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Hiking GuidesWashington

Hiking Guide: Blanca Lake

Blanca Lake

Overview

Blanca Lake is one of the most picturesque alpine lakes in Washington. Its waters are often described as “teal”, “turquoise”, or “vibrant blue,” giving it a striking beauty.

Like many worthwhile hikes in Washington’s Cascade Range, this hike is steep and strenuous. Anyone that puts in the hard work of booting up to Blanca Lake will have their efforts rewarded handsomely.

I find myself recommending Blanca Lake over and over to family, friends, and acquaintances looking for incredible hikes nearish to Seattle. You really can’t beat the views you get from this glacier-fed lake basin surrounded by craggy peaks.

Kim soaks her hair in the chilly waters of Blanca Lake
Kim soaks her hair in the chilly waters of Blanca Lake

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 7 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 5-7 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 3000 feet
  • Fee: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Hard

Hiking to Blanca Lake

In July 2016, Kim, Arrow the Cattle Dog, and I hiked to Blanca Lake from the turnoff to National Forest Development Road 63 on the Index-Galena Road. We were unable to drive to the official Blanca Lake Trailhead because the road was closed due to being washed out.

The road closure made our hike 12 miles out and back instead of 7, but it was well worth the journey!

Make sure to call the Skykomish Ranger District office at 360-677-2414 before your hike to get up-to-date information on road conditions.

From the trailhead, you will climb 37 switchbacks and gain 2700 feet in 3 miles. Once you reach the hike’s highpoint at Virgin Lake, you’ll then descend 500 feet over 0.5 miles to Blanca Lake.

Scenery along the trail
Scenery along the trail

The best time to hike to Blanca is between July and October, when most or all of the snow has melted.

Kim poses with a hiking stick she found in front of the lake
Kim poses with a hiking stick she found in front of the lake

Why is Blanca Lake Teal?

Curious as to how the lake gets its distinct color? This is caused by the Coleman Glacier that feeds the lake. Over time, the ice flows downhill and grinds or tills the rocks underneath into glacial flour. When the meltwater enters the lake, it retains the sediments and the “glacial milk” makes the water teal.

Max (the author) takes an exhilarating dip in the freezing lake
Max (the author) takes an exhilarating dip in the freezing lake

Map

Location

From Seattle, get on I-45 northbound and take exit 23 for State Route 522. Continue eastbound for 13.3 miles, then turn right onto U.S. Route 2. Continue for 21.6 miles, then turn left onto Index-Galena Road. Continue for 14.7 miles then turn left onto NF-63 (if it’s open). Continue for 1.9 miles and park at the trailhead on the left.

Get Directions

Resources

Links

Photos

Blanca Lake

Driftwood in Blanca Lake


Want to hike Washington’s best trails? Check out our other Washington Hiking Guides.

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