Plan a Day at Round Lake for a Backpacking Trip You Won’t Forget
If you ever have the pleasure of visiting Lost Creek Ridge in Vancouver, Washington, be sure to set aside time for a hike around Round Lake. The journey is one that you will remember for a lifetime, thanks to the gorgeous views, the abundance of peaks, and the beautiful flowers. While on this hike, you’ll have the pleasure of seeing the sprawling glacier of Sloan Peak as well as many others. Located on Forest Road 49, this is one trip every hiker should make at least once.
An Easy Beginning
The hike starts off easily but after half a mile expect to be challenged. The trail begins to climb steeply up Lost Creek Ridge, but thankfully there is plenty of shelter thanks to the old growth residing on this south-facing slope. Nevertheless, be sure you have plenty of water on hand because this is a hike that requires you remain hydrated.
As you continue, you’ll make your way through several avalanche chutes where you get glimpses of the North Fork Sauk Valley and Red Mountain. The ascent is arduous, thanks in part to the steep, tight switchbacks, but the views encourage you to continue on your way. Bingley Gap lies at the 3.25-mile mark and has an elevation of 4,400 feet. When you reach this point, you will begin to head east on the ridge, climbing as you go. Thankfully, there are more views to distract you from the trek, including Baker, Pugh, and White Chuck. Once you have passed these sights, make your way to Bedal and Sloan. They are so beautiful you may become distracted once again but once you’ve taken it all in, continue moving ahead. As you do so, you find plenty of other summits that you don’t want to miss. This includes Sperry, Del Campo, and Stuart, along with numerous others. Continue for 1.5 miles before you arrive at the next portion of the trail.
When you arrive at the unmarked junction, stay right and enjoy the beauty of the mountains. Some individuals, however, opt to head left at this time and make their way down to Round Lake. It’s a matter of personal preference, and don’t hesitate to simply take a break, enjoy the view, and decide which course is best for you. Be aware that if you choose the lake, you will start out at 5,600 feet and quickly drop 550 feet in only three-quarters of a mile. Furthermore, once you reach the lake, you may need the bug spray, as they do prefer to gather by the water when the air is calm. Nevertheless, there are swallows and frogs ready to enjoy a meal of these critters, allowing you to dip your feet and cool off. Don’t hesitate to make this trip before returning to the trail and continuing on your way. You won’t regret it.
Distance and Elevation
Once you have completed this trip, you have hiked 11 miles roundtrip and gained 4,300 feet. The highest point is 5,600 feet, and the view is worth every minute of the climb.
Although this trail is more difficult than the Round Lake Loop Hike, it is still one that many backpackers can tackle.
Take exit 208 off of I-5 and drive 4 miles east on State Route 530 to Arlington. Continue east on SR 530 for 28 more miles to Darrington. At a three-way stop, turn right (south) onto the Mountain Loop Highway and proceed 16 miles (the pavement ends at 9 miles), coming to a junction with Forest Road 49 (signed for the North Fork Sauk Trail). Turn left (east) and follow FR 49 for 3 miles to the trailhead (elev. 1850 ft).
- North Cascades — Mountain Loop Highway
- Lost Creek Ridge (#), Round Lake (#646.1)
- Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Darrington Ranger District
GUIDEBOOKS & MAPS
- Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano – Mountaineers Books)
- Green Trails Sloan Peak No. 111