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
- Distance: 12.6
Location: 47.4151951, -121.4433861
Hike north from Denny Creek Trailhead and parking area.
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Cross the footbridge spanning Denny Creek. The sounds of the water intermingle with the nearby freeway noise.
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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.
Location: 47.4224981, -121.4492011
Pass the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Boundary.
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Cross Denny Creek. Large slabs of granite, worn smooth by the creek, create natural waterslides (dubbed the Denny Creek Waterslide).
Location: 47.42943, -121.4541471
Stop for stunning views of the lively, 85-foot Keekwulee Falls on the right. Switchback climb ahead.
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Cross back over Denny Creek on a small log bridge.
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Crest Hemlock Pass, then continue north toward Melakwa Lake.
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Stay right @ 3-way junction. The trail on the left descends to Lower Tuscohatchie Lake.
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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.
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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.
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Denny Creek Valley
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Snowy Talus Field
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