Access: Bumpy gravel road to trailhead, Northwest Forest Pass required
I decided when I moved to Seattle about a year ago that I wouldn't blog about my hikes in Washington state. This was for good reason: there was a plethora of information about hiking in Washington already and I wasn't nearly as familiar with the area as I am with Virginia because, well, I didn't grow up nearby. I've reneged on that decision (somewhat); I'll be posting write-ups of hikes that I've found most rewarding since moving here and I'm a little too lazy to start a new blog altogether. Since I'll just be posting highlights rather than all my trips and I occasionally do return to Virginia, I anticipate a healthy future mix of relevant (Appalachian) and non-relevant hikes and fairly regular updates.
I couldn't not write about Lake Ingalls; it was much too good of a hike, with the trail from Ingalls Pass to the lake through Headlight Basin delivering some of the most jaw-dropping scenery and fiery fall color one could experience. The hike is perhaps a moderate-strenuous by Virginia standards; it's generally not too difficult but the trail is rocky and sometimes wet in parts and a minor bit of scrambling is required during the last quarter-mile before the lake. The rewards are ample starting from Ingalls Pass, 3 miles into the hike: the last third of the hike passes through the beautiful larch forest in Headlight Basin, offers unparalleled views of Mt. Stuart, and ends at the stark, rocky basin of the lake.
The hike is in the Teanaway, a region on the eastern (drier) side of the Cascades. The trailhead is a nearly two-and-a-half hour drive from Seattle, quite an endeavour- and the dirt road leading to the trailhead is potholed, rough, and long. It's a full day excursion from Seattle, but it's undoubtedly worth it in early to mid October, when the larches of Headlight Basin shine a golden autumnal light. On any nice weekend, the parking lot overflows with hikers from Seattle; consider a fall weekday. For the most current information on the trail, check for the latest trip reports on the hike on the Washington Trails Association website. You'll probably won't want to do this hike any earlier than July if you want to avoid large amounts of snow.
I headed to Lake Ingalls with two friends on an October weekend with overcast Seattle skies. We encountered rain on the way through Snoqulamie Pass on I-90, raising worries about the weather in the Teanaway, but we relaxed on seeing blue skies in Cle Elum. We arrived at the trailhead around 1 PM to slightly grey skies but decided to go ahead anyway. The early parts of the hike were uneventful; the trail started out by ascending alongside the North Fork Teanaway River, which here was nothing more than a stream. Within a third of a mile, we came to a junction with the Esmeralda Basin Trail; here we took the right fork uphill, towards Long Pass and Ingalls Way.
|North Fork Teanaway|
|Headlight Basin and Ingalls Peak|
|Mt. Stuart and the larches of Headlight Basin|
|Larches at the headwaters of Ingalls Creek|
|Larches of Headlight Basin|
The lake was surprisingly stark and exceedingly beautiful. With the exception of some grass, the lake's environs were barren; the bare granite of the surrounding mountains reinforced that feel. From the lakeside, we could see Mt. Stuart tower over, along with the other peaks of the Stuart Range. Clouds played around Stuart's summit, casting occasional shadows over the lake.
|Sunset over Esmeralda Basin|