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You can hit Marmot and Jade Lakes in one weekend, but really: Consider calling in sick on Friday. This jaunt through the Central Cascades’ Alpine Lakes Wilderness delivers such staggering scenery—and, at 26 miles round-trip, is so expansive—you’re allowed to bend the truth a little to wring this weekend trek for every last minute of its potential. Okay, so it might be a bit buggy, and the haphazard cairns marking the route to Jade Lake can make for some determined route-finding. But could it really be considered backcountry if it didn’t push back a little?
Friday: Depart Seattle as soon as you can get out of work, and drive two hours to the trailhead, which lies a mile ahead along Deception Creek Road (FR 6088). After that, it’s a relatively quick 5-mile hike to Deception Pass. Look for a sign guiding you left to Marmot Lake (Trail #1066) via a 2-mile descent into the wildflower-wrought Hozzbizz Basin. After a 2-mile climb, keep left until you reach Marmot Lake. You’ll log ten miles before setting up camp on the lake’s eastern shore. If it’s light enough, cool off with a dusk dip in the lake’s crystalline waters.
Saturday: In the morning, follow the eastern bank of Marmot Lake to a steep scramble up a talus slope to an alpine meadow, keeping an eye out for pika and marmot along the way. Skirt the western edge of No Name Lake until Jade Lake (so called because of its turquoise waters, colored by glacial silt) jumps into view. Make camp for later and ditch your heavy pack.
Pick your way around the eastern shore of Jade Lake, and begin another scree-scramble to the small glacier that feeds it (ice axe and crampons recommended, especially during early season). At Dip Top Gap, soak in views of Mt. Daniel (the highest point in King County) and Pea Soup. Glissade back down (the ice axe, again, comes in handy).
Sunday: Rise early and start the hike back out. Along the way, stop for a celebratory splash at Hyas Lake, just a few miles from the trailhead. Drive back at dusk.
Be Aware: Watch out for cliff bands on Jade Lake’s northeast shore.
Permit: Required for entry into Alpine Lakes Wilderness; grab yours at the trailhead bulletin board.
What to Pack: Tent, bug-repellent of choice, backpack, day-pack, cold-weather fleece, layers, swimsuit, fast-drying travel towel, ice-axe and crampons (if planning to reach Dip Top Gap)