Hiking GuidesWashington

Hiking Guide: Lake 22

Lake 22



I have never been able to get a straight answer on where Lake 22 got its name. It is a strange and mysteriously indistinct title for such a unique alpine lake. All the same, the hike to this lake is one of my favorites in the state of Washington.

The lake sits at the bottom of a cirque on the northern side of Mount Pilchuck and is accessed from the scenic Mountain Loop Highway. Awe-inspiring cliffs rise precipitously from the lakeshore and are filled with waterfalls fed by snowmelt.

There’s a noticeable sense of peace and sanctuary at Lake 22. The vibe reminds me of what the Elves of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth would have felt in the magical valley of Rivendell.

Looking north from the shores of Lake 22
Looking north from the shores of the lake

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 5.4 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 1400 feet
  • Fee: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Hiking to Lake 22

In September 2016, Arrow the Cattle Dog and I hiked to Lake 22. We had summited Mount Pilchuck the day before, so it was cool to see the other side of the mountain. It was a characteristically cool and drizzly day on the trail.

The hike starts at Lake 22 Trailhead and winds its way up a series of switchbacks through an old growth forest. There are some massive trees to marvel at during this section of trail.

After a gradual ascent up the Twenty-Two Creek drainage, the deep dark forest opens up to reveal the lake in all of its glory. Once you arrive at the lake, there is a dirt footpath that loops around the entire waterhole. I highly recommend taking a walkabout and fishing if you are into that sort of thing.

Lake 22

A small waterfall on the cirque that surrounds Lake 22
A small waterfall on the cirque that surrounds the lake



From Seattle, take I-5 northbound then get off on exit 194. Continue east on U.S. Route 2 then merge onto State Route 204 eastbound. Turn left onto State Route 9 northbound, then turn right onto State Route 92. This becomes the Mountain Loop Highway. Continue for 25.2 miles, then park in the donut-shaped dirt lot at Lake 22 Trailhead.

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Lake 22

Lake 22

Lake 22

Lake 22 cirque

Lake 22 cirque

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


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