The Hiker Mama

Heather Lake (Mountain Loop)

Distance: 4.6 miles RT

Elevation Gain: 1035 feet

Season: Late spring through late fall

Maps: Green Trails No. 109 Granite Falls

Description: This trail seems to be one of the more popular hikes on the Mountain Loop Highway, and for good reason. Big old trees shade the trail from start to finish, and the lake is tucked in a cirque among towering, rocky peaks. The trail itself is rugged, with plenty of big steps up rocks and roots. There are some small streams that cross the trail, so waterproof shoes are recommended. Young children may need help on some of the tougher sections, but kids will enjoy the boardwalk around to the back side of the lake. Listen for the sounds of pikas sounding their alarms from the rockfall areas. We particularly like this hike in the fall, when the changing colors make for pretty backdrops to the sparkling water and cool fungi pop out all over. Kids will enjoy the rock gardens at the back end of the lake, with lichens and mosses growing on giant boulders. (Stay on the trail, as climbing up the loose slopes can lead to injury.)

Directions: From I-5 in Everett, take Hwy 2 east. Just after you cross over the trestle (the flat part over the fragrant river bottoms) take exit 204 toward Lake Stevens. This road takes you up the hill, and just before you drive into Frontier Village shopping center, take the exit to the left (north) for SR 9. Drive north for about 1.5 miles, then take the exit for Hwy 92 toward Granite Falls. Drive through Granite Falls, and turn left/north on the Mountain Loop Hwy. Follow the Mt. Loop Hwy past the Ranger Station in Verlot (it’s a good place to use the restroom and purchase passes if needed; make sure they are open that day if you need a pass.) About a mile after the ranger station, you’ll cross over a blue and grey bridge. After the bridge, turn right onto Forest Road 42, the Pilchuck Access Road. Drive about 4.2 miles, then you’ll see the parking area on the right. You’ll need a NW Forest Pass to park. There are outhouses at the trailhead.

Links: Read our trip report here. Read the WTA description, and get current information, here.