Heather Lake Solo Day Hike in Mount Pilchuck State Forest

4.6 miles round trip / 1100′ elevation gain


Heather Lake, Mount Pilchuck State Forest


Heather Lake Trail

A day hike to Heather Lake ended up being the perfect choice for my first solo trip.  The drive to the trail-head was only about an hour and luckily traffic was on my side.  My boots hit the trail around 12:30 pm and I returned to the parking lot around 4:00 pm.  The first mile of the trail was fairly easy with a gradual incline and  few switchbacks.  Even on a cloudless day, the thick forest canopy was preventing the sun from shining through to the trail.  As I made my way along the trail I could always faintly hear running water in the distance.  Each time the sound of the running water would get closer, the trail seemed to switch back just before it came into sight.  After the first mile the trail started to get steeper and muddy.  Now it was as if I was hiking right through the water source I couldn’t seem to find earlier.  This section of the trail had many obstacles including large tree roots, slippery rock, and thick mud.  The last section of the trail dried up and started to slowly descend towards Heather Lake.


Boardwalk on the Heather Lake trail

The view of Heather Lake peaked through the boulders just beyond the boardwalks that had been leading me along the trail.  I welcomed the cool mountain breeze and my feet welcomed the much needed rest.  I found a quiet, shady spot to picnic and sketch for a while before continuing my hike around the lake.  The lake was flat, reflecting the mountain peaks with a few tiny patches of snow still scattered about.  A waterfall that seemed to be cascading from the very peak of the mountaintop was a constant sound.  As I looked out over the sun speckled lake with small ripples from the jumping fish I also enjoyed the sounds of several birds chirping.  While the mosquitoes were not a huge problem, they were just irritating enough to move me along my way sooner than I had hoped.


Heather Lake, Mount Pilchuck State Forest


Boardwalk along Heather Lake


Traveling around Heather Lake was my favorite part of this hike.  Fields of wildflowers were blooming all along the waters’ edge attracting butterflies to the trail-side.  Several boardwalks wind their way through boulders, meadows, and marshlands.  Many varieties of berries are just starting to ripen and the sun was reflecting their vibrant colors across the landscape.  As I finished my trek around the lake I found it a little tough to leave the peace that comes when visiting the wilderness.  I always enjoy hikes that end with a descent, although I did have to make my way carefully down this trail avoiding the many obstacles along the way.


Boardwalk along Heather Lake


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