The 20 Best Backcountry Lakes: Buckskin Lake

Pasayten Wilderness, Washington

Meadows in the Pasayten Wilderness. (Photo by araddon/Flickr)

Most people on the Buckskin Trail will be headed to Silver Lake, a perfectly lovely (if rather popular) backcountry tarn. Sure, stop and snap a picture, but you’re heading for the trail’s namesake: a narrow, emerald specimen flanked on one side by grassy slopes peppered with evergreens and on the other by steep scree. Foot-long cutthroats roam its waters, and you’re likely to have it to yourself thanks to the grueling approach. Arrive at Silver Lake after a 5.5-mile hike through hills-are-alive meadows with long-range views that include shots of 10,781-foot Mt. Baker and the North Cascades. “Then, be ready for a steep climb and some routefinding, as the trail gets thin after Silver Pass (mile 8.4),” says Anna Roth, with the Washington Trails Association. “But the solitude you’ll find at Buckskin Lake is worth it.” Find the best campsite in the tall pines on the southeastern corner of the lake. It’s wide and flat, with a big view of the lake and 7,850-foot Pasayten Peak and 8,096-foot Mt. Rolo to the south.

Trailhead Hart’s Pass (48.720691, -120.670107) Season Late June through October; the wildflowers bloom in summer, but in fall, the larches turn gold and the hawks arrive. Permits National Recreation Forest Day Pass required ($5/car per day; along with a free, self-issued wilderness permit