Distance: 5.4 Miles RT, plus another mile around the lake if you choose to walk it.
Elevation Gain: 1350 feet
Season: Spring through late fall; it’s also a snowshoe route, but make sure you are familiar with winter skills and only go when avalanche danger is low.
Maps: Green Trails Granite Falls No. 109 and Silverton No. 110.
Description: Lake Twenty-Two is one of the most popular hikes on the Mountain Loop Highway. It travels through lush forest, wet from rain and stream-flow, traverses and switchbacks up an avalanche slope, and then delves into the beautiful lake basin. The trail heads west from the parking area, on boardwalks through a wetland. Then it starts climbing gently, through thick forest, moss covering everything. Just before it opens up into the avalanche slopes, you’ll get a peek-a-boo view of a nice waterfall through the trees. The avalanche slope and other sections of the trail are rocky and rugged in places; sturdy shoes are recommended. You’ll get a few views out over the valley as you climb the switchbacks. Catch your breath and enjoy. Once you’ve conquered the climb, the grade eases, and you’ll walk back into the lake basin. The bridge over the outlet creek makes a picturesque stopping point. Travel onward around the lake if you like, finding a quiet spot to rest and have a snack. But stay on the trail, as the boulder fields on the back side of the lake are unstable and dangerous to climb on. Kids will enjoy the magical greenness of the lower sections of the trail, as well as the boardwalk and the craggy mountains around the lake. Look for frogs around the lake, and keep your eyes open for fungi in the fall. I recommend hiking this trail on a weekday or in the fall to avoid the crowds.
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.) Drive 2 miles past the ranger station, and look for the trailhead parking area on the right. There an outhouse at the trailhead. You’ll need your NW Forest Pass to park. I recommend having a backup hike in mind in case the parking area is full, or getting there early in the morning before the crowds.