Blanca Lake, Washington - Hike to a Mysterious Milky Colored Alpine Lake

Blanca Lake - Washington State

Blanca Lake

This is one of those shady trails that is perfect to shield you from the sun on a summer day, or even the rain. The mountain ringed lake at the end with its unique coloring is well worth the trek to see it.

Trail Head: Central Cascades - Route 2 Stevens Pass

GPS Coordinates: 47.915175, -121.312542 Map

Trail Notes
  • Moderate Trail
  • Moderate Road
  • 8 miles out and back
  • 3300 ft Elevation Gain
  • Dog friendly
  • Best time to visit is spring-fall, check reports for snow conditions
  • Need a Pass - US Forest Services (see Recreation Passes and Permits for options)
  • Slipping on logs at the lake
  • Getting lost on the drive back

Check for road closures and download the maps ahead of time! Google didn’t know about the road closure so by default navigation would have taken us to a dead end. To avoid the closure we navigated to Beckler Campground and then the trailhead, which got us there just fine. We forgot to do this on the way out until we encountered some rocks in the road that we didn’t recognize and realized we had gone the wrong way. The road is gravel and generally passable by most vehicles, but it is a bit rough going if you have low ground clearance.

The Experience

This alpine gem makes you work a bit for the payoff. You climb about 2500 ft up along a steady zigzag of switchbacks to the top of a ridge, cross a bit of a plateau, then climb down into the lake basin. The climb up is long but a pretty easy even trail that is just steep enough to make you feel it without being difficult.

Blanca Lake Flora - Washington State

It takes you up through a dense forest. Keep an eye out for fungus, we saw a few including a huge patch of brilliant orange mushroom growing on the backside of a tree. I thought I saw a strange mushroom on the ground, but it turned out to be the remnants of a large pinecone.

Blanca Lake Meadow - Washington State

The plateau at the top was still tree covered with small rocky sun dappled meadows. There was a small stream running back and forth across the trail, and often right down the middle. There are a few gaps in the evergreens where you can catch a glimpse of the mountains. The day we were there they were mostly shrouded in ever-shifting clouds which made them haunting beautiful.

Blanca Lake Trail - Washington State

There is a small stagnant pond at the top of the plateau (no, this is not the lake), and if you catch the light just right you can get some pretty cool reflections. One of our friends took some photos there and you had to have a sharp eye to tell which way was up.

Blanca Lake Trail- Washington State

The water is murky and closer to bog than pond around the edge. Unfortunately our dog didn’t realize this was water and bounded right in, one minute on solid ground, and the next over his head in filth! Terrified, he quickly clambered back out. Down at the real lake he was still adventurous, climbing out on the logs, but much more cautious about the water, just cautiously dipping his paws in to poke at bubbles, with his backside as far from the suspicious liquid possible.

The lake was a unique color that I have never seen before. Unlike most of these lakes, the water was not crystal clear, and had almost a milky quality to it. Despite the water, or maybe even because if it, this place is stunning. Rimmed by snowcapped mountains, with waterfalls here and there, trees bobbing at the surface, and clouds swirling around the edges this is a place you have to experience. There is a small waterfall to the left (as you face the lake) which adds a nice soundscape.

Blanca Lake - Washington State

There isn’t any easy way around the waterfall, but there is plenty to explore off to the other side with some careful scrambling or log climbing. Children, and some adults, crept out onto the logs that had been pulled to the end of the lake by the waterfall. The milky quality of the water makes it hard to tell how deep the water is adding to the sense of adventure and risk.

What to Bring?
  • The Basics - Good to have on any hike

  • Footwear: Hiking shoes, waterproof preferred because there was some standing water on the trail and plenty of mud.

  • Bug Spray - We didn’t have any trouble, but there was lots of standing water that looked like good breeding grounds.

More Info & Trail Reports

Blanca Lake - WTA

Weather - Columbia Peak and Hubbart Peak are two nearby mountains. They are higher elevation than Blanca Lake, but if you look at their lower elevation weather report it should give you a fairly good idea of what to expect.

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