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Backpacking GuidesWashington

Backpacking Guide: Jade Lake and Dip Top Gap

Jade Lake

Overview

High up in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, there is a shimmering blue lake surrounded by soaring, snow-covered peaks. The experience of hiking to Jade Lake feels like a dream, especially once you return to civilization. If my sore legs didn’t serve as a reminder, I would question whether it even happened.

If you are lucky enough to find a campsite next to Jade Lake, this is the view you will have
If you are lucky enough to find a campsite next to Jade Lake, this is the view you will have

In August 2020, I hiked to Jade Lake with my dog Arrow. After setting up camp at Jade Lake, we continued up the snowfield to Dip Top Gap to get a view of Pea Soup Lake. We spent a night at Jade, then hiked back down to Tucquala Meadows Trailhead the next day.

Looking down on Pea Soup Lake and Lynch Glacier from Dip Top Gap
Looking down on Pea Soup Lake and Lynch Glacier from Dip Top Gap

Camping availability at Jade Lake is extremely limited! I was lucky that a friendly group of backpackers invited me to squeeze in with them at their site.

Most of the seemingly available campsites at Jade have signs strung across the ground that read, “WILDERNESS RESTORATION SITE – Please do not walk through or camp in this area.” Because of this, I recommend camping at Marmot Lake or No Name Lake instead.

WILDERNESS RESTORATION SITE - Please do not walk through or camp in this area.

I also suggest doing this as a two-night trip rather than one like I did. If you are interested in seeing Pea Soup Lake, do it as a day hike the second day. Otherwise, you are in for a BIG day one.

Permits

You do not need an advanced permit to camp at Marmot, Jade, No Name, or Pea Soup Lakes. However, you are required to register at the trailhead.

You must fill out a permit at Tucquala Meadows
You must fill out a permit at Tucquala Meadows

A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the lot.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Jade Lake is during late summer, from July through September when the snow has melted.

Weather at Jade Lake

It’s best to use a point forecast from NOAA.gov to get the most accurate projection just prior to your trip. Click the button below for a link to this resource.

Get the Weather Forecast

Hiking to Jade Lake and Dip Top Gap

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 24 miles
  • Hike Time: 2-3 days
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 5,433 feet
  • Fee: Northwest Forest Pass required to park
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Hard

The Trailhead

The trailhead for Jade Lake and Dip Top Gap is located at the end of National Forest Road 4330 and is called Tucquala Meadows, elevation 3,379 feet. There is a dirt parking lot here and a pit toilet.

You will pass through the historic town of Roslyn to reach the trailhead. This small community has a gas station and a few restaurants, and is your last stop for supplies.

Jade Lake

From Tucquala Meadows, the well-worn trail is flat and easy for the first 3.6 miles, as it heads northwest through the forest and past Hyas Lake.

Hyas Lake, elevation 3550 feet
Hyas Lake, elevation 3550 feet

When I hiked it, both sides of the trail were lined with huckleberries and raspberries, which I happily ate.

From the start of the switchbacks to Deception Pass, you will gain 1100 feet in 2.6 miles. Halfway up, there is a trail on the right that leads to Tuck and Robin Lakes. These are on my to-do list!

The turnoff to Tuck and Robin Lakes
The turnoff to Tuck and Robin Lakes

Continue past this turnoff until you reach a major junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. Maybe it is called “Deception” Pass because it is confusing? There are some old, faded signs nailed to trees here. The trick is to bear right, walk a few hundred feet then bear left onto the Marmot Lake Trail.

Follow Trail No. 1066 to Marmot Lake
Follow Trail No. 1066 to Marmot Lake

For the next 0.8 miles, you will continue uphill through forests, meadows, and ponds to an elevation of 4700 feet. Then, over the next 1.3 miles, the trail drops back down to 4000 feet. Before the low point, there is a stream crossing. This is a great place to refill your water bottle(s).

Fireweed next to Marmot Lake Trail
Fireweed along the Marmot Lake Trail
A lovely cascade surrounded by ferns
A lovely cascade surrounded by ferns

From the low point, you will gain 900 feet in 1.8 miles on an uphill traverse to Marmot Lake. I got to the lake on a Sunday afternoon and there were plenty of available campsites.

Although it is overshadowed by Jade, Marmot Lake is beautiful in its own right
Although it is overshadowed by Jade, Marmot Lake is beautiful in its own right

After you make your way past the campsites at Marmot, the trail narrows, steepens, and becomes inundated with obstacles, like fallen trees, roots, and boulders. Navigation becomes a lot harder as well. I am a big advocate of GPS assistance for this type of thing.

Personally, I have found the Gaia GPS app to be the most inexpensive, dependable, and accurate way to stay on track during hikes. All you need is a smartphone to use it and these days, most people have those.

A talus slope next to Marmot Lake
A talus slope next to Marmot Lake. Continue along the bottom of this one

The section between Marmot and No Name Lakes is the hardest part of the hike to Jade. You will gain 700 feet in about a mile, as you follow cairns up a talus and scree slope. It is pretty ridiculous but just remember, it is over quick.

Make sure to follow cairns to avoid getting lost and save time and energy
Make sure to follow cairns to avoid getting lost and save time and energy

As you pass No Name Lake, take note of the spur trail that goes out to a campsite next to the lake. If you strike out at Jade (which is likely), camping at No Name is a good backup plan.

No Name Lake
No Name Lake
Jade Lake at sunset
Jade Lake at sunset

Dip Top Gap

If you are planning to ascend the snowfield to Dip Top Gap (elevation 7291 feet), trekking poles with snow baskets are a must. In the morning, the snow is iced over and slippery so you will want microspikes or crampons. By mid-afternoon, the snow is soft enough to get up without them.

The view from Dip Top Gap is incredible!
The view from Dip Top Gap is incredible!

Unless you are okay with getting your rear end wet, take a trash bag to glissade (slide down) the snowfield.

When Arrow and I left Jade Lake for Dip Top Gap, we followed a trail that dumped us onto a dangerous traverse over loose scree. By the time I figured out this was a bad route, we were over-committed and continued down to the gully.

Arrow and I traversed the steep embankment to the right. Not recommended!
Arrow and I traversed the steep embankment to the right. Not recommended!

It was heinous and I implore you to take a different way. On the way up, bear right at 47.59621, -121.17760 and go down to the lake, then follow the creek up to the snowfield. This will seem somewhat touch-and-go but I promise it is safer!

Approaching the snowfield
Approaching the snowfield

From Dip Top Gap, you can continue down the talus slope to Pea Soup Lake, hike up the ridge to Dip Top Peak, or sit back and enjoy views of the lake, Mount Daniel, and Lynch Glacier from the saddle.

Jade Lake and the Central Cascades from the snowfield
Jade Lake and the Central Cascades from the snowfield

Bear Safety

I saw a black bear run through the forest as Arrow and I were making our way down the switchbacks below Deception Pass.

Nobody I talked to seemed concerned about bear activity at Jade Lake. In fact, one person uttered the words, “there are no bears up here.”

You might be able to find a tree to hang your food on but if you really want to play it safe, I recommend purchasing a BearVault canister.

BearVault BV 500

View at REI

View on Amazon

What to Bring

The biggest mistake beginner backpackers make is bringing too much stuff and hauling too heavy of a pack.

I guarantee your trip will be much more enjoyable if you pack light. Identify what you need to bring and leave behind what you don’t.

The only caveat I give is to not fixate on being so lightweight and minimalist that you sacrifice preparedness, safety, and sensible comfort on your trip. Like many things in life, it’s all about a balanced approach.

Tip: Not sure which lightweight backpacking gear to buy? We’ve done the “heavy lifting” for you. See our top picks.

Gear List

Tent: Zpacks Duplex Tent – Camo, found in the bargain bin. It’s included in my best lightweight backpacking tents list.

Backpack: Zpacks Arc Haul-Zip. It’s included in my best lightweight backpacking packs list.

Sleeping Bag: EE Revelation 20 quilt. It’s included in my best lightweight sleeping bags list.

Sleeping Pad: I used the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, a lightweight air mattress. It’s included in my best lightweight sleeping pads list.

Cooking System: MSR Pocket Rocket (included in my best backpacking stoves list), TOAKS Titanium 1000ml Pot, and a Sea to Summit titanium spoon.

Water: I treated water with Katadyn tablets (included in my best water treatment systems) and carried it using a tall Nalgene.

Footwear: HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 3. I reviewed my last pair after 400 miles.

Headlamp: Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

Food: Cheerios and Nido instant milk, plus Alpine Start instant coffee for breakfast. Summer Sausage from AlpacaLand for lunch. Rice-A-Roni and Tasty Bite Channa Masala for dinner. If you’re feeling lazy, here are my favorite freeze dried and dehydrated food options.

Max’s Clothing:

Map: I used the Gaia GPS app. For a paper topographic map, get Alpine Lake Wilderness by Nat Geo.

First Aid Kit: Before every trip, Kim (my ICU nurse wife) assembles a kit for me. If you don’t have the time or knowledge to make your own, I recommend buying this one.

Sunscreen: Bring high SPF sunscreen and wear it. Despite its reputation for cloud cover, the Washington sun can be powerful, especially at higher elevations.

Other Stuff: 

Tip: Accidents happen. Learn how to treat cuts and wounds in the backcountry.

Map

Location

From Seattle, head east on I-90 for approximately 80 miles, then take exit 80 toward Roslyn. After that, turn left onto Bullfrog Road.

Continue for 2.1 miles then turn left onto Highway 93, which becomes Salmon La Sac Road then National Forest Road 4330 (unpaved 2WD with lots of washboard).

Get Directions

Trip Reports

August 2020

In August 2020, Arrow and I drove from Crescent Bar RV Resort near Wenatchee to Tucquala Meadows. We arrived at about 11:00 a.m. and the weekend backpackers were already starting to clear out. I could tell from all of the parallel-parked vehicles we passed that it had been much busier the day before.

Day 1

  • Distance: 13.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 4,419 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 2,285 feet

Started hiking at 11:25 a.m. and made it to Deception Pass at 1:35 p.m. Did not take any breaks. Reached Marmot Lake at 3:30 p.m.

Passed No Name Lake at 4:30 p.m. and got to Jade Lake at 4:45 p.m. All of the campsites were taken. Thankfully, a group invited me to join theirs.

After setting up the tent, Arrow and I left for Dip Top Gap at 5:30 p.m. We did a dreadful traverse over scree and I did not bring trekking poles because I used them to set up the tent.

I was able to get up the snowfield without them but it was hard and I lamented it. We reached the top at 6:55 p.m.

I glissaded most of the way down the snowfield and Arrow tried to “save” me from falling by repeatedly biting my feet. It hurt!

After a while, I figured out I could intermittently throw snowballs to keep him at bay. We got back to camp at 8:00 p.m.

Day 2

  • Distance: 10.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,016 feet
  • Elevation Loss: 3,175 feet

Said goodbye to my new friends as they set off for a morning hike to Dip Top Gap. Started hiking down at 9:30 a.m. Only stopped to go to the bathroom (there are toilets at Jade and Marmot Lakes) and picked huckleberries for my wife and daughter.

Talk about a toilet with a view!
Talk about a toilet with a view!

Saw a black bear running through the forest below Deception Pass. Made it back to the trailhead at 3:00 p.m.

Resources

Guidebooks

Topographic Maps

Links

Photos

A pond to the north of Hyas Lake
A pond to the north of Hyas Lake
Marmot Lake
Marmot Lake
Jade Lake in the morning
Jade Lake in the morning

Another view of Jade Lake

Look closely and you will see "PCT" etched into this sign
Look closely and you will see “PCT” etched into this sign
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