The Hiker Mama

Fragrance Lake

Distance: 5.5 miles RT

Elevation Gain: 950 feet

Season: Year-round

Maps: Chuckanut Recreation Area by Square One Maps, or Blanchard Forest and Chuckanut Mountain Recreation Areas PDF map by the Washington DNR

Description: Begin this hike on the side of Chuckanut Drive, just outside the entrance to Larrabee State Park. The trail heads steeply uphill right from the start, but soon reaches the Interurban Trail. Cross this wide multi-use path, and pick up the Fragrance Lake Trail on the other side, where the grade moderates to a more kid-friendly angle. The trail winds through thick forest, with an understory mostly of sword ferns. My kids enjoyed some of the interesting tree shapes they found along the way. In the summer, look for the shy, solitary coralroot flower stalks, with their brown and pink hues. After you’ve climbed for about a mile, you’ll come to a spur trail off toward the water, with a view over the Sound. Use it as a resting point on the way up, or as enticement for the trip back down. Continue climbing, with a brief respite of a downhill section, switchbacking your way up to the lake basin. Once you reach the area near the lake, the vegetation becomes more lush and varied. We heard a nest-full of hungry red-headed sapsuckers high in a rotten alder in this area. Soon you’ll be at the lake. Find an open spot to sit and rest for a snack, and enjoy the reflections of the trees on the calm surface of the lake. There is a trail around Fragrance Lake; it will add 0.6 or 0.75 miles to your total. Strong hikers, with a map, can add other trails onto this hike, but most families will be content with hiking up and back to the lake. Kids who still have energy may enjoy walking down to the beach inside the park.

Directions: From Seattle, take I-5 north to Burlington, and take Exit 231, Chuckanut Drive (SR 11). Follow Chuckanut Drive as it winds along the bluffs over Padilla Bay, and find the roadside parking area just outside the main entrance to Larrabee State Park. (Drive past the Lost Lake parking area, unless you want to add more mileage to your hike.) If parking is full, you can drive down into the park and find parking at one of the lots there. Restrooms and a pass kiosk are available inside the park. You’ll need your state Discover Pass to park.

Links: Read our Trip Report from our hike. Read the WTA description and current conditions.