Nestled in the eastern reaches of Washington’s toothy Glacier Peaks Wilderness, Schaefer Lake offers a veritable buffet of backcountry delights: solitude, stream crossings, vibrant vegetation and stunning views. From the trailhead, descend through old-growth cedar and fir as you wind your way toward the powerful Chiwawa River. If you’re feeling adventurous, try negotiating the river’s precarious log jam crossing. When water levels are low in late summer, hikers can cross the river about 100 feet downstream.
Continue up at a steady incline while taking in the seasonal wildflowers and teases of the pristine Chiwawa River Valley below. Cross two more streams—one wet, one bridged—as you bear down for the most strenuous part of the trek: a steep, mile-long stretch ending at the Glacier Peak Wilderness boundary. Once at the lake—now just a few up-and-down pitches away—head to its grassy eastern shore to check out the abundance of plant life, including seasonal blueberry bushes.
Though the trail is generally well marked, don’t be surprised to encounter a few windblown trees blocking the path, especially if it’s been awhile since the trail crew’s last visit. Hikers wary of crossing the unpredictable log jam should wait until late August and September when the levels of the Chiwawa River are lowest.
-Mapped by Alan Bauer, Alan Bauer Photography