turns because the trail was not visible at all and was covered with about three feet of snow. If you are following our trail, the first time our trail "Ys" you should stay right and follow the same elevation around a vine maple that is low hanging over the trail. The second time you see a Y with our footprints, stay left and go uphill. You switchback your way up and make the final awful climb to the lake. You will need to cross some boulder fields and pay attention to where the tree wells and other possible falling through hazards are, because I definitely fell in a tree well and it could have ended up being very bad for me if my ankle had turned all the way around like it was looking like it was going to.  

It took us four hours to get there, but we made it to the lake by noon. We sat down, had some coffee and lunch, and only hung around for about a half an hour because we were worried about running out of daylight and our dog was getting cold. The post holing was really hard for her because she's a blue heeler and pretty low to the ground. We left our other two dogs at home because of how difficult the terrain was the previous day, and it was even worse the second day breaking trail. 

It took us 4 hours to get up and 2 hours to get back down. You can move pretty quickly when the trail is already broken! :) We made it all nice for the next person who wants to head up, but just pay attention to the two wrong turns that we made and don't make the same mistakes we did. 

Happy hiking! :)