Scenic and enjoyable, if dusty, 3 day walk as done by a 60 year old father & 21 year old son in decent shape but not frequent hikers. Starting about noon Wednesday, we walked from the Crater Creek trail parking area up to Eagle Lake, steady ascent for 6 or 7 miles. Trail is dusty, and there is no water for most of the way, so if you do this be sure to hydrate early and bring plenty of containers. (We were a little short the first day until we got to a stream after about 5 miles.) A sign says trails are maintained by local motorcycle club so they're wide and flat but we saw no bikers today. Trail signs are not optimal and can cause occasional hikers (like us) to become confused -- we wound up backtracking a mile or more to check our bearings at one point, making the hike a little more demanding. Upper Eagle Lake (about 7100 ft) is stunning, ringed by rocky slopes. It was a little buggy but far less than what I had expected. The slopes and lake caught the changing light as the sun disappeared behind the ridge. Next morning we went over Horsehead Pass catching the great view of Boiling Lake, then back down to the lake. Again unmarked trails and our unfamiliarity with the country led us to take a mile or two diversion from our planned route. (A few more signs would be so helpful to us amateurs on these trails.) We did encounter one motorcyclist. Early afternoon on the Summit trail lovely fields of Lupin nearly everywhere perfuming the dusty path. There were several streams to replenish water supplies -- I'm a big fan of keeping well hydrated especially where much of the hike is around 7000'. Mid afternoon we came to Angel's Staircase, aptly named, fabulous views all along the steep ascent to about 8000', the trail demanding but well maintained over the rocks. From the top we could see Mt. Rainier just peeking over the North Cascades. A short walk to the pass over lovely Cooney Lake, another fabulous viewpoint, and then we did the very abrupt descent down to the lake where we spent the night. A few bugs about sundown but again fewer than I expected. Cooney Lake seems to have something of a reputation as a horse camp but we shared the area with only one other backpacking group, no horses at all. Our second wrong turn added several miles to this hike which wound up being over 10 miles, over several passes. I was quite done in by the end of the day and pretty much just dropped at the campsite. Luckily my son is a hardy guy and took care of dinner. Final day, hike out, passing near Martin Lake and back down. Fairly long, gently descent, less lovely than the previous day's hike through flowered meadows. Trail is again very dusty. We met a tour guide leading several horses to Martin Lake to bring a group of pack-in campers out. (There were also quite a few pack-in campers at Boiling Lake as we passed by on Tuesday). If I had it to do over again I'd plan to come out via the Foggy Dew trail (reputedly prettier), but we would have had to solve the car logistics in advance because it wouldn't be quite a loop, but the Foggy Dew trailhead doesn't seem very far from the Crater Creek trailhead where we started. Or, if we had a little more time it would have been more pleasant to retrace our trip back over the ridge past Boiling Lake and Eagle Lake. I usually don't like retracing my steps, but the amazing views and beautiful flowery meadows would have been worth it here. The trip wound up being about 27 miles with our wrong turns, a little over 5000' elevation gain, occasionally steep but mostly steady ascents and descents. No problems except dust and plenty of horse dooky on the trails. Highly recommended for the views and flowers!
Trails for everyone, forever