Seattle, WA: Melakwa Lake

Dip your toes in an alpine lake in the shadow of towering mountain crags on this 8-mile Cascades classic in Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
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Dip your toes in an alpine lake in the shadow of towering mountain crags on this 8-mile Cascades classic in Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

This popular, 7.8-mile hike in Alpine Lakes Wilderness follows Denny Creek past waterfalls, rocky crags, and talus fields to a pristine mountain lake. The 3.8-mile trek to the lake starts off easily, leaving Denny Creek Campground and winding north to the first creek crossing. Shortly after the creek, the route travels beneath the elevated I-90 freeway and veers northwest into the valley.
After a mile, hike past the Denny Creek Waterslide—large slabs of granite, worn smooth by the creek. Half a mile later, stop for stunning views of the misty, 85-foot Keekwulee Falls. Past the falls, follow a series of switchbacks up steep slopes, then traverse wide talus fields en route to Hemlock Pass. Crest the pass at mile 3.5, then continue north for the remaining 0.4 mile to the lake.
Tucked between Chair Peak and Kaleetan Peak, Melakwa Lake is a prime place to relax and take in the scene. Picnic on the grassy shore, or continue north 1,000 feet to visit Upper Melakwa Lake. (Adventurous hikers can push on to the base of Kaleetan Peak and tackle the rough scramble to the top.) Follow the same route back to the trailhead.
-Mapped by Nathan and Jeremy Barnes, hikingwithmybrother.com

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 12.6

Waypoints

MLK001

Location: 47.4151951, -121.4433861

Hike north from Denny Creek Trailhead and parking area.

MLK002

Location: 47.4185491, -121.4437509

Cross the footbridge spanning Denny Creek. The sounds of the water intermingle with the nearby freeway noise.

MLK003

Location: 47.4204946, -121.4429355

Cross under the elevated I-90 freeway, which winds above the conifer trees. Ahead: The trail swings to the northwest; each step leads further away from the freeway roar and a little closer to the solace of the wilderness.

MLK004

Location: 47.4224981, -121.4492011

Pass the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Boundary.

MLK005

Location: 47.4251258, -121.4515829

Cross Denny Creek. Large slabs of granite, worn smooth by the creek, create natural waterslides (dubbed the Denny Creek Waterslide).

MLK006

Location: 47.42943, -121.4541471

Stop for stunning views of the lively, 85-foot Keekwulee Falls on the right. Switchback climb ahead.

MLK007

Location: 47.4356643, -121.4558959

Cross back over Denny Creek on a small log bridge.

MLK008

Location: 47.4445173, -121.4679766

Crest Hemlock Pass, then continue north toward Melakwa Lake.

MLK009

Location: 47.4485224, -121.4700794

Stay right @ 3-way junction. The trail on the left descends to Lower Tuscohatchie Lake.

MLK010

Location: 47.449277, -121.469543

Melakwa Lake: This 4,505-foot mountain lake, which means "mosquito" in the Chinook language, is nestled between Chair Peak and Kaleetan Peak. To the north, the smaller Upper Melakwa Lake serves as the source of the Pratt River.

Melakwa Lake

Location: 47.449277, -121.4693499

Footbridge

Location: 47.4185491, -121.4435363

I-90

Location: 47.4205091, -121.4427209

Small Cascade

Location: 47.4254307, -121.4516044

A nice little cascade is just up the creek from the trail. Shallow waters and an abundance of large rocks make it easy to hop in for a closer look.

Keekwulee Falls

Location: 47.42943, -121.4540398

Denny Creek Valley

Location: 47.4378269, -121.4570117

Snowy Talus Field

Location: 47.4393218, -121.4580417