Lake 22 is an easily accessible, moderately challenging North Cascades tromp that quickly justifies any Gore-Tex purchases you made for this year’s extended rainy season. Despite its bafflingly sterile name, this is a hike I would recommend to anyone looking for a great trail in relatively close proximity to the city. Armed with a battery of peripheral waterfalls, old growth forests, gentle creek crossings and steady foot traffic, Lake 22 is that spring gem you've been looking for.
We hit the trailhead just after 2:00 pm, hoping that the day’s overcast weather would burn off by the late afternoon. It unfortunately did not, but the silver lining was that it did create some fantastic mood lighting for the debris-riddled talus slopes at the heart of the hike. And if you’re a more pragmatic soul that’s not into mood lighting or hiking through forests that look haunted, I guess you could say the fog and drizzle also kept temperatures comfortably cool, which is my preferred hiking conditions.
Most of the trail has thawed out, leaving the first two miles wet, but relatively snow free. The last mile still has deep pockets of snow and some troublingly deep posthole opportunities. We saw plenty of people completing the hike in flats and sweatpants, and while I will always defend the right for people to hike in casual attire, I would recommend traction devices and hiking poles if you have them, especially for your descent down the mountain. It will cut down on unintentional glissading and startled yelling, which seemed to be the theme of the day.
We reached the lake around 4:00 pm just as the clouds started to break and suggest the existence of the sun. Lake 22 is stunning regardless of the weather, but it was nice to see some blue in the sky, if only for a moment. We grabbed a bite to eat and watched several avalanches crack and sever off the backside of the peak, making for a truly surreal sight. Definitely one of my favorite lunch spots of 2017.
The weather improved on the descent and we were back in the parking lot by 6:00 pm, clocking in around four hours for the hike. We were taking our time and just kicking off spring training for a busy summer hiking season, so our times are a little on the slower side if you’re looking for median estimates for the trail. We are meanderers, not hustlers.
Either way, Lake 22 is a great spring hike if you’re looking for an alternative to the North Bend staples. It may be just as busy as some of the I-90 classics, but it’s a welcome change of scenery.
Starting the trail: 2:11 pm
Arrive at Lake 22: 4:15 pm
Returned to the car: 6:01 pm