Greenwater & Lost Lakes

Rain and strong winds in the forecast. Not the ingredients for a good day of hiking. Gwen and I kicked around a few ideas and chose to head south. It was drier and in the Mt. Rainier rain shadow. I have been up the Greenwater trail to Echo Lake on two occasions. The most recent trip was on 5-31-92. Only 23 years ago. My memory was a little sketchy about that trip. Though the wind was forecast to be in the 15-20 mph range we reasoned that in a low valley in Rainier's shadow we had the best chance to avoid it. We headed south and turned off Highway 410 just after Greenwater. The entire road to the trailhead is paved. Even with a stop in Enumclaw we arrived by 9:10 am. There were only about three or four cars in the lot. Several others arrived just after us. Cold but raining. We were packed up and headed out at 9:30 am.

There was very little wind. The trail is pretty flat up to the Greenwater Lakes. It is a bit muddy. With the lack of winter snow and the 2500' trailhead it may have been been at least partially snow free much of the winter. Lots of wet trail but only a few really big mud holes. Though it looks like spring with no snow wildflowers have not yet made an appearance. We saw a few berry flowers and a red current beginning to bloom. Also a couple green stalks popping out of the ground that may be trillium. That was it. No yellow violets. No bleeding heart. Not even any skunk cabbage. We did see a little beargrass growing but no stalks yet.

The river is always in sound but only occasionally in sight. There is one small waterfall on a small creek near the start. There are a number of crossings of the Greenwater River. Most of the bridges are n good shape. A few bits of missing handrail but otherwise fine. Except for the last one. More on that later. The Greenwater Lakes are not the most scenic. More like wide spots in the river. We did see Canada Geese and a few ducks enjoying the water. Before the first lake the river goes through a gorge that is loud and scenic. The first lake is at 1.8 miles. the second one is just a short distance farther. We knew that the bridge at the inlet to the second lake was broken. It was not clear how difficult it would be to get across. We planned to ford if necessary.

We reached the spot to find that most of the bridge is intact. The first part from shore to a small island is gone. We headed upstream looking for another option. Over one small creek and around a big root ball we followed muddy steps. A hand built ladder leads up onto the root balls log. It spans the whole river. It is not huge but wide enough to walk across. The river is fast moving which does not help concentration. The river is wide but not too deep. The crossing was not bad until the last 20 feet had no bark left. It was not as slippery as it looked.

With the crossing behind us we had good tread as the route headed farther up the valley. A number of small creeks run across the trail. We opened one culvert and routed water off the trail at several other spots. The trail reaches a camp spot at river level then begins to climb above the water. The grade is moderate making for easy travel. We only found a few trees down across the trail all day. At 3.2 miles we reached the signed junction for Echo or Lost Lake. I could not recall which one I had visited before. As we debated which way to go another couple arrived. They were heading to Echo Lake. We decided to take the road less traveled and head towards Lost Lake.

The grade begins to increase here though it is never steep. At about noon we stopped for a little food and water. It was a little chilly but still not windy. We continued on and soon Gwen noticed a lake below us. I checked the GPS and it was definitely not Lost Lake. We had another half mile to go. After that the trail breaks out of the forest and enters a strange topography. Rocky meadows mostly covered with moss. Lots of talus partly buried by bright green moss. We also found some icy snow here. Not continuous but on parts of the trail.

After the lower lake we noticed that we could no longer hear the creek. We crossed to the other side of the valley and there was no creek. Hmmm..... We soon reached Lost Lake. The campsites were snow free. Most of the shore was bare. There was snow at the far end of the lake. Surprisingly, the 4025" lake was mostly frozen. It will soon be gone but it is still white now. It was clear that there is no outlet to the lake. It drains underground until farther down the valley where it is a roaring torrent. We sat by the shore to finish lunch. Puffy layer and jacket took care of the cold. We could see the peaks above but the sky was still white.

We arrived at the lake at 1:20 pm and stayed until 1:45 pm. Before we left Gwen went to work gathering and packing out lots of garbage at the campsites. It would be nice if folks would haul out their garbage. On the way down we took a detour to Quinn Lake. It is an amazing shade of green. Very unusual, especially when not at the foot of a glacier. Deep in the forest was a most unusual place. Water seeps into the lake from a number of spots along the shore. Water from Lost Lake does make it down underground. We went to the outlet and found a good flow heading out of the lake and making up Lost Creek. The Lake is not Lost, the creek is.

Part way down we found a side trail and explored it. It seems to go to a logging road. As we neared the road we heard the blast of guns and sped back down the trail. Back on the main trail we met a couple guys headed up for a night camping at the lake. Down near the upper Greenwater Lake we found one tent and on the other side we saw half a dozen more. Lots of folks were not going to let a poor weather forecast keep them from backpacking. Crossing on the log was slow but not too bad. After that it was just another two miles to go. We made it back to the car at about 6:10 pm. Still well before dark.

For the day we hiked about 12.5 miles with 2100' of gain. Several hundred feet came on our detour via the unofficial trail. It is a good long hike with moderate elevation gain. We passed four lakes and were always in hearing range of a river or creek except when it was underground. We did pass half a dozen groups and saw another one camping at a distance. That is major crowding compared to all the empty trails I have hiked recently but far from crowded in reality. The weather gods smiled on us as we had little wind and only a few very light and short showers. It was clear that my earlier visits were to Echo Lake as I did not recognize Lost Lake at all. Another new trail segment for me. We had a great time on the trail.

Wide Trail At Start
Gwen At Work
Tall Wall
Bridge Crossing
Small Waterfall
Approaching Lake
Gwen At Greenwater Lk
Very Green
River From Bridge
Missing Handrail
Trail Along River
Moss Everywhere
Witches Butter
Rocky Meadow
Lost Lake
Quinn Lake Reflection
Beautiful Green Color
Color Coordinated
Green Arrow
Green Forest
Log Crossing
Broken Bridge
Mini Falls
River View
Lower Lake
Gwen & Obelisk
Strange Symbol
Panorama Of Lost Lake
Panorama Of Quinn Lake
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2015